University of Arkansas student Trevor Villines envisions a future in which college campuses throughout the state tackle the opioid epidemic with expanded educational programs, medication drop-boxes on campuses, and through college recovery programs. As the Director of External Relations for the university’s Student Government Association (SGA) and President of the Registered Student Organization, Villines is seizing the opportunity to bring the vision to fruition.
“The opioid epidemic is a problem at every campus across the state and nation,” he said. “We have an opportunity to lead the state in addressing this issue. You’re going to hear, in the next coming months, that we are working on forming a joint effort.”
“We are going to try and work with student governments at other college campuses. Specifically we want to start within the U of A system, such as the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and other campuses across the state. We want to team up and talk with [university] administrators about college recovery programs and policies, as well as educational programs.”
To ensure this vision takes the correct course of action, Villines frequently communicates with state leaders, including Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane.
“Mr. Trevor Villines is a unique leader who has a vision to improve the quality of life of his student body, as well as communities throughout Arkansas,” Lane said. “The challenges of the opioid epidemic require unique leadership skills to build collaborative efforts and encourage change. I am proud of [Villines] achievements thus far, and those still to come.”
Villines said this semester, he’ll introduce a 3-step plan through the SGA: (1) Expand student policy to protect students in the event of an opioid overdose; (2) Create a College Recovery Program; and (3) To have a secure, permanent medicine drop box location on campus.
The first step includes the expansion of the Joshua Ashley-Pauley Act (an Arkansas good Samaritan law which gives immunity from prosecution for drug possession to someone seeking medical assistance due to a drug overdose) to further protect university students.
“The Joshua Ashley-Pauley Act can safeguard someone from an arrest and charges, but what about keeping them from being expelled from school or kicked off campus?,” Villines asked. “There are limitations to the Joshua Ashley-Pauley Act, and will be [limitations] to the student policy; however, we value saving lives most importantly.”
Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane and Villines have also been in communication with law enforcement agencies in Washington County, including the University of Arkansas Police Department, to supply officers with Narcan kits (which contain Naloxone medication designed to temporarily reverse an overdose due to an opioid).
The second step is to create a College Recovery Program for the University of Arkansas System. Villines has been researching and studying The Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities at Texas Tech University as a program to model. He said the Student Government Association “Definitely wants to do more in-depth research” of their program to learn its functions and how they’re funded.
“We’ve got to find a solution and a place in helping students overcome addiction,” Villines said. “We want them to build friendships on campus with people who encourage and support them during treatment. We want to see them saved and have a life change, and if we have a recovery program in place, we can get them the proper help they need.”
The third step is to expand education and awareness about the opioid epidemic. Aside from posting fliers around campus and starting awareness week campaigns, Villines envisions reaching out to various students at the places they congregate.
“We’ll go talk to people at the Greek-life houses, both sororities and fraternities,” he said. “But, we’ll also talk to various organizations. We want to meet with architect majors and engineers to discuss feasibility of project ideas. We’d like to get pharmacy and nursing students involved with volunteer work for the Arkansas Drug Take Back Day. We definitely want to get students involved.”
Villines is also in the discussion phase of having permanent medicine drop-boxes installed on college campuses in the near future. Though there are drop-box locations near many college campuses, he believes having them on campus would increase student participation in dropping off medicines.
“They could be placed securely in a student union or in a campus library, or any centralized area of campus,” Villines said. “We are going to work with the authorities to make sure it is a secure location, but also where students can easily drop them off so that [medications] aren’t floating around campus causing more harm to our students.”
These are just the first several steps Villines is taking toward initiating positive change against the opioid epidemic on college campuses. Not one to stop and rest for very long, he is constantly looking for new ideas to better improve communities throughout Arkansas.
“In my Student Government Association role, I’m responsible for meeting with legislators and state officials, such as Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane and the Governor’s staff,” Villines said. “I’m also planning to spend time with the Pulaski County Coroner to see the process for handling an opioid overdose.”
“I haven’t taken a decent break in 3 or 4 years because I’m always working and seeing how I can get involved. I’m always looking to take it up a notch. The bare minimum just doesn’t do it for me.”