OCC Campus Safety officers save man from overdosing on campus

OCC President Angelica Suarez (second from left) and Vice President of Administrative Services Rich Pagel (far left) recognize (from center to right) Campus Safety Director Jim Rudy, Campus Safety officers Tim Winer, Tony Bryant and Joe Garcia on Feb. 6 for administering NARCAN on a non-student man, preventing him from overdosing.  

A non-student man in his mid-twenties was saved from overdosing on Jan. 27 on  the Orange Coast College campus by OCC Campus Safety officers who administered him NARCAN, a nasal spray used to combat opioid overdose. 

Public Safety Technical Officer Tim Winer administered the NARCAN in a bathroom in the North Adams parking lot after a maintenance worker called him on the radio alerting him that someone was in distress. 

“He was yelling, screaming and throwing things. I was around the corner and arrived on scene in about 30 seconds. I made contact with the male subject out there, who happened to be a local homeless person,” Winer said. “He was incoherent. He was on the ground but moving around and talking kind of gibberish. [Campus Safety Officer] Joe Garcia showed up. This person was obviously under the influence of something.”

Because it was a severe emergency, Winer called the Costa Mesa Police Department to assist. While on the phone with the CMPD dispatcher, the victim began showing signs of overdosing. 

“As I’m on the phone with the dispatcher, the male subject lays down on his back and his eyes roll up in his head and his breathing becomes very labored, and that’s a classic sign of opioid overdose, where they eventually stop breathing because the opioids affect the respiratory system,” Winer said. “Joe grabs the bag out of his patrol vehicle, comes over, takes the NARCAN out of the box and hands it to me. I squirted it in the nostril of this male victim. As all of this is going on, I tell the dispatcher we’re going to need paramedics as well.”

After the man became conscious again, Winer learned he was using a combination of two drugs: methamphetamine and fentanyl. 

“You have methamphetamine, which is an upper, and you have fentanyl, which is, for all intents and purposes, a downer,” Winer said. “So that was why he was acting a little erratic beforehand and then the fentanyl kicked in and essentially started to depress his respiratory system.”

According to Winer, the victim was in the hospital for a few hours before being released.

Winer, a former firefighter and EMT, said his experiences in those professions gave him the instincts to help the man in this situation. 

“It's second nature to go ahead and do what needs to be done, there’s no question about it. Afterwards, you think about your own safety but aside from that you do what needs to be done,” Winer said. “Usually there’s a pretty good feeling afterwards about helping somebody – in my firefighting days, I worked as an EMT and that was my natural high.”

Director of Campus Safety Jim Rudy said the experience was very much a team effort by the Campus Safety officers. With so much at stake, everyone was doing something different to ensure everything went smoothly.

“Tim may have been a hands on, but Joe’s giving the supply and [Campus Safety Office Tony Bryant] is out there directing the paramedics to where the scene is because every second counts,” Rudy said. “It’s nice to see that teamwork and effort for one of our community residents that is down on their luck.”

Campus Public Safety was prepared, carrying NARCAN for the last five years, but they had not needed to use it until this incident. 

“All of our officers are well equipped and well trained to handle just about any medical emergency,” Winer said. “The NARCAN program is the distribution of NARCAN to the different campuses – our Health Center has played a big role in making sure that we don’t have expired products, that our training is up to date, that we have medical supervision overseen.”

OCC’s Campus Public Safety works closely with the Student Health Center, who also has NARCAN on campus and is trained to treat overdoses. According to Director of Student Health Kelly Daly, it can be difficult to know when someone is battling with substance abuse because they may not be forthcoming about it with staff.

“We do a holistic assessment at the Health Center, so if we do identify somebody and we’re thinking maybe there’s some substance abuse, we get them into mental health because mental health has a little more confidentiality in terms of disclosure and things like that,” Daly said. 

According to Daly, OCC’s Student Health Center is designed for short-term treatment, as they are not equipped for ongoing care. If a student needs more extensive treatment, Daly aims to get them into contact with resources who can help them more long-term.

“If someone were opioid dependent, our goal would be to resource,” Daly said. “I do get involved with Orange County Health Care Agency extensively and go to their meetings and sit in on some of their group and taskforce to see what’s happening in the community and get resources.”

For those struggling with substance abuse, the Student Health Center, north of Watson Hall, has mental and physical health resources available on Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Students can make appointments via phone call or in-person visit.  

Editor in Chief Kate Bent contributed to this report.

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