SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley, in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, praised the response of the Oswego police and fire departments to heroin overdoses over the weekend that left one student dead and hospitalized two students.
Stanley also said, “it is time for a new approach to the Bridge Street Run,” the traditional pub crawl in Oswego to celebrate the end of the SUNY Oswego school year, which was going on when the overdoses occurred.
In her statement, Stanley noted that heroin use is a growing problem nationally that has “recently intruded into our community with tragic results. SUNY Oswego has lost lives to this scourge, a terrible bill to pay.”
Stanley said that the arrests of two men in the case announced today are a positive step, and pledged that the university will work with the community to deal with the problem of drug abuse. One of the men arrested, Gabriel Gonzalez, is a student at SUNY Oswego, and was one of the people who overdosed, was hospitalized and released.
Oswego Police say that while the two men arrested for allegedly selling heroin were participating in the Bridge Street Run, they do not believe the overdoses were a direct result of the annual event.
However, last night, the Oswego Common Council unanimously passed both a ban on future Bridge Street Runs and another resolution allowing the city to bill SUNY Oswego for overtime expenses incurred for police, fire and Department of Public Works services related to Bridge Street Run.
Stanley said that SUNY Oswego does not host, sponsor or promote the Bridge Street Run, but she said, “with the support of the downtown community, we can find a new approach to end of semester celebrations.”
The statement also noted that the university has in place sanctions to punish students who abuse alcohol and other drugs, and that “disciplinary action may be brought against violators of our conduct code in relation to Friday’s event.”
A university spokeswoman confirmed that the surviving students involved in the overdose incidents this weekend are currently still SUNY Oswego students.
Meanwhile, sources have confirmed to WRVO that another SUNY Oswego student who died April 24 in his home off campus also overdosed on heroin.
Sean DeMerchant Jr., 22, was a senior majoring in marketing with a minor in economics from Mechanicville, N.Y. The cause of his death had not been previously announced, but an obituary and a memorial Facebook page notes that he died “after losing his courageous battle with addiction.” Friends confirmed that DeMerchant was addicted to heroin.
And more details about exactly what occurred Friday night and Saturday evening are emerging. The Oswego Fire Department confirms that the three students who apparently overdosed on heroin were all treated with the intravenous form of Narcan by the city fire department who responded to the emergency calls.
Jon Chawgo, deputy chief of the Oswego Fire Department, says that the city’s two ambulances and each advance life support engine company are equipped with naloxone, more commonly called Narcan.
Earlier reports on the weekend’s incidents had noted that Oswego police are not equipped with Narcan, and it was unclear if the overdose victims had received the medication which is an antidote to opiate drugs like heroin.
The Oswego Fire Department responded to reported overdoses in two different locations in Oswego Friday night and in the early morning hours of Saturday. The first location was on the campus of SUNY Oswego. SAVAC, or Student Association Volunteer Ambulance Corps, was already administering CPR to the student with the apparent overdose when Oswego Fire Department personnel arrived on scene.
Fire department personnel administered Narcan to the student. This student, whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead at Oswego Hospital.
Later, the fire department responded to 56 West Bridge Street where two students were experiencing apparent overdoses. Chawgo says one student was in critical condition and one was reasonably stable. One student required assistance with ventilation, and both were given Narcan intravenously.
Chawgo says that while the fire department responds to drug overdoses regularly, heroin overdoses in Oswego are extremely unusual.