Skip to Main Content

Student-Led Initiative to Educate and Raise Awareness (SOAAR) – Somerset County

The Substance and Opioid Abuse Awareness Response (SOAAR) is a pharmacy student-led initiative to combat the opioid epidemic that grew out of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) School of Pharmacy and Health Professions’ Overdose Response Program (ORP) authorized by the Maryland Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Administration. SOAAR’s goals are to increase awareness of substance use disorder and opioid overdose, promote substance abuse community resources and treatment organizations, and provide training to recognize opioid overdose and safely administer naloxone.

SOAAR highlights the education of the next generation of healthcare professional students to recognize substance use disorder, prevent opioid overdose, serve as an information resource within communities and provide advocacy for rationale opioid use. In response to information, knowledge and experiences gained in their public health course, UMES student pharmacists were motivated to action to mitigate the growing opioid and heroin crisis in Maryland. Its members serve as a resource for the university and the broader community by using their knowledge to empower others. These doctor of pharmacy students proved their dedication to service by logging over 500 hours to create and execute the SOAAR program on top of their three-year condensed and intensive course load.

SOAAR held its first training event on April 29, 2017 in the UMES Student Service Center. Offered free and open to the public, SOAAR attendees chose three of six repeating concurrent 45-minute morning workshops covering 1) access to treatment, 2) resources for family, 3) resources for community and school populations, 4) responsible prescribing and use of opioid medication, 5) peer-to-peer counseling and 6) recognizing the signs and symptoms of opioid overdose to effectively administering naloxone nasal spray. Attendees completing the latter workshop received free naloxone to prepare them for future potential overdose incidents. A luncheon panel discussion featured physicians practicing in addictionology and surgery/emergency room care, a mother who lost a child to opioid overdose, a State’s Attorney’s Office prosecutor, and a church pastor (former businessman and heroin user).

Select SOAAR metrics of success for this first event include:

  • >150 participants
  • >60 students contributed to planning and executing the event
  • >500 service hours were donated by students and faculty
  • 70 community members were taught to recognize the signs and symptoms of opioid overdose and to safely administer naloxone
  • 25 local exhibitors representing substance abuse prevention, treatment, and mitigation organizations
  • Purchased naloxone at 50 percent off of the regular acquisition price from the manufacturer
  • A local pharmacist donated eight hours to plan and conduct training and dispense naloxone
  • Connected community members to resources
  • Opened new lines of communication among community stakeholders

SOAAR successfully executes these workshops through strong partnerships, in-kind donations, and access to the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore (CFES) small grants program. The Behavioral Health Administration ORP staff helped UMES establish an authorized ORP. SOAAR partnered with the UMES ORP to offer approved ORP naloxone training to the public and develop the workshop topics to include on event agenda. A local pharmacy (Marion Pharmacy) ordered and supervised labeling, documenting and dispensing naloxone to the SOAAR naloxone workshop trainees. Additionally, Somerset County Health Department included the UMES ORP allocation in their BHA grant request to procure naloxone to meet the training and dispensing needs within the county.

Interested in learning more? Contact:
James L. Bresette, Pharm.D., Captain (retired), United States Public Health Service
Associate Dean for Development and External Relations
Associate Professor, Pharmacy Practice & Administration
School of Pharmacy and Health Professions
University of Maryland Eastern Shore