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Health Services Sees Decrease in Alcohol Treatment After Hours

UPDATED: October 7, 2015, at 3:50 a.m.

After closing Stillman Infirmary and moving to restructure after-hours patient care, Harvard University Health Services treated 14 students for reasons related to alcohol after hours in the first three weeks of school.

That figure, according to Donald Perlo, the medical director of UHS urgent care, marks a decline from last year in the same period, when UHS treated 33 students for alcohol after hours.

Stillman After Hours

Of the 14 students, UHS estimates that 13 were freshmen, Perlo said. One intoxicated student, an upperclassman, was transferred to Mt. Auburn Hospital.

Only two students visited UHS’s after-hours care seeking treatment for intoxication during this year’s freshman orientation week, a slight departure from last year, when seven intoxicated students, and five freshmen, received treatment during orientation.

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This summer, Harvard closed all 10 overnight observation beds housed in Stillman, a 24-hour inpatient space that often serviced intoxicated students who reported to UHS for nighttime care under the College’s amnesty policy.

Under restructuring and modified patient procedures implemented this school year, intoxicated Harvard students are no longer sent back to UHS if first processed elsewhere. Students are now also only kept under medical supervision until deemed “clinically sober”—meaning they must show vital signs and be alert, able to ingest food and fluids, and able to walk before leaving. Previously, students were released from observation based on blood alcohol content and had to receive clearance from an internal medicine doctor.

These changes, Perlo said, mean to reduce the amount of time that intoxicated students spend at UHS so that it can free up space for other patients seeking urgent care.

During the same three-week period in 2014, and prior to this shift in procedure, only 19 of the 33 total alcohol-related incidents seen at UHS were originally treated on Harvard’s campus. The other 14 were first seen at Mt. Auburn and other medical facilities before returning to UHS for further treatment.

As of Sept. 21, 2015, 38 students had been sent from UHS to an emergency room off campus. By the same weekend in 2014, 65 students had been transferred to another medical facility.

Overall, 666 total students received treatment at UHS after-hours care in the first three weeks of this fall semester, and 138 were freshmen.

—Staff writer Celeste M. Mendoza can be reached at celeste.mendoza@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @CelesteMMendoza.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: October 7, 2015

An earlier version of this article misstated Donald Perlo’s first name.

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