National Association of School Nurses Calls for Schools to Carry Naloxone

By Victoria Kim 09/21/15

Though uncommon, overdoses do happen at school.

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In the midst of the opioid epidemic, the National Association of School Nurses adopted a statement in June that calls for all schools to keep naloxone on hand.

Though overdoses at school are uncommon, at least five states this year adopted laws on the use of naloxone in schools, the Guardian reports. Many schools already have the drug, also known by the brand name Narcan, in stock.

“We’re facing an epidemic,” said NASN president, Beth Mattey.

In Rhode Island, the overdose antidote is required to be available in all middle, junior high and high schools. A survey of school nurses in the state illustrate the need for the antidote as a precautionary measure, likened by one New England superintendent to carrying a heart defibrillator or an EpiPen.

In a survey of 81 Rhode Island nurses who participated in a naloxone training program in 2014, 43% of high school nurses said that students in their schools were abusing opioids, and 15 nurses said they had to call 911 at least once in the past three years for suspected student substance use or overdose.

“Harm reduction approaches to OPR (opioid pain reliever) overdose include expanding access to naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote, which can prevent overdose deaths by reversing life-threatening respiratory depression,” the NASN said in the statement.

Advocates of the drug insist it’s safe, even if administered to someone who has not overdosed. In states like Rhode Island, Kentucky, and New York, school employees cannot be held liable for using it.

In Massachusetts, nurses in more than 200 school districts have been trained to use the antidote.

“We haven’t had an emergency like this, but if we did, we know that seconds really count,” said superintendent of Easton public schools in Massachusetts, Andrew Keough. Easton spent less than $100 to equip the middle and high school with naloxone in the nurse’s office.

The NASN said schools should be responsible for anticipating and preparing to respond to a variety of emergencies. By carrying naloxone, it "provides an opportunity for families to have a second chance with their loved ones by getting them into an appropriate treatment program," they added.

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