With heroin overdoses reaching record numbers in Westmoreland County, members of the drug and alcohol task force of the Yough School District wanted to be as proactive as possible.
A survey of school nurses in Rhode Island who took part in last year’s naloxone training program discovered that 43 percent of high school nurses said students in their schools were abusing opioids, based on statistics issued by the state health department.
“In light of this tragic fact, we would encourage any person or entity in a position to help individuals who are vulnerable to an overdose to obtain naloxone”, comments Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf.
“Across the country and in Pennsylvania, the rate of deadly heroin and prescription opioids overdoses is unprecedented”, Wolf said in a statement Friday. The health department has access to the drug through its participation in Project DAWN, an opioid overdose education and Narcan distribution program designed in response to the growing heroin epidemic. She said seeing a child collapse on the floor is every school nurse’s “worst nightmare.” In New York and Kentucky, state laws allow school employees to purchase and administer naxolone, and also do not hold them liable for using it in an emergency. The drug can be injected or inhaled by patients.
But some school districts in Lake County say they won’t be stocking naloxone just yet.
Secretary of the department of drug and alcohol programs, Gary Tennis, stated that even the Pennsylvania State Police troopers have already saved 300 lives using the antidote.
“We need to do more research on who would administer it and how they would be trained”, said Ms. Pugh. “But we need to go further; anyone who might be in a position to encounter opioid overdose, from college dorm resident advisors to school nurses, should carry this lifesaving antidote”.
Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim and Chelsea Laliberte, founder of Live4Lali, an organization raising awareness about and access to naloxone, said schools shouldn’t wait for an overdose to happen to consider keeping a supply of naloxone on hand.
Pittsburgh Public Schools spokeswoman, Ebony Pugh, explains that their district do not now stock naloxone but is on board in following the directive.