GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Legislation under consideration in the state Senate would give school districts the option of adding naloxone, an antidote to opioid overdoses better known as Narcan, to the list of drugs trained district personnel could administer.
There no debating the seriousness of the problem of addiction to opioids, from prescription painkillers to street drugs like heroin. Heroin overdoses have nearly quadrupled in Michigan since 1999.
Narcan — which is now carried by many EMS, fire and police agencies — has been credited with saving lives in the event of an opioid overdose.
“We certainly want to make sure that every person is safe. That’s our first priority,” said Ron Koehler, the assistant superintendent for Organizational and Community Initiatives and Legislative Affairs at the Kent Intermediate School District.
But he and other school leaders say it doesn’t appear the overdoses have hit the hallways of local schools.
“It’s easy to understand why it would be your first reaction, because they’re all there at some point,” he said. “But the data shows students are only with us about 12 percent of the time.”
But the legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Ananich, says the potential is there.
“We’re seeing even younger people being affected by it. We’re seeing the middle school kids is the age of the biggest increase of addiction and potentially overdose, so we have to do what we can to make sure families are protected and schools are a place where they spend a lot of their time,” said the Democrat from Flint.
The bipartisan measure is part of a package of bills passed by the Senate’s Health Policy Committee on Tuesday that would require schools interested in stocking Narcan to have at least two employees trained in its use. Training would have to be approved by a licensed nurse.
Additionally, school personnel would have to call 911 if they believe a student is having an overdose. They must also notify the parent or guardian of the student who was administered the drug and encourage them to seek substance abuse treatment for the student.
The drug’s maker has a program that provides the antidote to schools free of charge.
But with Narcan usually only a 911 call away, some educators, including Kent ISD’s Koehler, say the emphasis should continue to center on a proactive approach.
“Helping young people make good choices is probably a better solution that a reactive approach — to say, ‘Oh my gosh, we’d better have something like this on hand in case it presents itself,'” Koehler said.
The bills should go before the full Senate sometime in December.