Overdose-reducing drug could come to schools

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has the opportunity to obtain Narcan, a brand of the drug naloxone which temporarily blocks or reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, at no cost to the school.

Through Project HOPE, Alaska’s overdose response program, individuals within the school district can be trained in administering the drug and supplied with an opioid overdose rescue kit at each of the schools within the district.

“We are prepared to have all our nurses trained and supplied at our October in-service,” Iris Wetz, the district nursing supervisor with the district, said in a letter to the school board. “They, in turn, would train key personnel in their schools at their administrator’s discretion.”

The nasal spray could save a life by bringing a person out of an overdose situation in less than a minute, Wetz said.

“The district is fully supportive of having the Narcan available at our schools for the potential of saving a life, whether it’s a parent, a guest to the school or a student,” district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff said.

The board likened the Narcan kit to an automated external defibrillator, or AED, as a tool that may never be used but there’s no harm in having it on hand for emergencies.

“It’s very easy to use and cannot cause any harm even if used mistakenly,” Wetz wrote.

Opioids, such as heroin or prescription pills, can cause breathing to slow down to the point that a person stops breathing, Wetz said.

Narcan is not a cure for an opioid overdose, but temporarily blocks the opioid receptor sites in the brain, effectively reversing the effects of the overdose. This gives the person overdosing extra time to be taken to a hospital or treated by emergency medical responders.

Project HOPE has been working to make Narcan accessible throughout the state and has distributed more than 7,000 Narcan kits since February to police departments, fire departments, pharmacies, nonprofits and other groups.

“Everybody, in some sense or form, should be a first responder when it comes to overdoses,” Andy Jones, deputy incident commander for the Alaska state opioid response team, said. “We want this to be available to anybody and everybody.”

In July, the Kenai Police Department saved a life for the first time using Narcan. Project HOPE also partnered with the Alaska State Troopers.

“The next step is schools,” Jones said. “We know that prescription opioids and medications are passed around in schools. This is another tool for our school nurses and security guards to have. If there is an accidental overdose or someone is using the opioid in the school, the tool is right. They can use the Narcan immediately instead of waiting for an EMS which, depending on the school’s location, could save a life.”

Jones also hopes that Narcan’s presences in schools will increased awareness of the addictive quality of opioids.

“Another piece is education,” Jones said. “By the schools buying in to Project HOPE, it’s the start of us providing a new education for our children.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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