Putting opioid overdose antidote in schools
(Maine) While Gov. Janet Mills signed an executive order Wednesday that would make the overdose antidote Naloxone more available across the state, she also readied a plan to stock the anti-opioid therapy at all high schools and middle schools across Maine.
If finalized, Maine would join a growing number of states that have chosen to give school managers access to the life-saving overdose drug. Among the states already giving the drug to schools are New York, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Connecticut and New Mexico.
Earlier this spring, Maine began distributing some 35,000 dosages of Naloxone to a variety of public agencies and state buildings that deal directly with the public every day.
According to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, there were 418 overdose deaths in the state in 2017, including 354 caused by opioids.
During the first nine months of 2018—the only data so far released by the state—there were 282 deaths by overdose.
Over the past five years, overdose deaths in Maine have numbered at least 1,630 people.
“This insidious opioid epidemic impacts not only the individuals with substance use disorders but also their families, employers and communities,” Mills said in a statement. “And the current opioid epidemic presents a public health crisis requiring urgent action.”
It is unclear if Mills’ school policy will require changes in state law. In some states, because of liability issues, specific authorization had to be granted so that school employees could administer the drug.
Although there does not appear to be enough opposition in the state house to stop the governor’s plan, some concerns have been raised. Among other issues, critics warn that by putting the overdose antidote in schools, some opioid users might actually become more emboldened in their use.
Some teachers, along with the state teachers’ union, have expressed some reservation about making classroom instructors responsible for administrating the drug.
Gordon Smith, the director of opioid response for the state of Maine, said the state and the education community needs to do whatever it takes to save lives.
“I don’t think anyone wants to see a kid die because we didn’t have (Naloxone) available,” he said to the Portland Press Herald. “We are not going to put ourselves in a situation where kids can save kids but responsible adults can’t touch them. If we have to change the law, we’ll do it.”
In its most common form, Naloxone is a spray that is not difficult to administer. There is also a form of the drug that is injected into the bloodstream, which does require more training.
Generally, school nurses are the first choice to make an evaluation of a suspected overdose patient and to provide potential relief.
Already, the National Association of School Nurses has said that the use of Naloxone is a safe and effective method for reversing opioid overdoses.