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Schools could soon carry lifesaving anti-overdose drug

bottle of pills
Tom Varco
Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Schools would be able to carry Narcan, which can revive somebody who's overdosed

Bills making their way through the Michigan Legislature would allow school staff to more quickly treat students who overdose on heroin or prescription opioid pills. 

If they pass, teachers wouldn’t have to wait for an ambulance before getting them naloxone, aka Narcan, the anti-opioid drug that police and EMS workers carry.

That’s because schools would be able to stock naloxone, which typically comes as a nasal spray. It can revive somebody who’s overdosed on heroin or prescription painkillers. Similar laws have already passed in several other states.

“Now anybody who works in schools knows they’re seeing more and more examples of kids, whether they’re in school or out, having these kinds of problems,” says State Senator Jim Ananich, one of the sponsors of these bills.

And because of school nurse shortages, any trained school employee would be allowed to administer the drug – not just a nurse.

“Obviously that would be the best way to do it, but with naloxone or Narcan, I mean, family members can use it,” Ananich says. “Law enforcement and other folks can use it. So it’s not an overly complicated process.”  

Ananich says he’s heard “a few” stories about Michigan students overdosing at school, but says the bills are more of a preventative measure during the opioid epidemic.

Jennifer Smith, a lobbyist for the Michigan Association of School Boards, says they’re supporting the measures – especially since the bills protect schools from lawsuits if the naloxone doesn’t work.

Smith says they’ve heard anecdotally about a student in another state overdosing during a field trip, but says she doesn’t know of any instances of an overdose happening at school in Michigan.  

Meanwhile, Ananich says lawmakers have already talked with companies that make naloxone, which have offered to provide schools with the drug for free.

“The cost would be very minimal [to schools,] and it’s an option, they don’t have to do it,” Ananich says. “I’m hoping schools will take time to investigate and discover it’s worth doing.”

The bills have already been approved by the Michigan Senate and will now go before the House. 

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Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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