The Douglas County School District plans to stock Narcan in every school, including charter schools, by next school year in response to the fentanyl-fueled rise of opiate overdoses.
The Douglas County School Board unanimously voted to update district policy at its April 26 meeting to allow schools to store naloxone, or Narcan, a common opiate antagonist that can reverse opioid overdoses and prevent death.
DCSD’s Director of Student Support Services Kelli Smith said district staff support the policy change because schools are hubs in the community, and there is a chance for unintended overdoses on district property.
“We know that that is something that’s happening within our communities in increase right now, especially with fentanyl,” Smith said.
In 2019, nearly 16% of students 15 or younger reported using a non-prescription medication at least once in their lifetimes, according to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. More than 12% of 16- to 17-year-old students reported doing the same, and about 23% of people 18 and older had.
Smith said the district would assess data from the most recent Healthy Kids Survey when it becomes available in late April.
The state’s Naloxone Bulk Purchase Fund allows organizations such as public health agencies or school districts to obtain opiate antagonists such as naloxone or Narcan, sometimes at no cost.
Now that the board has updated its policy and approved placing Narcan in schools, the district’s nursing coordinator will submit a standing order for the antagonist medication with the state.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment must approve the district’s eligibility, and once it does, DCSD expects to provide Narcan to all pre-K-12 schools by August.
The Narcan supplies will be stored in schools’ EpiPen lockers, DCSD’s Nursing Coordinator Celia Flanigan said. All staff will receive training from school nurses for how to spot an overdose and administer the medication, Flanagan said. This will occur in the first quarter of the 2022-23 school year.
Board President Mike Peterson said the policy change was in response to calls from district parents for DCSD to address the rise in opioid overdoses hitting many communities.
“This was a very bipartisan issue," he said. "We had a lot of parents write in about the concerns, very politely, and asked if we could do something.”
Director Susan Meek asked Peterson to refrain from using the term “bipartisan” and instead use “nonpartisan,” while also thanking staff for its work on the issue. Multiple directors thanked staff for quickly preparing a revision to district policy so DCSD could pursue the Naloxone Bulk Purchase Fund grant.
Director Elizabeth Hanson said students learn about the issue in health classes, but the district could also pursue educating parents as well. Superintendent Erin Kane agreed and said the county is hosting a May 3 event about the risk of fentanyl.
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