Pennsylvania health leaders are rolling out a plan this month aimed at supplying all high schools with naloxone, a drug that if administered quickly enough, can reverse a potentially fatal overdose.
“We have received 10 completed applications and lots of inquiries, and we are anticipating that the majority of the 642 public high schools in Pennsylvania will apply,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, the state’s physician general.
Levine said that, while it’s rare, in the event that a student does overdose, she wants staff to be prepared. The state rolled out applications to obtain the naloxone nasal spray kits earlier this month, and it plans to start distributing the drug in May.
Under Levine’s standing prescription, all first responders, police and community members are able to obtain naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, from a pharmacy.
But getting the life-saving drug into schools is more complicated. It’s up to each school to decide whether it wants to participate.
Initially, some districts had concerns about issues including liability. The state has since worked with schools to set up guidance on this. For example, schools need to develop a specific policy for using naloxone and get an order from their school physician to obtain the kits.
The Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners has come out with recommendations and a statement on the state program. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association also issued recommendations.
The state is getting the kits through a donation from Adapt Pharma, based in Delaware County, which makes the nasal spray.
The effort comes amid a growing opioid epidemic. Last year, the state coroner logged more than 2,000 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania, and officials expect the numbers to go up this year.
“This is one piece of the puzzle,” said Levine of the plan to get naloxone into the high schools.