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Lawmakers: Bill to allow K-12 schools to administer drug that reverses opioid overdoses

House Bill 2390 would allow K-12 schools to administer opioid reversal drug, such as naloxone.

TRI-CITIES, Wash. – A bill that allows opioid overdose medication in public K-12 schools and colleges was discussed in the state House Education Committee on Tuesday.

House Bill 2390, which was spearheaded by Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-46th District, has bi-partisan support. Local republican Rep. Larry Haler is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Under the bill, K-12 schools could obtain and maintain opioid overdose medication, such as naloxone.

High schools are “encouraged” to have at least one set of medication.

“There are High School students who are using heroin, who get hooked on opioid prescriptions or are buying opioid prescriptions from others and are at risk of overdosing every day," Rep. Pollet said.

RELATED STORY: Opioid overdose-reversal drug now available at CVS Pharmacy in Washington

Naloxone works to quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and can come in several forms, including NARCAN nasal spray or an injectable.

RELATED STORY: Walgreens providing life-saving Narcan nasal spray in their pharmacies nationwide

Narcan is a ready-to-use dose of naloxone in a nasal spray device makes administration of this life-saving medication quick and easy for friends and families of loved ones struggling with addiction in an emergency overdose situation.

The medication could be administered by a school nurse or other trained staff person. Pollet said naloxone as almost no side effects, even if mistakenly administering the drug. Plus, the staff wouldn't be held liable when acting in good faith.

The Richland School District nursing department’s regular monthly meeting is Wednesday. The nursing staff is reviewing the bill to see what it might mean for their schools if it were to pass.

A Pasco School District spokesperson issued the following statement:

"We understand the state legislature may respond to the opioid crisis by allowing for wider availability of opioid overdose drugs in the community.

However, before supporting such legislation pertaining to schools, we would need to consult with our school nurses, staff, and local first responders to determine if access to those drugs at school, and the training to administer them, is needed."

The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2015, opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl, killed more than 33,000 people in the United States.

In 2016, opioids killed 694 people in Washington and caused over 1,400 hospitalizations for opioid overdose.

It is unknown how many opioid overdose incidents occur on the property of K-12 schools and higher education institutions each year, but legislators said one child lost - is one too many.

"Anyone who can recognize the signs of overdose can administer the nasal spray and save the life of someone who's overdosing," Rep. Pollet said.

Using its general power to prescribe laws tending to promote the health and welfare of the people of the state, the legislature intends to:

  1. Increase access to opioid overdose medication at kindergarten through twelfth grade schools and higher education institutions; and
  2. Strengthen public health surveillance by requiring collection and reporting of certain opioid overdose-related data.

Bill sponsors are confident the legislation is likely to pass, meaning Narcan may be coming to schools near you.

Starting in the 2018-19 academic year, public higher education institutions with a residence hall housing at least 100 students would have to develop a plan to maintain and administer opioid overdose medication at the residence hall and train personnel to administer the medication.

Following up on his executive order in 2016 and legislation from last session, Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing next steps to fulfill a multi-pronged approach to combat the opioid crisis.

His proposed supplemental budget and accompanying legislation will build upon substantial work already underway to treat more of those in need of services, not stigmatize people with a medical disorder, and prevent the epidemic from claiming more lives.

Shanni Jenkins, who lost her son to an opioid overdose, shared her story during an event with the governor on Monday in Olympia.

“My son, Kyle, overdosed and died last October after being clean for 2 ½ years,” she said. “Kyle and his friends tried the drug OxyContin when he was younger, and it changed his brain. He fought the battle of this disease for 10 years.

“Kyle was open and honest about his struggles, which allowed me also to be.

“Addiction is nobody’s fault. I’m so proud of my son. We have to start talking. We have to change the stigma around this. People aren’t addicts, they have opioid use disorder.

“We have to have treatment available when they finally say they are ready, which is what Governor Inslee is doing. The people fighting this disease aren’t junkies, druggies, losers, nor do they deserve to die. They are our children.”

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