Ohio Public Schools Propose to Have Stock of Narcan for Students
July 09—Akron Board of Education member John Otterman has some harrowing tales.
Perhaps one of the most chilling is the one he tells of a friend who was despondent over the loss of his two sons to heroin within a month of each other. The friend called him at 3 a.m., the barrel of a .45 in his mouth. Police were on the way, but Otterman got there first. The gun was cocked. Otterman gripped the handle, trying to wrestle it away. Police arrived. His friend made it through the night.
Otterman also tells the story of his teenage daughter having to go to the funeral of a friend who overdosed. He doesn't even want to think about if it were one of his children. But he is thinking about how he can help prevent such a loss with a policy to get naloxone, also known by its brand name, Narcan, a drug that helps reverse an opioid overdose, into the Akron Public Schools.
No students have overdosed on school property, but the district wants to be prepared if they do as the opioid epidemic continues to hit close to home.
Under a proposed policy, which the school board will consider at its regular meeting Monday night, the opioid antidote in the nasal spray form would be available in all Akron Public Schools' middle and high schools during school hours.
The board and district administrators still need to specify who at the schools would have access to naloxone and receive training to administer the antidote. Guidelines also would need to be developed to outline how naloxone would be stored as well as the exact hours the drug would be accessible.
If approved, Akron Public Schools' policy will be in place by the start of the 2017-18 school year, Otterman said.
"I've had to go to so many funerals —kids, and guys and girls that you grew up with," he said. But when his daughter lost her friend, he got to thinking.
"That told me, if you can have this in the school... you have everything else in there, [like the medications] they give in grade school, what would be the problem with having this in the high school?" he said.
If the district moves forward with the plan, Akron will join a growing number of communities nationwide that are opting to have naloxone on hand in case of heroin or other opioid overdoses.
According to a recent article by the New York Times, educators across the country are adding the opioid antidote to their medicine cabinets.
Adapt Pharma Ltd., the maker of Narcan, last year began offering a free carton of Narcan to all U.S. high schools through the state departments of education.
"We understand the crucial role schools can play to change the course of the opioid overdose epidemic by working with students and families. We also want every high school in the country to be prepared for an opioid emergency by having access to a carton of Narcan nasal spray at no cost," Adapt Pharma's president and CEO said in a prepared statement last year.
Akron would receive Narcan for its high schools for free the first year, according to Daniel Rambler, director of student support services and security. The cost to stock the district's 10 middle schools for the school year would be $1,000.
The district still is determining how to fund the expense, Rambler said.
The plan to have naloxone available in Akron schools has been in the works since last year, when the region saw a huge spike in opioid overdoses, largely due to the appearance of carfentanil, a powerful opiate used to sedate elephants and other large animals.
Otterman estimates he's spoken to about 40 to 50 law enforcement and medical professionals in doing research for the naloxone proposal.
He's been told of parents who have shown up at schools and passed out and paramedics have had to be called.
"You don't wait for someone to be injured before you address it," school board President Patrick Bravo said.
Students are not overdosing at school, Bravo said, "but we have seen in the community where they've overdosed from what their parents have at home. So for us the worst-case scenario would be for that not necessarily to hit a student until they walk in the door and then have nothing there to address it. Mr. Otterman was being proactive and I applaud him for his efforts to do that. So I think it will be a good thing."
Otterman knows having such a policy is not going to curb the use of opiates, but it may be an opportunity to help if someone does overdose.
It also would be good to have Narcan in schools in case police or medical units are tied up elsewhere in the city, he said.
"Hopefully, it never needs to be used," Otterman said. "I think it's going to get worse before it gets better, the epidemic."
The Akron Beacon Journal