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School Districts Stockpile Narcan In Response to Student Fentanyl Deaths

After recent episodes of students overdosing on fentanyl, school districts are trying to respond to the growing toll from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists as 50 times more potent than heroin, Cronkite News reports. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest with more than 500,000 students, will make naloxone available in all the district's 1,000 schools. "We have an urgent crisis on our hands," Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said. "Research shows the availability of naloxone, along with overdose education, is effective at decreasing overdoses and deaths and will save lives." In 2020, the CDC reported 13,165 deaths involving heroin or other opioid-related substances including fentanyl. Fentanyl overdoses in the U.S. have risen more than 59 percent from 2019 to 2020. In April, The Guardian reported that U.S. teen overdose deaths doubled since 2019, from 492 to 1,146 in 2021. In Arizona, at least five people die from opioid overdoses every day, and so far this year, 372 opioid-related deaths have been reported, according to the state Department of Health Services. Arizona is one of six states, along with Washington, Oregon, Rhode Island, Maryland and Tennessee, that require schools to have a naloxone policy.

In Iowa, the Des Moines Public Schools have naloxone on hand in each of its campuses, and in the last school year there have been 11 medical emergencies in which the nasal spray could have helped. There were no deaths. Baltimore suburbs are looking to place naloxone in schools after a school nurse in Anne Arundel County used it to save a high school student suffering from an overdose. The Downey Unified School District of Los Angeles took action to combat any fentanyl use among its 22,300 students. Each school in the district has several doses of Narcan available and trained staff to administer it. Robert Jagielski, the district's director of student safety, joined school nurses as the first group that was trained over the summer. A subsequent session involved athletic trainers and other authorized staff. Jagielski said, "We were proactive. This stuff is bad enough, but sometimes minutes can make a difference." The Downey district offers fentanyl prevention resources, such as student assemblies, parent-teacher association meetings, newsletters and online learning that are accessible to students, teachers and parents. One way the district is accomplishing this is through Armando Gudino, a parent volunteer who has worked for the Drug Policy Alliance. He tries to engage families in conversations about how to keep students safe.


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