PA School Districts Urged To Adopt Policies for Administering Antidote for Heroin Overdoses

April 14, 2016Alerts Education Alert

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and the state departments of Education, Health, State and Drug and Alcohol Programs recently announced a partnership with Adapt Pharma to provide free quantities of the heroin overdose reversal drug Naloxone (also known as Narcan) to all Pennsylvania public high schools.

Naloxone is also used to reverse overdoses of prescription opioid pain medications such as morphine, codeine, methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and hydromorphone. Deaths from prescription painkillers have reached epidemic levels in the past decade according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with one in four teens reporting that they have abused or misused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime, and one in six saying they did so in the last year. In 2014, the CDC added opioid overdose prevention to its list of the top five public health challenges.

In response to this epidemic, Pennsylvania officials are encouraging school districts to adopt policies to allow for the stocking and proper administration of Naloxone in high schools and, potentially, additional locations.

Naloxone is easy to administer and can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose with little to no side effects on non-opioid users, potentially saving a student’s life. Last year, Pennsylvania Physician General Rachel Levine issued a standing order for Naloxone allowing all eligible Pennsylvanians to acquire and administer Naloxone in an overdose emergency.

To participate in the free Naloxone distribution program, a school district must:

  • adopt a board policy on the administration of Naloxone
  • secure a standing order from the school physician
  • show that school nurses have completed the state Department of Health approved training
  • submit a completed application

Through this program, districts will also have access to educational materials and training developed by the National Association of School Nurses.

According to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, research on Naloxone and its use shows that stocking and using it in accordance with proper procedures and training should present a low risk of harm or liability. Many districts already equip school nurses and other trained personnel with this life-saving medication.

Research has shown that Naloxone:

  • has been used safely for more than 40 years
  • may cause a very unpleasant physical experience for a person overdosing, but that serious side effects are very rare
  • has virtually no effect at all if administered to someone not using opioids
  • has no known potential for abuse
  • has not been reported to have any allergic effects, although the possibility of an allergic reaction has not been ruled out

We encourage school districts to consult with their attorneys or solicitors as well as medical advisers and school nurses and to develop relevant policies, determine whether Naloxone should be stocked in middle schools and other facilities in addition to high schools, and calculate a sufficient supply to ensure it could be timely restocked after use.

Please contact Shannon Pierce at 610.397.2236 or [email protected] or any member of Fox Rothschild's Education Practice Group for further assistance with preparing your district’s policies and procedures regarding the use and administration of Naloxone.