(TNS) - This upcoming school year, every middle and high school in the Akron Public Schools system will be equipped with the heroin antidote naloxone, known by its brand name Narcan, during school hours.
The Akron Board of Education passed the motion 5-1 Monday night, with the sole dissenter being board member Debbie Walsh.
“While I’m very concerned about the safety of our students, I’m also equally as concerned about the message it’s going to send,” Walsh said. “I think there’s often too much of an attitude of, ‘As long as there’s Narcan, we’re safe’ … That’s just a message that I don’t want out there.”
For the rest of the board members, the move was seen as a proactive step toward preventing death as the region deals with an opioid epidemic.
“It could be a son or child or granddaughter. No one’s immune from this stuff, nobody,” said school board member John Otterman, who initially proposed the policy to the board last year. “I just hope that, if it’s necessary, it’ll be available to save somebody.”
Once the planned middle school and high school mergers are completed by the 2017-18 school year, APS will have six high schools and nine middle schools; each will receive two doses of the antidote in the form of nasal spray.
The school resource officers who are placed at each school, along with one additional officer who patrols between schools, will have access to the naloxone. The officers, who have been trained to administer naloxone, will check the doses out when they start their shifts and return them at the end of their shifts.
The naloxone will be stored in the schools’ health clinics “for security purposes,” and they can be administered to anybody on school grounds, said Debra Foulk, the executive director of business affairs for APS.
Foulk said the next step is to begin writing administrative guidelines, which will be approved and reviewed regularly by the Summit County health department. She anticipates the guidelines being finalized and the naloxone moving into the schools at some point during this upcoming school year.
The move by APS is on par with schools across the country that are stocking their cabinets with naloxone in case of an overdose, especially since Adapt Pharma Ltd., the maker of Narcan, began offering a free carton of Narcan to all U.S. high schools last year.
APS high schools are eligible to receive the free doses, but Foulk said the board is still determining where to pull funding to place naloxone in the middle schools, which will cost about $1,000.
The policy wasn’t prompted by an overdose on school property. Since Gov. John Kasich signed a bill earlier this year that allows schools to have naloxone on hand, the board decided to move forward with the idea to prevent overdoses from happening in the first place.
“Whether it’s fire hydrants or anything else that we put in place to be proactive, I mean, you put those things there hoping that you’ll never have to use them, but you want them there if you do,” said school board President Patrick Bravo. “A lot of people ask why, and maybe the better question is, why not?”
Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom .
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