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It makes sense to have Narcan in our schools

Editorial Board • Sep 20, 2018 at 9:00 PM

Back in the ‘60s a group calling itself Four Jacks and a Jill released a hit song with the line, “It’s a strange, strange world we live in Master Jack.” They couldn’t have imagined how strange the world would become a bit more than a half-century later.

The federal government’s so-called war on drugs began in that time with the hope of eradicating the use of soft and hard drugs. The effort failed, and now we find Sullivan County schools joining others nationwide in stocking Narcan, a lifesaving drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

School nurses once dealt with tummy aches and the occasional bloody nose from the playground. Now, they’re being prepared to administer a drug to counter the deadly effects of an overdose.

A sad commentary on our times, but true.

Anymore, it’s not enough to protect our secondary students from external threats like someone with a gun. Now we must also protect them from the harm they do to themselves.

By action of the Sullivan County Board of Education, county school nurses and administrators will be trained to administer the drug under a protocol and emergency prescription of Dr. Andrew May, medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department.

“We haven’t entered into this casually,” Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski told the board at a recent work session. “Medical professionals are 100 percent behind having this in the schools.”

Rafalowski said local law enforcement and emergency medical personnel are already trained to dispense the medicine and have it available. However, in addition to that availability, two doses of the lifesaving drug are to be on hand at each school, with the school nurse and administrators trained to administer it before emergency responders arrive.

The antidote has become increasingly common throughout the country because it acts quickly to reverse the opioid overdose effect of stopping a patient from breathing.

“If you ever looked for a magic pill or antidote, this is it,” May said. He said that the drug has virtually no side effects and that a new state law allows the antidote’s use in schools by those who go through simple training, as well as anyone in the public with a high-risk individual in their family.

May said the most common form, an atomizer, is what will be used in the school system.

“It buys the few minutes you may need to keep someone alive,” May said. Otherwise, a six- to 10-minute emergency response while an overdose victim is not breathing could be too late. May likened using Narcan to EpiPens dispensing epinephrine to offset allergic reactions.

It only makes sense to have Narcan available in our schools. But it’s another of those threshold moments that makes us look back at the failures of our past.

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