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After string of teen overdoses, LA schools will get overdose reversal drug naloxone

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

The decision makes sense, said Dr. Gary Tsai, director of substance abuse prevention and control for the county health department, which issued an alert last week about the growing danger of illicit opioid pills.

"Obviously, the best tool is prevention," Tsai said, but the recent death of the Bernstein student "in and of itself would demonstrate the need to have naloxone on hand," Tsai said. "It tells you that students have been exposed in one way or another. And the likelihood that they might be exposed on campus, bringing counterfeit pills or come into contact with counterfeit pills on campus, that clearly is a risk. It's necessary and appropriate for schools to have naloxone on campus."

California law permits K-12 schools to provide and administer naloxone, but does not require it. Michigan has adopted similar rules.

However, some California colleges and universities are required to have the drug in stock under a bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in August.

Although access to naloxone at K-12 schools appears to be uncommon, it is not unheard of.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District recently had a local physician train all the district's registered nurses on how to administer naloxone and it is available to them at that district's high schools, said Superintendent Alexander Cherniss.


Rhode Island requires all schools to have naloxone, and it can be administered by "any trained nurse-teacher" without fear of liability. School employees also can decline to administer the medication. New York state offers four free doses of naloxone to every high school, but they don't have to accept it. Currently, New York City schools do not have a policy to keep it in stock, a district spokesman said.

The nasal version of naloxone is straightforward to use, experts said. The injection version requires being able to use a needle and syringe. Naloxone won't harm someone if that person is overdosing on drugs other than opioids, so it's always better to use it in the case of a suspected overdose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The county health department is providing doses of naloxone at no cost to the district, which also is receiving support in this effort from the Los Angeles Trust for Children's Health and Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

County health also is helping the district develop training and education materials. The district has secured enough doses for high schools, which will be distributed in the next two weeks. Training for district staff in the use of naloxone will begin in early October.


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