Providing naloxone at schools can be controversial. Some parents could interpret its availability as a school district giving up on its ability to educate students on how to reject drug abuse. Some may fear it will even encourage drug use, said Annette Anderson, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools.
But she said parents need to keep in mind what she called an "explosion" in the level of risk, noting that law enforcement reported an increase in the number of illegal opioid pills seized from 300,000 in 2018 to about 10 million in 2021.
Research suggests that students already were facing a mental health crisis prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made things worse. Such trends underscore the need for additional steps beyond making naloxone available, she said.
"We're seeing an unprecedented number of violent events happening in schools," Anderson said. "I think that this is all part of a trend, where our young people are struggling with what it means to to cope in modern society. We, as the caring adults, need to be more intentional about how we are connected with our young people, to help them to learn how to problem solve, mediate conflict — basically it's youth development. All of these issues just really point to how COVID, and COVID school closures in particular, put a pause on our young people's growth and social development."
The L.A. Unified announcement also emphasized mental-health and preventive approaches. The Health Information Project organization will be brought in to train high school juniors and seniors to teach health education to their freshmen peers.
Parents' awareness about how to recognize and deal with drug abuse in their children will become a major focus of parent education efforts, Carvalho said.
The school system already provides drug-abuse education at all grade levels — and it was updated to include the risks of fentanyl. Such course materials and strategies undergo ongoing review, officials said.
The new rules for higher education require that California community colleges and Cal State campuses supply campus health centers with naloxone. They also require colleges and universities to provide educational materials on preventing overdoses during student orientation.
The law, which also requests similar action from the University of California Board of Regents, goes into effect in January. The legislation "empowers students to prevent any more needless deaths and ensures that maybe one less parent receives a terrible phone call that will change their lives forever," said state Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a Sanger Democrat, who introduced the measure, in a statement after the bill was signed.
(Times staff writers Debbie Truong and Alejandra Reyes-Velarde contributed to this story.)
———©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.