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Los Angeles public schools will stock campuses with the overdose reversal drug naloxone following the death of a student at Bernstein High School, putting the nation’s second largest school system on the leading edge of a strategy increasingly endorsed by public health experts.
The move, which will affect about 1,400 elementary, middle, and high schools, is part of the district’s new expanded anti-drug strategy, which is designed to overtake seven students over a three-week period involving students on the Bernstein campus and Hollywood High. The response has been gathered quickly. school. Plans announced Thursday will also include expanded parent outreach and peer counseling.
The death of 15-year-old Melanie Ramos, who died last week in a school bathroom after consuming a pill she bought from another student, shook the campus community and caused concern among parents in the 430,000-student district. subject made. The pill contains fentanyl, an opioid that is lethal in small doses.
Naloxone is highly effective at reversing opioid overdose if administered quickly by nasal spray or injection.
LA School Sept. Alberto Carvalho stated that providing naloxone, also known by the Narcan brand name, is a matter of saving lives, and that the drug can be delivered with speed and relative ease.
“We have an immediate crisis on our hands,” Carvalho said. “Research shows that the availability of naloxone, along with a high degree of education, is effective in reducing overdose and death – and will save lives. We will do everything in our power to ensure that no one else in our community Students should not fall prey to the growing opioid epidemic.”
Candidates for training will include school nurses and school police – but the scope will be broad. Carvalho gave the example of an assistant principal who was a military doctor.
“He can do it. He has the training,” Carvalho said in an interview. “I think we have maintained a very short-sighted view of who can do it. The training really isn’t that hard.”
Even older students will have the ability to be trained, but, “I’m not saying we’re going to do that here. But the training isn’t complicated and we are seeing a significant number of such individuals.” who can do it in a protective way.”
The top priority will be getting medicine in high schools, followed by middle schools.
The decision makes sense, said Dr. Gary Tsai, director of substance abuse prevention and control for the county health department, which last week issued an alert about the growing threat of illegal opioid pills.
“Obviously, the best tool is prevention,” Tsai said, but the recent death of a Bernstein student “in itself will demonstrate the need to keep naloxone on hand,” Tsai said. “It tells you that students have been exposed in some way or the other. And there is a possibility that they may have been exposed on campus, brought in fake bullets or come in contact with fake bullets on campus, it is clear. There is a risk from this. It is necessary and appropriate for schools to have naloxone on campus.”
California law allows, but does not require, K-12 schools to provide and administer naloxone. Michigan has adopted similar rules.
However, some California colleges and universities are required to keep the drug in stock under a bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in August.
Although access to naloxone appears to be uncommon in K-12 schools, it is not unheard of.
Recently a local physician in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District trained all district’s registered nurses to administer naloxone and it is available to them in high schools in that district, Supt said. Alexander Chernis.
Rhode Island requires all schools to have naloxone, and it can be administered by “any trained nurse-teacher” without fear of liability. School staff may also refuse to administer medicine. New York State provides four free doses of naloxone to every high school, but they are not required to accept it. Currently, schools in New York City have no policy to keep it in stock, a district spokesman said.
Experts said the nasal version of naloxone is straightforward to use. The injection version requires being able to use a needle and syringe. Naloxone will not harm anyone if that person overdoses on drugs other than opioids, so according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is always better to use it in case of suspected overdose.
The county health department is providing naloxone supplements at no cost to the district, which is also supported in this effort by the Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
County Health is also helping the district develop training and education materials. The district has received enough doses for high schools, which will be distributed over the next two weeks. Training for district workers in the use of naloxone will begin in early October.
Providing naloxone in schools can be controversial. Some parents may interpret its availability as a school district omitting its ability to educate students on how to reject drug abuse. Some may fear it will encourage drug use as well, 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 risk levels, noting that law enforcement has estimated the number of illicit opioid pills confiscated from 300,000 in 2018 to about 10 in 2021. million reported an increase.
Research suggests that students were already facing mental health crises prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which worsened the situation. Such trends underscore the need for additional steps beyond making naloxone available, he said.
“We are seeing an unprecedented number of violent incidents in schools,” Anderson said. “I think this is all part of a trend our youth are struggling to cope with in modern society. We, as caring adults, need to be more deliberate about what we do with our How to engage with young people, to help them learn how to problem-solve, mediate conflict – basically it’s youth development. All these issues really point to how COVID-19 , and COVID school closures in particular, stunt the growth and social development of our young people.”
The LA Unified Declaration 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 new peers.
Carvalho said parents’ awareness of how to recognize and combat drug abuse in their children will become a major focus of parent-education efforts.
The school system already provides drug abuse education at all grade levels—and it was updated to include the risks of fentanyl. Officials said that such course material and strategies are under review.
New rules for higher education require that California community colleges and Cal State campuses supply campus health centers with naloxone. They are also required by colleges and universities to provide educational materials on preventing overdue during student orientation.
The law, which also requests similar action from the University of California Board of Regents, goes into effect in January. State Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), said the law “empowers students to prevent any more unnecessary deaths and ensure that perhaps one less parent gets a terrifying phone call that will last forever.” Will change their lives.” Statement after signing the bill
Times staff writers Debbie Truong and Alejandra Reyes-Velarde contributed to this story.