The Santa Barbara Unified School District board voted unanimously this week to put Narcan stations in schools to prevent overdoses.
To date there have been zero cases of overdoses in Santa Barbara schools, according to the district.
“It is actually a preventative issue,” John Schettler, the district’s director of special education, told the News-Press. “This is part of a community effort by the health department to get schools on board in the event of an overdose event happening,”
The updated administrative regulation, which was approved by the board on Tuesday evening, provides for the training of nurses to administer Narcan, according to Mr. Schettler.
“We have opioid receptors, and if a person has overdosed, they can stop breathing. Narcan goes into the same receptors and blocks it from having an effect on the body,” said Mr. Schettler.
Narcan (naloxone) essentially dislodges the opioid from the receptors. If it is a misinterpreted situation and it is not a case of overdose, it will have no effect on the body, according to Mr. Schettler.
“It saddens me to no end that our schools are no longer just spaces of teaching, learning, inspiration, safety, and a rite of passage for our children, but rather are spaces competing with the perils of the world that impact our children and adults,” Wendy Sims-Moten, vice president of the Santa Barbara Unified board, told the News-Press Wednesday in an email. “I understand and support our need to be prepared to protect our children.
“Adding Narcan to each of our campuses is the latest reminder of the world our children are facing, adding more mental and physical health challenges,” she said. “Our nurses, LVNs and health assistants are already in the process of receiving training on how to use Narcan should it ever be needed. It is my hope and desire that education and prevention efforts are the first actions to resolve issues at the root cause.”
Currently about half of the district’s nurses and health officials are trained in the use of Narcan, and the rest are scheduled to be trained in November. The training is also an option for teachers and coaches.
Schools with fewer than 500 students, which are primarily elementary schools, will have one Narcan unit per school. Schools with more than 500 students, which is primarily junior high schools and high schools, will have two Narcan units at each campus.
The units will be labeled and stored in the case with the AED, according to Mr. Schettler.
“Because our schools are community hubs, it could not only be a student who is a impacted, but it could also be a staff or community member,” said Mr. Schettler.
“Opioid overdose deaths are a reality in our society that we may not ignore,” Virginia Alvarez, a Santa Barbara Unified board member, told the News-Press in an email.
“This issue is directly related to student and staff safety, and schools’ emergency preparedness and response plans must include the safe management of opioid-related overdoses to save lives,” she said. “During an overdose situation, every microsecond counts, and with Narcan as part of our emergency preparedness, when it is quickly administered, it blocks the effects of opioids and reverses the overdose, thus saving a life.”
Mr. Schettler noted there is an educational component that goes along with the installation of Narcan stations.
“We need to make sure we are talking about opioids and fentanyl in education,” he said. “We need to make sure instructional materials are touching on this so our students are aware of what is going on in the community.”
School board member Kate Ford expressed her support for the Narcan stations in an email to the News-Press.
“With the tragic national epidemic of opioid use on the rise, I am so relieved and grateful that our SBUSD schools will now keep Narcan on hand for overdose emergencies,” Ms. Ford said. “It’s easy to store, it’s easy to administer, it’s inexpensive, and, above all, Narcan saves lives. I’m very proud of our unanimous vote.”
The addition of Narcan stations in schools is critical at a time when fentanyl is being added to fake pills that resemble Oxycontin, Xanax and Adderall, Rose Muñoz, the school board president, told the News-Press in an email.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s One Pill Can Kill campaign (dea.gov/onepill), four of every 10 pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose.
“As a school district, we must do our part to save lives and address the opiate crisis in our community and beyond.”