Opioid threat leads schools to stock Narcan for overdoses

How widespread has the opioid epidemic become? In an ominous sign of the times, Rochester Public Schools recently began stocking the anti-overdose medication Narcan. The medication quickly reverses the effects of drugs laced with fentanyl and other opioids that have led to a spike in drug overdoses and deaths across the state and nation.

The Post Bulletin says the Rochester school board okayed Narcan upon learning of apparent incidents of non-fatal drug overdoses on school grounds.

“This is something we’ve been watching, I think, for the last several years,” [RPS health service coordinator Leah] Bancroft said. “We have sensed a change this year. We’ve had a couple instances in our buildings where we have suspected overdose, and potential opioid overdose.”

She went on to explain that she’s heard from some students who have used THC in their vape pens without necessarily knowing if it’s laced with anything. Those are the kind of circumstances in which students could overdose.

The anti-overdose treatment will be stocked in Rochester high schools, but district officials hinted at the possibility of also carrying Narcan in junior high buildings. The medication will be supplied free of charge by the Steve Rummler Hope Network, a foundation that advocates for strategies to combat the opioid epidemic.

Other Minnesota schools have also quietly begun stocking Narcan, according to the group’s executive director Alicia House.

“Rochester just one of just dozens of schools in the past year that have made implementation like this in their districts. If you think, ‘Well, we haven’t had that happen at our school or this isn’t an issue in our community.’ The truth is you don’t want to wait to find out. So the alternative is just making sure that you have it and you’re aware and then if you don’t have to use it, great. But you definitely don’t want to look back in hindsight and wish that you had.”

Narcan does not harm individuals who receive a dose mistakenly. But staff in Rochester schools will be trained on how to recognize drug overdose symptoms and administer the treatment, which will be kept in the school office.

School board member Jess Garcia said she appreciates the policy clarifying that people will be held harmless if they try to administer Narcan themselves rather than waiting for a health care professional.

“I think it will reduce the hesitancy for others to act if they notice that somebody is potentially presenting with symptoms of overdose,” Garcia said. “A couple of our student-run groups in the community have been lobbying us for something like this for some time now.”