Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

fentanyl

One form of fentanyl is a blue pill. Crushed it is a white powder. From Public Health Seattle / King County "Laced and Lethal" campaign.

Narcan in schools / opioid education bills gain momentum

If approved opioid education would be mandatory in WA all public schools

Washington state public schools may be required to not only educate students about the dangers of fentanyl, a pill-form opioid that killed at least 21 teens last year and more than 1,000 adults in King County last year, but to also make Narcan/Naloxone readily accessible at school campuses. 

That’s what two bills flying through the legislative process would achieve if they were turned into law.

Both House Bill 1956 and Senate Bill 5804 will be heard for the first time in committees of their opposite houses this week. They must be approved by the full legislature before the end of the 2024 legislative session on March 8.

What HB 1956 would do

If HB 1956 passes, public schools would be required to include education about fentanyl and other opioids in health classes annually to seventh and ninth graders starting in the 2025-26 school year. The bill requires the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to work with the Washington Department of Health (DOH) to create learning materials. Materials would be reviewed at least once per year.

Campaigns in 2024 and 2025 must focus on increasing awareness among students of the dangers of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, including “the high possibility that other drugs are contaminated with synthetic opioids and that even trace amounts of synthetic opioids can be lethal,” according to the bill’s legislative summary.

“Addressing the fentanyl crisis is a high priority for the Governor, and education and prevention is an important part of this strategy,” the summary continues. “Youth need to be made aware of the potential lethality of fentanyl and how it can be laced into other drugs or look like prescription painkillers. The damage caused by fentanyl is unlike any drug the world has seen before, and it is necessary to act quickly to avoid additional lives lost. Fentanyl now makes up the vast majority of opioid overdoses. There is broad support from education partners, tribal leaders, and parents, especially from parents who have lost children due to fentanyl poisoning.”

Take action: HB 1956 is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15.

If approved by the full legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee, educational materials would need to be ready on Dec. 1 of this year.

Narcan is now available over the counter in most pharmacies. Image from Public Health Seattle/King County.

What SB 5804 would do

SB 5804 requires that all school districts, charter schools, and state-tribal education compact schools obtain and maintain at least one set of opioid overdose reversal medication doses – either the brand-name drug Narcan or generic naloxone – in each of its schools and covering all grades. 

The Federal Food and Drug Administration approved Narcan and naloxone for over-the-counter sale last year. Most pharmacies carry both.

The bill encourages every Washington public school to train at least one school staff member to distribute and administer opioid overdose reversal medications if the school does not have a full-time school nurse or trained health care staff on site. And all districts would be required to adopt an opioid overdose policy. 

The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction grant program would provide the funding to purchase opioid overdose reversal medication and provide training to school personnel.

Take action: SB 5804 is also scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Education on Thursday at 8:00 a.m.

The rising tide of opioid deaths among youth

According to Brad Finegood, Public Health – Seattle & King County‘s strategic overdose prevention and response advisor, the number of opioid-related deaths among young people has skyrocketed in the last five years. 

“From 2015 to 2018, we lost an average of three teens annually in King County,” XX told Seattle’s Child in December. “Last year, 21 teens died of overdose. So it’s happening with teenagers.”

“Fentanyl has really changed the game,” Finegood said in an interview. “One of the things that has changed is the risk perception. There are different forms of taking drugs into the body. For years and years and years and years, to get to a lethal amount of drug, (for the most part) someone needed to inject or inhale it. Today, you’ve got kids saying, ‘I’m never going to inject drugs!’ Like it’s a safety threshold, they won’t cross, so they’re safe. 

“The thing is, today, you don’t need a needle to use very lethal drugs,” Finegood said. “They are very cheap and very readily available. Without ever using needles, it’s easier to use a deadly drug than it ever was.” 

SPS is ahead of the curve

Some districts, including Seattle Public Schools, are already ahead of the state in terms of drug education. SPS students receive mandatory drug prevention education, including information on opioids and overdose, in grades 7 and 9, and there are Learn more about the district’s efforts to educate kids about the dangers of drugs on the SPS website. 

Take action

Let your voice be heard on this important issue and on all legislation of impact to kids and families. Here’s how to do it:

Read more:

Leg 2024: Stay updated on potential laws that impact kids

Bill to stop child marriage in WA gaining traction

DNR asks for $1.65 million for youth program

Stop student isolation and restraint in schools

 

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.