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Narcan in public schools

Photo courtesy Narcan.com

Legislature says ‘YES’ to Narcan in all public schools

Gov. Jay Inslee's signature would make it the law

House and Senate member sof the Washington legislature unanimously approved a proposed law requiring all public schools in the state to keep the opiod-reversing drug Narcan/Naloxone on campus and oreadily accessible.

At least 21 teens and more than 1,000 adults died of opioid-related overdose in King County last year. With the legislature’s full, non-partisan stamp of approval, Senate Bill 5804 now needs only three signatures — from the Senate president, Speaker of the House, and Gov. Jay Inslee — to become law. If signed by Inslee, the Narcan in schools mandate would kick in on June 1. 

What the law would do

SB 5804 requires all school districts, charter schools, and state-tribal education compact schools to 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 their 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.

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, the annual average of opioid-related teen deaths was three. In 2022, 21 teens died of overdose. 

In an interview with Seattle’s Child, Finegood assured parents and caregivers that the opioid-reversing medication is easy to use. Narcan is administered inter-nasally.

Easing fears about Narcan use

Finegood says teachers, parents and teen nervous about giving Narcan to someone they fear has overdosed should take courage in the fact that Nargan has no adverse side effects if it’s used on somebody who is not having an overdose.

“I think that’s important and makes people less fearful about using it,” Finegood, who is also a dad, says. “If I was sleeping hard and someone sprayed Narcan up my nose, there would be no positive or negative effect if I was not overdosing on opioids. There are just no negatives. It was also important to me that my kids know what an overdose looks like so that if they’re around their friends or in their community, they can respond.”

Finegood stresses that opioids (especially fentanyl) are “very cheap and very readily available.”

“Without ever using needles, it’s easier to use a deadly drug than it ever was,” he says.

Click here to see the opioid overdose pamphlet distributed by Public Health Seattle King County.

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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.