Kan. school district wants to equip nurses with naloxone

The Shawnee Mission School Board approved an agreement this week with Johnson County Emergency Services to stock naloxone at district schools

By Katy Bergen
The Kansas City Star 

JOHNSON COUNTY, Mo. — As the opioid crisis continues to plague the nation, one Johnson County school district is hoping to equip its registered nurses with a live-saving antidote.

The Shawnee Mission School Board approved an agreement this week with Johnson County Emergency Services to stock naloxone — a medication that swiftly reverses opioid overdose — at district schools.

Since 2017, Kansas law has permitted school nurses to administer naloxone, which is known by the brand name Narcan when it’s in a nasal spray form.

“This will give us another tool to help us in possibly saving a life in the future,” Rick Atha, assistant superintendent of organizational support, told board members this week. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when we put this into use.”

School districts in other states have been stocking naloxone since the National Association of School Nurses endorsed the measure in 2015. ADAPT Pharma says it has donated 5,500 doses of Narcan to high schools in 31 states.

Most of those schools so far have been in coastal states, but a school board in Bolivar, Mo., agreed in September to draft language allowing its employees to use it.

Shawnee Mission’s decision follows the use of other life-saving tools and medications, such as AED machines and EpiPens that can quickly treat allergic reactions.

“While eyebrows may have been raised when these devices first came to be in schools, they have come to be expected,” Shelby Rebeck, the district’s health services coordinator, said Monday.

Nurses would need to receive specific state-mandated training to administer naloxone. It would be up to each school to decide whether to stock the medication.

Board members said that the medication would be on hand not just for students and staff but for any adult who steps onto campus.

While naloxone does not combat the addiction issues that prompt drug use in the first place, it has been effective at saving lives.

In 2017, the number of opioid-related deaths in a four-county area around Kansas City dropped to 93, its lowest level since 2012. Opioid-related deaths had reached 115 in 2015.

During that same time span, the Kansas City Fire Department’s use of naloxone increased each year, from 381 times in 2012 to 544 in 2017. Last year, Johnson County Emergency Services administered 273 doses of naloxone, according to Rebeck.

The agreement was unanimously approve by Shawnee Mission board members on Monday. It must be approved by Johnson County commissioners before it would be enacted.

Copyright 2018 The Kansas City Star 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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