More schools stocking NARCAN amid growing opioid epidemic

NOW: More schools stocking NARCAN amid growing opioid epidemic

The Opioid Epidemic

Opioid overdoses killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, according to the latest data from the CDC. Opioid overdose deaths were five times higher that year than 1999. Wisconsin saw a nearly 25% increase in OD deaths, a number the CDC considers "significant." The Badger State is taking steps to combat the opioid epidemic. In July of 2017, Governor Scott Walker signed a law, allowing trained school staff to administer naloxone, sold under the brand name NARCAN, in an emergency, without facing liability. Now more schools in the state are taking advantage of it, including in Franklin. 

More districts now stock NARCAN

"We have EpiPens. We have AEDs. Why not have another tool that could save someone's life?" District nurse, Lori O'Neil, became interested in NARCAN in January 2017, when the bill was introduced at the state level. She started the conversation with her superintendent and reached out to local agencies, like the fire department, to get a better understanding about the opioid overdose reversal medication. 

“We got the approval from the school board in December of 2017, that included the NARCAN in our medication policy," said O'Neil.   

Franklin is one of 13 school districts in Wisconsin taking advantage of the Free NARCAN for Schools Program. Other local schools participating are: Nicolet High School, University School of Milwaukee, Badger High School and Oconomowoc High school. NARCAN manufacturer, Adapt Pharma, offers two free doses of the nasal spray to participating high schools, colleges and universities. 

“It’s another tool that we can use to hopefully save a life," said Molly Kaul, who individually trains members of Franklin's Emergency Response Team. This specific group of people, which includes administrators, health room staff, PE teachers, and counselors, respond to emergencies at the middle and high school during the academic day. They are trained to recognize an overdose and how to administer the nasal spray. 

“We tried to make it very simple to people, so they don’t have to spend time trying to figure out if this is an appropriate circumstance to use it.” 

Both Kaul and O'Neil said they did not face any opposition in changing the district's medication policy to include NARCAN. 

State's response to NARCAN

NARCAN is not regulated or tracked at the state level, but the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) says it is supportive of schools' efforts to obtain the medication. 

"It’s about making sure kids have available resources before they get in trouble," said Dr. Tony Evers, Superintendent of Public Instruction of Wisconsin. "Whether it’s opioid addiction, or whether it’s a safe school issue, whether or not [they're] behaving appropriately or getting to the point where they’re going to harm someone else, all of those things are connected." 

Dr. Evers considers NARCAN in schools part of a comprehensive program to safe schools, and says DPI does have a role to play in the opioid epidemic.

"It’s got to be in the schools, that’s important. We don’t own this issue by ourselves, but we have to play a role in solving it."

When asked if the medication could encourage drug use on school grounds, he said it comes down to protecting students.

"If we need to save a life, we need to save a life. Can you think of having somebody, a young person, ending their life in front of you and having this argument? That’s crazy."

NARCAN saves a life

Ryan Povlick would have to agree. NARCAN saved his life when he overdosed behind the wheel on a college campus. 

“I’m thankful to be alive," said Povlick, who started using drugs in high school. He's since turned his life around and now runs Scratch Ice Cream company with a friend. He also runs a sober living house. 

“A lot of the people I talk to today that are getting sober wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for NARCAN," said Povlick. “People are going to do what they want to do. If they’re an addict, they’re going to use. Right now the main goal should be to keep these kids, these people alive. Keep them alive until they can find some sort of solution to get better.”

Does your school stock NARCAN?

Currently, there is no centralized system to track which schools stock or administer NARCAN in Wisconsin, except through the manufacturer's free program to participating schools.  
CBS 58 learned the following districts stock NARCAN:

School District of Waukesha
Arrowhead Union High School
Oconomowoc High School
Franklin High School and Forest Park Middle School
Pewaukee High School is currently considering a proposal. 

The following districts do not stock NARCAN:

Milwaukee Public Schools
Racine Unified School District
Kenosha Unified School District
Germantown High School
Fond du Lac High School
West Allis - West Milwaukee School District
Delavan-Darien School District
Sheboygan Area School District
School District of Menomonee Falls
Mequon-Theinsville School District
Wauwatosa School District

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