Assembly passes bill to make Narcan available in schools
Measure aimed at equipping school nurse teachers to save overdose victims
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly has approved legislation sponsored by Rep. David A. Bennett and Sen. Gayle L. Goldin to require public middle schools, junior highs and high schools to have opioid antagonist kits on their premises. With passage in the House yesterday, the bill now heads to the governor’s desk.
In light of the epidemic of overdoses in the region and the fact that school nurse teachers and others are easily able to administer them, it makes sense to make the inexpensive kits of the drug known by the trade name Narcan available in public schools, said the bill’s sponsors.
“Schools already have a nurse on the premises, and they can already administer things like EpiPens and insulin. But without the tools they need, they might have to just stand there and watch helplessly as a person passes away, waiting for someone else with Narcan to arrive. Narcan is easily obtainable, and it’s a very worthy investment in public safety to make sure that all the health care professionals who might need it have proper access to it,” said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), who works as a psychiatric nurse.
Said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), “Given the scope of the opioid epidemic in our area right now, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that any high school or middle school could have a student on campus who experiences an overdose. Every second counts when someone is overdosing, so being prepared with a kit and a school nurse teacher who knows how to use it could be the difference that saves that person’s life.”
Narcan is the trade name of naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of overdoses of opiates, including heroin and many commonly abused prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. The drug generally has no adverse effects if given to someone who is not overdosing, and is administered as either a nasal spray or an injection that can be delivered even through clothing. While it is a prescription drug, Walgreens has worked with the state to allow any person to buy it without their own prescription at any of its 26 Rhode Island stores under a collaborative practice agreement with the Miriam Hospital.
As such, a person such as a school nurse teacher could currently obtain Narcan on their own, but it should not have to be a personal responsibility or cost, said the sponsors.
Currently, many first responders, including all State Police, are equipped with the kits. But minutes count in saving overdose victims, and having a kit in the school nurse teacher’s office would mean the drug could be administered sooner, they said.
The legislation (2015-S 0154A, 2015-H 5047A) would specifically provide immunity from penalty or civil action to school personnel as a result of their efforts to use the kit to help an apparent victim. The bill also protects school nurse teachers from being required to administer or be trained to administer the drug if they would prefer otherwise.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903