When Maryland’s public schools open in September, every school nurse’s office should be stocked with the antidote for an opioid overdose.
A new state law, called the Start Talking Maryland Law, requires public schools to talk to students about opioid addiction and offer drug prevention lessons. It also requires schools to be prepared for a possible overdose on campus. The law is one of several bills passed this year intended to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.
The law puts front-line responsibility for responding to an overdose in the school nurse’s office, where staff members must be trained to use naloxone, the drug that counteracts an opioid overdose. Nurses must also report any uses of the drug to the state.
John Woolums, Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, spoke in support of the bill at a hearing earlier this year, saying some districts already stock the antidote.
“Some do and some don’t,” Woolums told lawmakers. “The real meaningful provision would be the mandate that naloxone be provided.”
Last year, there were 2,089 drug-related deaths in Maryland, a 66 percent increase from the previous year and an all-time high. The increase is largely attributed to the rising number of deaths from opioid overdoses.
A representative of Prince George’s County Schools said via email that the local health department will provide Narcan for the schools and that the system is currently in the process of scheduling a training session for nurses. Prince George’s County Schools has also received a grant to educate parents about the dangers of opioids and is in the process of developing a website to provide information for families, staff and students.
Montgomery County Public Schools is awaiting an order of the drug, which should arrive by the time school starts. Montgomery County Associate Superintendent Jonathan Brice says that schools should play a key role in educating students about drug abuse, but he’s not sure how necessary it is to stock schools with naloxone — especially elementary schools. Nevertheless, he confirmed that Montgomery County Schools would stock naloxone.
“It is a state law. It is something we are required to do and we recognize the importance of being prepared in the eventuality that someone might need it,” Brice said.