L.A. students will be able to carry Narcan in schools

Students can carry Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse an opioid overdose, in Los Angeles Unified schools under a soon-to-be-updated policy.

The move announced to school board members in a message from Supt. Alberto M. Carvalho, comes amid ongoing concerns about the dangers of illegal fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid unknowingly used by teens in fake pills that look like Xanax or OxyContin.

Carvalho wrote to board members Tuesday that the Los Angeles County Department of Health supports “a clarification” in LA Unified’s policy “that would allow students to wear Narcan in schools,” and that an updated policy bulletin is being and will be published Reissued shortly.

Narcan “cannot be used to get high, is not addictive, and has no effect on a person unless there are opioids in their system,” Carvalho wrote to board members. There are also no “long-term consequences” from use in emergency situations, he wrote.

School district officials did not immediately provide additional information on the details of the policy update late Tuesday. The existing Los Angeles Unified policy on administering Narcan, issued in October, states that the drug “must be kept at school in a secure location accessible to appropriate school personnel.”

Nick Melvoin, Los Angeles Unified school board member, expressed his support for the policy update, saying in a statement, “Narcan has the power to save lives and I have worked to make it accessible to everyone in our school communities, including the students themselves.”

“But the increased use of Narcan as a life-saver underscores the drug crisis being carried into our schools,” said Melvoin. “We need to do more to address the root causes of this crisis and that starts with education and more support for our youth.”

Fatal drug overdoses have risen among US teenagers, researchers have found, even as illicit drug use in this age group has declined — the result of an increasingly dangerous drug supply. In Los Angeles County, 92% of teens who died from a drug overdose in 2021 tested positive for fentanyl, a county report found. Thirty-one youths died from a fentanyl overdose that year in LA County.

As deaths have risen, health researchers and advocates have called for greater access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose and help someone breathe again if given right away. The drug can be administered by injection or through a nasal spray commonly known by the brand name Narcan.

Expanding access and education on naloxone could make a difference in teen deaths, experts say: Someone else has been close to two-thirds of overdose deaths nationwide among teens ages 10 to 19, “but most showed no response to an overdose,” according to a recent analysis by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In September, following a series of student overdoses, Los Angeles Unified announced that its schools would be stocked with naloxone and that staff would be trained to administer the nasal spray. Los Angeles’ uniform policy on Narcan administration, issued in October, states that its policies apply to “administrators, school nurses and other trained personnel.”

Community groups have also held training sessions for students and families on how to administer the nasal spray, but it was unclear if trained students would be able to carry it to school. The Times asked district officials in December if students could do this.

At the time, a LAUSD spokesperson said, “If a parent requests that their child bring naloxone, like any other medication on campus, there is a process for that request.” When asked repeatedly to explain that process, the spokesperson said Spokesperson that families should contact their schools for more information.

The decision to update and clarify LA Unified’s policy was praised by advocates working to stop overdoses. Chelsea Shover, a UCLA researcher who has taught naloxone to teenagers, said that acting quickly during an overdose is crucial, and “having students wearing it will really make a difference.”

“We know there will be times when teens will be with their friends and away from the nurse’s office,” Shover said. “If her boyfriend has Narcan, her boyfriend can save her life.”

Naloxone works by attaching itself to the same receptors in the brain as opioids and blocking or reversing their effects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says naloxone should be given to anyone who shows signs or is suspected of overdose, and “there is no evidence of significant side effects.”

As fentanyl has skyrocketed the number of overdose deaths, Los Angeles County health officials have been pushing to get Angelenos’ tens of thousands of boxes of Narcan through community groups, county boards, homeless teams, and even free vending machines for people, who leave the district prisons. CVS and Walgreens pharmacies offer it without a prescription, and many groups distribute it through a state standing order designed to ensure access to naloxone for people at risk of an opioid overdose, or who are able to during an overdose to intervene

To address ongoing concerns about fentanyl and other substances, Los Angeles Unified officials said schools will offer in February and March Online and in-person workshops for students and families on drug use issues, including how to talk to children about drugs and alcohol. The district has also instituted peer-to-peer counseling and partnered with community groups, hospitals and educators to engage families in conversations about the issue, a spokesman said.

“Through our existing initiatives, we will educate students and families about the safety and effectiveness of Narcan, including the hallmarks of an opioid overdose and the importance of alerting healthcare professionals when Narcan is being used,” Carvalho wrote. “We remain committed to expanding access, education and training for this life-saving emergency drug.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-02-01/l-a-students-will-be-able-to-carry-narcan-in-schools L.A. students will be able to carry Narcan in schools

Alley Einstein

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