EASTON, Mass. – Last year, six people in Easton, Massachusetts died of heroin overdoses.
In neighboring Brockton, it was 19.
An estimated 1,000 people statewide died last year in heroin overdoses – believed to be a record for Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reports.
The apparent heroin epidemic prompted officials to ensure a life-saving overdose antidote known as Narcan is available to all first responders, but officials in at least one school district are taking the precaution a step further by stocking the medicine in its local high schools, according to My Fox Boston.
“It is controversial whenever you do something that other places are not doing, but we really didn’t feel like this was something we could wait around on,” superintendent Andrew Keough said.
The Easton School Committee voted unanimously to purchase Narcan – which is administered as a nasal spray – for school nurses in case of an overdose, by either students or their parents. Committee chairman Fred Isleib told My Fox Boston he voted for stocking Narcan in schools because police and emergency personnel that already carry it may not always be able to respond quick enough during an overdose.
“In a situation where they’re already called out on an emergency, what would we do in that situation?” he questioned.
School nurses testified at the recent committee meeting that they don’t expect the Narcan kits to curb the local heroin problem, but rather give school officials a means of saving a life in the event of an overdose on campus, the Globe reports.
“Narcan isn’t the answer,” nurse Sue Male told committee members. “We’re not saying having Narcan in the schools is going to make no kid abuse a substance. … But we really feel remiss if we wouldn’t have an emergency drug.”
Parents seemed to have mixed reactions to the move and posed some important questions, but generally supported the idea, according to the news site.
“Is it really necessary?” parent Somying Monroe questioned. “Are we going to have more forms to sign as a parent? How much is it going to cost a year?”
“Every parent in Easton and everywhere is worried about drugs,” said another parent, Laura Fogel.
Fogel questioned whether schools have the medical expertise necessary to administer Narcan.
“I know that Narcan is a lifesaver,” she said. “I’m just not sure schools are the right place for it.”
Keough told the Globe school nurses will be tasked with determining when to administer the antidote, and the cost is expected to be negligible.
“We’re like everyone else,” he said. “We care about the kids, and we’re going to do everything we can to protect them.”
The Globe reports other states are also pushing Narcan to fight the growing heroin epidemic.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans in April to distribute Narcan kits across the state, while Rhode Island recently passed a bill requiring schools to have Narcan on hand.