REGION 16 — In a step officials described as being proactive, Region 16 schools will soon keep a drug used to combat an opioid overdose on hand.
The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, last week gave its support to a plan to keep Narcan kits in the nurse’s offices at each of the district’s four schools.
Narcan is used to treat someone who is experiencing an opioid overdose. The drug is now widely available and carried by many first responders due to a significant increase in the number of opioid-related overdoses.
“It’s a national epidemic, and if we don’t think it is, we’re lying to ourselves,” said Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin about the dramatic increase in opioid usage and overdoses.
In Connecticut, the number of accidental drug overdose deaths, which aren’t strictly opioid-related deaths, more than doubled from 2012 to 2016. According to the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 357 people accidentally overdosed and died in 2012. That number grew to 917 in 2016 and is projected to climb to 1,076 this year.
Region 16 officials have been working with the police departments in both towns and the Central Naugatuck Valley Regional Action Council on the plan to carry the nasal spray form of Narcan in schools.
Yamin said there hasn’t been any issues at any of the schools where Narcan would have been used.
“We don’t anticipate a need with our students, but it’s for the community,” Yamin said.
School board Chair Sheryl Feducia said the board’s goal is always to be proactive, no matter the issue. With people coming in and out of the schools and the reality of the opioid issue, she said the board doesn’t want to be reactive.
“It’s not that we have a problem in town,” school board Vice Chair Robert Hiscox said. “We want to be prepared in case there is an incident.”
The school board will have to write a policy for Narcan and train staff to use it. Yamin said he is hoping to have it in schools in February. He said school nurses and administrators will be trained to use the nasal spray. Other staff members can volunteer as well to be trained, he added.
The Narcan won’t cost the district anything initially.
Executive Director of the Central Naugatuck Valley Regional Action Council Jennifer DeWitt said Adapt Pharma, the company that makes Narcan, is offering free kits to high schools. She said the council will use funds from a grant from the United Way of Greater Waterbury to pay for the other kits for Region 16.
Each kit comes with two 4-milligram doses, DeWitt said, and they can last up to two years before expiring.
According to Adapt Pharma’s website, the cost of a 4-milligram dose is $37.50 for “qualified group purchasers,” which includes first responders and community groups.
DeWitt feels it’s a good step for Region 16 to carry Narcan. She said it’s not necessarily for students but for the community as a whole.
DeWitt said people have a preconceived notion about the type of person that would be at risk of overdosing, but people that overdose don’t always fit that stereotype.
“They don’t always look like what you would stereotypically expect an overdose victim to be,” she said.
Region 16 won’t be the first school district in the state to carry Narcan. Several others do, including Waterbury, Milford, Wallingford and Cheshire, Yamin said.
Cheshire Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Solan said the Cheshire school district has carried Narcan at its high school and alternative high school for about a year. The district received the Narcan free through a program, he said.
Administrators, including himself, and school nurses in Cheshire are trained to administer Narcan, Solan said.
Solan said officials haven’t had to use the drug, and hope not to have to. He said officials made the decision to carry it because it’s a “life-saving tool.”
“We took advantage of the opportunity because it’s a life-saving tool to have in our schools,” Solan said.