Kentucky schools differ on whether to accept heroin overdose drug

The Madison County school district has decided to take a drug company up on its offer of two free doses of Narcan, a life-saving drug in instances of heroin overdose — even though the district hasn’t seen an overdose problem.

“It just gives us a resource if there was ever a situation that would arise where we might need it,” said Madison Community Education Director Erin Stewart. “We don’t want to have to use it. But if we need to, we have it. If we save a life, that’s good for everybody.”

Madison, Fayette and Woodford County schools are among about 100 school districts in Kentucky that have signed up for a September training required before high schools can get two free doses of Narcan, which could save a heroin overdose victim.

But Fayette, Woodford and Ashland independent school district officials are among those who have not decided if they are going to accept the two free doses of Narcan. That’s the brand name for the drug naloxone, an opioid-blocker that can be given in the event of a heroin or prescription painkiller overdose.

Naloxone attaches to the same parts of the brain that receive heroin and other opioids, and it blocks the opioids for 30 to 90 minutes to reverse the respiratory depression that could otherwise lead to death from overdose, a news release from the Kentucky Department of Education said.

The drug is being made available free to high schools nationwide as an initiative of the Clinton Foundation and the company Adapt Pharma, the news release said.

“We’ve signed up for the training; we don’t know if we are going to accept the medication for the district,” Fayette Health and Wellness Coordinator Debbie Boian said in an interview.

Garet Wells, director of staff and student services for Woodford County schools, told the Herald-Leader that a final decision had not been made on whether to accept the Narcan.

The Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, a non-profit agency based in Louisville, will be providing free training at the Kentucky Public School Health Coordinators Summit Sept. 14 at the Embassy Suites in Lexington.

The Ashland Independent newspaper reported that the Ashland Independent School district will send two employees to a training session about the uses and administration of naloxone.

The district hasn’t decided whether to keep the medication in stock and views the training as a fact-finding session, the newspaper quoted Lisa Henson, director of student services, as saying.

Once school personnel are trained, two doses of Narcan will be provided free of charge. Once those are used or the drug expires, it will be up to the district or school to provide a replacement. There could be a cost attached to that.

“Although we hope no student, staff or family member ever falls victim to drug abuse, we cannot ignore the potential that an overdose could occur at school,” Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt said in a news release. “This is an opportunity for schools to be prepared for that possibility and save a life.”

The state’s news release said that, according to Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy, heroin is especially pervasive in Northern Kentucky, Louisville and Lexington. A growing number of young people who began abusing expensive prescription drugs are switching to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to buy, state education officials said.

The training session will include a review of the law. In 2015, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 192, also known as the “heroin bill,” and it was signed into law. The measure stiffened the penalties for importing and selling heroin in Kentucky, provided more money for treatment programs and increased the availability of naloxone.

The training will also cover types of narcotics; differences between a drug high and an overdose; how to save a life, including the administration of Narcan; the Good Samaritan Law, which provides an exemption from liability; and referring a student for treatment, the news release said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears