Should Public Schools Stock Naloxone?

Narcan - Naloxone

In September the West Virginia State Board of Education approved a new policy that will allow schools across the state to stock intranasal naloxone or narcan to help deal with overdoses. Starting yesterday school boards can now enact policy changes that will allow them to carry the drugs in their schools. As part of the new policy only school nurses with a RN or LPN license can administer the life-saving drug that reverses the effect of opiates in an overdose situation.

While the rest of the state is considering whether or not to adopt the policy, Cabell and Brooke counties have already been stocking the drug. Last spring the Cabell-Huntington Health department approached Cabell County Schools with the idea of supplying them with narcan. The school got a waiver approved by the State Board of Education. Misty Cooper is a school nurse at Huntington High School in Cabell County who says it made sense to start stocking the drug.  

“If you don’t have that medicine to even try, no amount of CPR we can do is going to take that opioid out of their system, narcan will get it out and help them start breathing and all that, but if we don’t have it, we’re very limited,” Cooper said. 

The drug is the one paramedics and health officials are using. It’s administered through the nose during an overdose.

Cabell County isn’t the first county in the state to receive the waiver allowing them to stock the overdose antidote. Brooke County, which suffers its own problems with heroin and opiate use, stocked it earlier last school year. In November Carol Cipoletti, the school nurse coordinator and school nurse at Brooke County High got the ball rolling. By the spring Brooke County was stocking the drug. In Cipoletti’s twenty-two years she’s had to resuscitate two students from opiate overdoses. 


Credit Aaron Payne / Ohio Valley ReSource
Ohio Valley ReSource

“And with the community heading in the direction it is with a lot of opiate overdoses going on, a lot of heroin traffic going through the area we just hope we don’t see it again, but I want to have something here just in case,” Cipoletti said.

In Brooke County they’re stocking the drug in the middle and high schools. In Cabell County they’re stocking it in, middle schools, high schools and even elementary schools. Todd Alexander is the Assistant Superintendent for Cabell County Schools and he says they want the drug in elementary schools because it’s not just for the students. 

“We’ve also had some isolated cases where parents arrive at the school and have been under the influence of substances to the point that schools have contacted law enforcement because the parents were coming to the school to check their kids out of school,” Alexander said.

It’s incidences like these that present another question of administering naloxone in public schools. Should more than the nurse able to use the drug? Huntington High Schools school nurse Misty Cooper says yes.

Personally I think there should be more than me,” Cooper said. “I cover the alternative school and the career center. If someone od’s at the career center and I’m not there, who’s going to give it.”

C.K Babcock is a Professor at the Marshall University Pharmacy School and trains officials and the public on administering naloxone or narcan at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department. He says an overdose incident can happen at any time, such as an athletic event at night and a nurse may not be present. He says EMS may be on hand, but it never hurts to have the drug available for use in as many people at the school as possible. 

"The faster you get it the more chance you have of saving them." — C.K. Babcock, Marshall University School of Pharmacy

“It needs to be on site, it needs to be in someone’s hand and easily accessible and speed is the answer,” Babcock said. “The faster you get it the more chance you have of saving them.”

According to the state board of education, if counties choose to adopt a policy for stocking naloxone, they will have to purchase the medication out of their county budget unless a community partner provides funding. Brooke County obtains the drug from Brooke County EMS. Cabell County has obtained the drug through the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.

The United States Senate encourages the use of grant programs like the Substance Abuse Block Grant funds to obtain naloxone.