WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined his Senate colleagues in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help schools trying to maintain a supply of naloxone for use in an opioid overdose emergency. In a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the senators asked that existing grant programs be opened up so schools can use the funds to purchase naloxone or other medications that can reverse overdoses, and to train school nurses and other school personnel to administer the medication.
“Too many young people are facing drug abuse and drug overdoses,” said Brown. “The National Association of School Nurses and school administrators across the country agree: we need to use every resource available to save young lives. Timely administration of naloxone during an overdose can mean the difference between life and death. The Department of Health and Human Services should do what it can to help schools seeking to purchase and administer this medication.”
The National Association of School Nurses recommends that school nurses facilitate access to naloxone in schools. While some states have laws or programs allowing school nurses and other personnel to administer naloxone at schools, they are mostly unfunded and underutilized. Other states are looking at similar laws in an effort to solve America’s heroin crisis and overdose epidemic.
The full letter is below.
October 29, 2015
The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Secretary Burwell:
Thank you for your efforts to fight drug abuse and overdose, especially among young people. As part of a comprehensive strategy to address the growing rate of overdose deaths due to heroin and prescription opioids, we urge the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take action to encourage the availability of naloxone and other opioid antagonists at schools for use in the event of an emergency opioid overdose.
As the heroin crisis grows and overdose deaths increase, there is a growing risk of overdoses occurring at school. In May 2015, a high school student in Pennsylvania overdosed on heroin at school and was taken to the hospital. According to the Centers for Disease Control 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 17.8 percent of high school students had used a prescription drug, including opioids at least once in their life, 2.2 percent had used heroin, and 22.1 percent had used, sold, or been offered drugs on school property.
The National Association of School Nurses recommends that school nurses facilitate access to naloxone in schools. Illinois, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont all have laws or programs allowing school nurses and other personnel to administer naloxone at schools. The majority of these states, however, do not provide any funding for the acquisition of naloxone, or training in its use, and few schools have decided to maintain a supply at this time.
We encourage HHS to utilize existing programs to assist schools in the acquisition of naloxone and the training of school nurses and other personnel in its use. We urge HHS to make it clear to states that Substance Abuse Block Grant funds can be used to fund naloxone purchases and training programs for schools. We also urge HHS to make grants available for schools to purchase naloxone through the Rural Opioid Overdose Reversal program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States program, and any other program that might help schools acquire naloxone and train nurses and other personnel in its application.
Too many young people have already lost their lives due to opioid drug overdoses. Access to naloxone can save lives, and we do all we can to make this life-saving medicine available for overdose prevention in schools. We appreciate your consideration and look forward to your response.