Donation arms high school nurses with overdose-reversing drug

SUSSEX COUNTY – School nurses in Delaware’s public high schools will be armed this school year with access an overdose-reversing drug through a donation to the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) from a company that manufactures naloxone auto-injector units.

DHSS received 2,000 naloxone (Narcan) units and is distributing the auto-injector kits called Evzio to Delaware’s Department of Education, addiction treatment centers and participating police departments.

The donation was made by Kaléo, the Richmond, Va., company that manufactures Evzio.

In the Indian River School District, Evzio kits will be accessible to nurses at Sussex Central High School, Indian River High School and G.W. Carver Academy.

Speaking at the Aug. 24 Indian River School District board of education meeting, Anna Miller, lead nurse in the Indian River district, said there are no documented cases of an unconscious overdose in the district.

Ms. Miller added the kits are good to are to have, adding “we hope we never have to use it.”

Dr. Linda C. Wolfe, Delaware Department of Education’s Director of School Support Services, said providing naloxone to school nurses in Delaware’s high schools is a proactive approach.

“I am unaware of any deaths occurring in a school due to overdose – anywhere in the nation,” Dr. Wolfe said. “However, given the rate of overdose and death in Delaware, we are supporting Public Health’s proactive outreach to community partners who work with vulnerable populations.”

With the kits come stringent regulations, said Jay F. Owens, IRSD’s Director of Accountability.

Regulations encompass dispensing/dosage, storage, inventory and tracking.

IRSD board member Dr. Donald Hattier asked how staff will identify an actual opiate overdose or perhaps a student “just having a bad day.”

“There is a whole protocol” the district received from the Department of Public Health, Ms. Miller said.

Action steps taken by nurses are to recognize signs and symptoms of an overdose, call 911, perform rescue breathing if necessary, and administer naloxone. A second dose may be administered if there is no change in several minutes.

Dr. Hattier asked if a suspected overdose would require a blood or urine test.

“No,” said Ms. Miller, noting there would not be ample time.

DHSS and AtTAcK addiction, a grassroots advocacy group in Delaware, helped to facilitate the donation in the wake of a growing number of overdose deaths.

In 2014, a total of 185 people died from suspected overdoses in Delaware, or about one person every other day. Many of those overdoses were the result of heroin or prescription painkillers, which can be reversed by administering naloxone.

From January through July of this year, there have been 78 suspected overdose deaths.

“We know the availability of naloxone in emergency rooms, ambulances and police cars leads to hundreds of lives being saved and we are grateful to Kaléo for their generous donation,” Gov. Jack Markell said. “With this donation, we will be able to reverse more overdoses and work with individuals to get them the treatment they need in order to live full, healthy lives.”

“We are pleased to be making this donation as a part of our commitment to widen access to naloxone,” said Spencer Williamson, CEO of Kaléo. “Even people who take their opioid pain medications as prescribed can be at risk for an opioid emergency, such as an overdose. On average, 44 people die each day from prescription opioid overdose alone, and more than 80 percent of those are unintentional. We are honored to support the State of Delaware’s efforts to equip citizens with naloxone and help save the lives of those who are experiencing an opioid emergency.”

In 2014, Gov. Markell signed two pieces of legislation expanding the use of naloxone. One allows for wider use in the community, and the other allows for voluntary use among law enforcement departments.

About 300 community members have been trained to use naloxone. And three police departments – Ocean View in Sussex County along with New Castle County and Middletown – all have saved people who overdosed because officers are carrying the antidote.

In April, a Senate resolution allowing for the expanded use of naloxone among school nurses passed both houses of the General Assembly. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, provides for the expanded use beginning this fall.

Naloxone is considered a safe medication and will not cause further harm to an individual who receives it.

In June, the National Association of School Nurses adopted a position paper supporting the use of naloxone in schools, citing the 2013 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study in which almost one in four American teens (23 percent) reported abusing or misusing a prescription drug at least once in their lifetimes, and one in six (16 percent) reported doing so within the past year.

AtTAcK addiction, which helped to facilitate the donation, said the focus needs to be on saving lives.

“AtTAcK addiction is extremely grateful to Kaléo, Inc., and DHSS for working together to receive a substantial donation of this life-saving medication,” said David Humes, a founding member of atTAcK addiction whose son died of an overdose. “Our hope is that the availability of Evzio and its ease of administering will break down perceived obstacles to departments of peace officers carrying the medication. As a state, we need to continue to put the focus on saving lives and ending the epidemic of substance use disorder.”

In addition to expanded use among police officers, community members and school nurses, Delaware paramedics also administer naloxone in overdose situations. In 2014, they administered it 1,244 times, reviving 668 people, according to the Division of Public Health. The antidote also is used in emergency rooms.

DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf, who has been trained to use naloxone and carries a kit, thanked Kaléo for the donation.

“In any public health epidemic, our first goal is to save as many lives as possible,” Sec. Landgraf said. “We are extremely grateful to Kaléo for this generous donation that will allow us to extend the reach of this life-saving medication.”

The Evzio donation is a short-term boost to naloxone supplies across the state because the units have an expiration date of February 2016.

By then, Secretary Landgraf said, she hopes other options to expand the availability of naloxone will be successful.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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