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In response to overdoses at public schools, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho announced on Sept. 22 that naloxone, also known as Narcan, will be made available at all of the district’s K-12 campuses in the coming weeks.
Naloxone is a pharmaceutical that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is providing doses of naloxone free to the district.
Carvalho said naloxone is a crucial response for individuals experiencing overdose from substances like fentanyl, and temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose in emergency scenarios. Naloxone is administered as a nasal spray.
“We have an urgent crisis on our hands,” Carvalho said. “Research shows that the availability of naloxone along with overdose education is effective at decreasing overdoses and death, and will save lives. We will do everything in our power to ensure that not another student in our community is a victim to the growing opioid epidemic. Keeping students safe and healthy remains our highest priority.”
The announcement came on the heels of a Sept. 13 overdose that claimed the life of a 15-year-old student at Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood. At least seven students in LAUSD schools have recently suffered overdoses after taking pills believed to contain fentanyl, Carvalho announced. All but the 15-year-old student at Bernstein High School survived. Two teens, one 15 and the other 16 years old, are in custody in connection with the fatal overdose at Bernstein High School, and a second overdose involving a Hollywood High School student.
The LAUSD is also implementing a safety task force, peer-to-peer counseling and family academy programming to address the overdose problem. The work will be done in partnership with experts and in coordination with the LAUSD’s Parent and Community Services program in the coming months. The Health Information Project, an organization training high school juniors and seniors to teach health education to their freshmen peers, will be incorporated into the new approach addressing overdoses.
According to LACDPH, fentanyl and methamphetamine-related overdose deaths have increased in Los Angeles County, even prior to the pandemic, and continue to rise at an alarming rate. There has also been a growing trend of illicit drugs and contaminated pills containing fentanyl being sold, district officials said.
The LAUSD is working with LACDPH to develop training and education about naloxone. The naloxone doses will be delivered first to high schools over the next two weeks. Additional schools will receive doses when they are received from LACDPH. Appropriate staff, such as nurses, wellness center providers and trained volunteers, will be or have already been trained to administer naloxone, Carvalho said. Training for district staff will begin in early October.
“The district has no higher calling than the safety of its students,” student board member Nathaniel Shin said. “I am grateful for the support of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for providing this tool to protect student health. I am also thankful for the staff who will train in its use. Narcan saves lives.”
For information, visit lausd.net.
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