RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Ralph Northam has signed into law a bill allowing public school nurses to administer Narcan.
Del. John McGuire, who introduced the bill, told News 3 although districts aren’t required to have the medication, this is a small step in the right direction.
Part of the bill reads, “school nurses, local health department employees that are assigned to a public school… and other school board employees or individuals contracted by a school board to provide school health services” can store and administer it or other opioid antagonists.
Valerie Petry is a nurse.
She said she’s seen the impacts of the medicine firsthand.
“It really – it kind of hits a wall with a patient where they wake up, they don’t – they feel awful,” Petry explained. “You don’t remember.”
Narcan can reverse an opioid overdose.
The CDC calls it an epidemic.
Petry said most of the patients she’s seen are in their 20s, but sometimes they’re younger.
“Sometimes teenagers in the ER. It’s sad to see,” she explained.
Del. McGuire said he wanted change after a school nurse told him by the time they call an ambulance, it could be too late.
Some parents support this law; others have concerns.
“I feel that at any junction, saving lives is very important,” parent Jennifer Smith-Davis said.
“I don’t think it’s that great of an idea. I think it gives kids a safety net to do drugs and so they know they can do it and either way they will be safe,” Petry explained.
The law is optional, so school districts are not required to carry the medicine.
Staff with Portsmouth Public Schools said they haven’t had any incidents in recent years where they needed it but will continue to rely on emergency responders.
Virginia Beach Public Schools said they "will follow guidance developed and communicated by the Virginia Department of Education."
Suffolk school leaders had a similar message.
"At this point in time, we will continue to rely on our School Resource Officers, who store it locked in their school office because sensitive to heat and cold," Public Information Officer Bethanne Bradshaw said. "If an emergency arose, they have been trained to administer.
Hampton City Schools told News 3 they already have Narcan in their schools.
"On November 21, 2016, Virginia was given a statewide Standing Order for Narcan®, generic name naloxone HCI, through the State Health Commissioner due to an increasing number of opioid deaths in the state," Kellie Goral, Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing, said. "Shortly after, Hampton City Schools began stocking naloxone generic nasal spray and/or Evzio® auto-injectors in all of our middle and high schools, as well as Bridgeport Academy, and has since. The division requires annual training for our middle and high school administrators, School Resource Officers, school security officers and school nurses. In general that training includes signs and symptoms of a drug overdose, how to respond, and how to administer Narcan. As of today, we are trained and prepared and have thankfully not had to use this on any of our campuses."
We are still waiting to hear back from other local school districts.
Either way, parents said they hope this will further the conversation on an issue impacting so many families.
“Giving educated tools to young people as well as adults is outstanding. All lives are worth saving,” Smith-Davis explained.
Staff given the task to administer Narcan must complete a training program.
The law goes into effect on July 1.