WOLCOTT — A White County woman is trying to get an opioid-reversal medication into the hands of Tri-County School Corporation officials in light of the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Lynn Saylor, an AmeriCorps member serving in the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative through the White County United Way, gave a presentation to the school board and the community Monday pertaining to the opioid crisis, how to administer naloxone and why it is important to get into schools all across the country.
Naloxone — also known by its brand name Narcan — is a non-addictive drug used to treat opiate overdoses. It was developed as a way for first responders to give life-saving support before emergency medical professionals arrive on the scene.
To make it as simple to administer as possible, it’s made in the form of a nasal spray. All that’s needed is a quick spray into one of the nostrils of the overdose victim.
Naloxone works by binding to the opioid receptors like opiate drugs do, but don’t exert any effect on them. They push any existing opiates off the receptors, thus reversing their effects. Naloxone gives bystanders the opportunity to do something. It’s used to provide emergency care and buys extra time so that emergency services have a better chance of saving the life of people going through an opiate overdose.
After naloxone is given, the overdose victim must be monitored and additional medical support may be necessary until paramedics arrive.
The nasal spray can be purchased over the counter at any pharmacy for around $60. Naloxone last about 30 minutes, but because opioids can stay in the body for up to 12 hours, Saylor said it’s crucial to also call 911 and get medical attention.
White County, she said, had a higher rate of opioid deaths last year than its neighboring counties, including Tippecanoe County. The average death rate due to opioid drugs was 17 per 100,000 people, but in White County, it translated to 24 per 100,000 people, she added.
Saylor told the Tri-County school board it is important to have naloxone on hand because of the number of people at school during any given time of the day, whether it’s for a sporting event, theater performance or parent-teacher conferences.
“There could always be a need for naloxone,” she said.
According to Saylor, Indiana is 15th in the nation on opioid deaths this year.
“In Vietnam, we lost around 58,000 people. Now imagine losing that every year for the last four years and the number continuing to grow. At this point, you are more likely to die of a drug overdose than by a car accident — and that’s true in Indiana as well as the rest of the country.”
Tri-County School Nurse Susan Good said it’s important that Tri-County consider carrying naloxone in its schools.
“I have really been educating and pushing this because I know how crucial it is to administer this immediately,” she said. “The training for all staff is important and it would be something that we keep next to EpiPens so that everyone knows exactly how to use it and where to find it.”
Saylor said training is short and can be done free of charge by the health department or other organizations. Naloxone has a shelf life of about 18 months, and the school corporation can reach out to the health department for help in writing grants to get funding for more naloxone.
“Being prepared is important for a rural community and school such as yours,” she said. “Ambulance response times may be longer than a person has when it comes to overdose and saving a life. You have about 10 minutes to act. Naloxone takes seconds to administer and works instantly if the person is overdosing. If the person is not overdosing and it is a different medical need, the naloxone won’t harm the person or have any ill effects.”
Saylor said Good Samaritan laws exist to protect people who administer naloxone. The individual who administers it must act in good faith and make an effort to call 911 to get medical professionals involved.
“Everybody is in favor of doing this, as far as school nurses and our student resource officer are concerned,” Tri-County Superintendent Patrick Culp said, “but I know when the board initially talked about it, we had a lot of questions. I think we all feel a lot better about making an educated decision on this. At this point, I think we will make a decision in the short term.”