MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Education and the Alabama Department of Public Health announced a program to make a drug available to public high schools that can reverse the effects of opioids.
The drug is called Naloxone, and it is applied through an auto-injector so it can rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The departments are working with the Children’s Hospital of Alabama and the Alabama Board of Nursing and the Alabama Board of Pharmacy to create a program to train administrators, coaches and other staff members on how to use the medication.
“The superintendents have been asking for this for several years as have the school nurses,” Ventress said. “We first had to be able to secure the drug.”
The medicine, which has been used in other medical settings for years, is only given to people who are unconscious due to an opiate overdose. ALSDE Nurse Administrator Jennifer Ventress said the auto-injector prevents any error in dosage and gives verbal instruction of where and when to apply the necessary dosage.
According to Ventress, once the medication is administered, the person receiving it must go to the emergency room for a medical evaluation. The state also recommends students who receive the medication to be in a position where personnel can control them, if necessary, because recipients have the potential to be aggressive once opioids leave their system.
Ventress said the medication is life-saving.
“For any opioid that’s in the system, this is a reversal agent for that,” Ventress said. “Whether it’s an accidental overdose, or they just took a little too much, or it’s an intentional overdose; this can save lives. It’s been proven to save lives. This is something we felt very strongly about for our high school students.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who has been vocal about his work against the opioid epidemic, said he is pleased with this offering for Alabama schools.
“It gives us the chance to continue to save lives," Marshall said. “I applaud that effort...if we can save one life, then I think it’s going to be worth it."
ADPH secured the grant funding for the program, so Alabama schools will not have to foot the bill. However, Ventress said the state would eventually like to have the same program available in middle schools which is expensive.
The state is currently focusing on training staff members, specifically school administrators and coaches, to use the drug. The program is available to all public high schools, though it is not mandatory. The grant funding allows for one to five applications of the medicine per high schools.
Schools wanting to participate must have the lead nurse submit LE training documents to Ventress. Upon completing necessary training, the lead nurse will be able to request the medication from ADPH.
Ventress said the program was rolled out two weeks ago, and five systems in the state have already received to training. Those systems will receive the drug in the next few days.