MCPS to Keep Opioid Overdose Medication on Hand at Every School
School system, county health officials will share $15,000 cost of buying naloxone
On the first day of classes this year, every Montgomery County public school student will walk into a building stocked with naloxone, a life-saving treatment for narcotic overdoses.
The county this summer is buying the medication and training school health staff to administer it during an emergency. The decision to put a dosage in all 205 public schools follows the passage of Maryland legislation aimed at the state’s opioid crisis.
Jonathan Brice, the district’s associate superintendent of student and family support and engagement, said he’s not aware of any overdoses on school property.
But he said Montgomery County Public Schools officials are referring about 1,000 students each year to the county crisis center for incidents involving drugs or alcohol.
“MCPS recognizes that this is an issue that our young people are grappling with,” he said.
Brice said MCPS is getting the high school dosages for free, but putting naloxone in the remaining schools will cost an estimated $15,000, he said. MCPS and the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services are splitting the bill, he said.
The state law passed earlier this year requires education officials to make sure the overdose treatment is present at every school, even at the elementary level. It will create a recurring cost for the school system, since the naloxone has a shelf life, Brice said.
He said school nurses, who are employed by DHHS, started carrying naloxone with them last year and were taught how to use it. DHHS is now making sure nurse technicians at elementary schools are also trained to administer the medication.
School board member Patricia O’Neill said it’s important to keep naloxone on hand at elementary schools to treat adults.
O’Neill chairs the school board committee that recently helped adjust MCPS policy to line up with the new state mandate.
“Everyone felt that given the current opioid crisis in not just Montgomery County, but in the country, that this was a good idea,” O’Neill said.
Her largest concern was what would happen if the person trained to administer the naloxone isn’t present when an overdose happens; she said she was assured that a good Samaritan wouldn’t be held liable for trying to supply the treatment.
Brice said DHHS intends to train more than one person at each school, so each site has a backup.
The law also requires school systems to provide classroom instruction about opioid addiction and to work on community outreach to address the problem.
“We certainly don’t think that the majority of students in Montgomery County are experimenting with drugs and alcohol, but we want to remind parents of the importance of having conversations with young people,” he said.