ATLANTA — As opioid overdoses increase across the country, 11Alive learned some metro Atlanta districts are stocking up on the life-saving drug Narcan.
Fulton County Schools is the latest to announce it will soon be on hand in every school.
"Looking at things that might be coming, or we might have to anticipate or have to respond to, we certainly want to be prepared and ready," Lynne Meadows, director of the district's health services department told 11Alive.
The district already has Narcan in its middle and high schools. At a recent board meeting, Superintendent Mike Looney announced the medication, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, will soon be on hand in elementary schools, too.
"Certainly fentanyl is one of those trends that we're tracking," Meadows said. "My role...is to keep abreast of any medical trends, any health trends, so that as a district, we can be prepared, we can be proactive, we can be ready to respond."
11Alive surveyed more than 15 local school districts about their policy when it comes to stocking the emergency kits. Here in metro Atlanta, 10 of the districts we spoke to confirmed they have Narcan, or naloxone, ready at high schools through the school nurse or school resource officer.
Of those, nine have it in middle schools and in four districts, the medication is ready for emergency use in elementary schools.
Currently Henry County Schools, Clayton County Public Schools and Gwinnett County Public Schools do not carry Narcan.
"With that said, GCPS is always evaluating how best to address the needs of students and staff and is committed to taking appropriate action to do so when necessary," a spokesperson for Gwinnett, the state's largest school district, confirmed in a statement.
Clayton County Public Schools indicated it's also watching the situation.
"The Clayton County Public Schools Department of Safety and Security/School Police and the district's Department of Student Services, respectively, are monitoring information related to Narcan," a district spokesperson said in an email. "An implementation plan that would include an awareness program for stakeholders and a training component for all appropriate personnel has not been developed."
Meanwhile, the district protocol in Henry County Schools is to call 911 when it is suspected that someone is under the influence.
While the cost of naloxone and training on how to use it can be a barrier, various districts told 11Alive they've relied on grant funding, outside organizations or partnerships with the drug maker to supply their schools.
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, has a standing order for naloxone on the state's website, and a spokesperson for DPH confirmed some public health districts are also working to provide training to school nurses who would administer naloxone.
"It is an unfortunate reality that overdoses are affecting Georgians – some as young as school age," a statement from DPH to 11Alive said. "Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids —including heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid medications. Naloxone, administered as part of emergency protocol, can prevent deaths by reversing life-threatening effects of opioids and overdose."
Emergent, the maker of Narcan, confirmed there is a donation program coordinated through the non-profit organization Direct Relief. But when 11Alive messaged the program, an auto response indicated the program is on hold with Narcan in high demand and no timeline for when it will resume.
While nearly all the local school districts 11Alive spoke with confirmed they've never had to use Narcan to date, Meadows believes the lifesaving drug should be as available as an EpiPen or an AED.
"Stocking it in school districts, putting it in other public places, making it available even of our local pharmacies, could really make the difference in someone's life," she said.
11Alive asked the following school districts about the availability and policy around Narcan, or naloxone, in schools:
- Atlanta Public Schools: 69 Atlanta Public Schools Police Officers (80% of the force) are equipped with and trained to administer naloxone with the goal of having all officers equipped and trained. A spokesperson said the district is in the process of restocking the supplemental supply of naloxone in high schools, which is maintained in the school nurse clinic.
- Bartow County Schools: Narcan is supplied at all 20 Bartow County schools as well as auxiliary locations.
- Cherokee County School District: All of the district's school police officers (elementary, middle and high) as well as high school nurse’s clinics have naloxone.
- Clayton County Public Schools: According to the district, Clayton County Public Schools Department of Safety and Security/School Police and the district's Department of Student Services, respectively, are monitoring information related to Narcan. A spokesperson said "an implementation plan that would include an awareness program for stakeholders and a training component for all appropriate personnel has not been developed."
- Cobb County School District: A district spokesperson said staff have never administered naloxone at any of the 116 schools. The district would not clarify whether the medication is in stock, but a statement said the district is currently partnering with Cobb and Douglas Department of Health for an educational campaign about the dangers of vaping and opioids. On Jan. 26th, the district plans to host a DPH livestream event/discussion on the issue.
- Dekalb County School District: All DCSD school resource officers carry Narcan Nasal Spray and are trained to use it if necessary. The district confirmed SROs are assigned to every DCSD middle and high school.
- Douglas County School System: The district does have a stock of naloxone. It is available for our 15 middle and high school campuses.
- Fayette County Schools: The district stocks Narcan/naloxone in all high schools and middle schools. A spokesperson said stock was given to the district by a local advocacy group that has the medication through a grant.
- Forsyth County Schools: The district has had Narcan on hand in all of its schools for the past five years.
- Fulton County Schools: The district carries Narcan/naloxone in its middle and high schools; grant funding will make the medication available for emergency use in elementary schools soon.
- Gwinnett County Public Schools: According to a spokesperson, "Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) does not stock the drug Narcan in its schools and it has never been used by a GCPS employee during regular school hours or at a school event, per a district spokesperson. With that said, GCPS is always evaluating how best to address the needs of students and staff and is committed to taking appropriate action to do so when necessary."
- Hall County Schools: The district stocks naloxone in school nurse offices in high schools, per a district spokesperson, and the district hopes to expand to middle and elementary soon.
- Henry County Schools: The district protocol is to call 911 when it is suspected that someone is under the influence of opioids or any other intoxicant, a spokesperson stated.
- Rockdale County Public Schools: District school resource officers carry naloxone and are assigned to each middle and high school; the SRO's provide coverage for feeder elementary schools as needed along with routine patrols and other duties. The district is also looking into receiving it from the Direct Relief free program for schools and have submitted our request to be placed on the waiting list.