(NewsNation) — Following the overdose deaths over the past month of seven California teenagers linked to pills likely laced with fentanyl, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced they’ll be making naloxone, also known as Narcan, available at all K-12 schools in the coming weeks.
Naloxone temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose in emergency scenarios, which is critical when confronted with an overdose from substances such as fentanyl. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), naloxone is safe and works solely for opioid overdoses.
According to Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, the opioid overdose emergency drug will be made available at all K-12 schools in the coming weeks.
“We have an urgent crisis on our hands,” Carvalho said. “Research shows that the availability of naloxone along with overdose education is effective at decreasing overdoses and death — and will save lives. We will do everything in our power to ensure that not another student in our community is a victim of the growing opioid epidemic.”
LA’s school system is the most recent to add Narcan to its standard list of supplies. The move by the nation’s second-largest school district is a direct response to last week’s overdose death of a 15-year-old girl named Melanie Ramos, who died on a high school campus.
She thought it was the painkiller Percocet, but the pill was laced with fentanyl — the same batch of drugs suspected in at least seven other recent overdoses among LA school students.
In fact, LA is late, as Narcan is supplied statewide in nearly 10 states, including Arkansas, where there was a similar case at Little Rock Central High School in 2018.
There, a student overdosed in a campus bathroom but was saved because another student happened to have Narcan.
“Unfortunately, opioids affect all aspects of society, including our educational settings, so having this Narcan can really help in case of an overdose,” said Suzanne Jones of the Arkansas Department of Education.
The new counteroffensive in LA also includes an awareness push aimed at students and parents focusing on the opioid epidemic, along with the safety and effectiveness of Narcan.
“The downside risk of Narcan is very small. But the upside risk of saving lives, of rescuing somebody from an opioid overdose, is tremendous. Nobody needs to die of an opioid overdose when Narcan is available,” said Dr. Brian Hurley, LA County Department of Public Health.