(NewsNation) — The overdose-reversing drug naloxone will soon be available at every building in one Los Angeles school district.
The decision by the Los Angeles Unified School District comes after at least seven students have overdosed in the last month from pills possibly containing fentanyl. Last week, a student was found dead inside a Hollywood high school bathroom, and a teen has been arrested in connection with the case.
“We have an urgent crisis on our hands,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in a news release. “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 to the growing opioid epidemic. Keeping students safe and healthy remains our highest priority.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will provide the naloxone, administered by a device called Narcan, to the school district for free. The lifesaving drug is administered as a nasal spray and reverses the effects of drug overdoses.
Melanie Ramos, 15, died Sept. 13 after, according to police, she crushed up and sniffed what was purported to be Percocet that was laced with fentanyl. She and other girls at Bernstein High School bought the pills and ingested them in a bathroom, police said.
A 15-year-old boy who police allege sold Ramos the pills has been arrested. A 16-year-old boy was also arrested for allegedly selling pills in a nearby park. Police did not identify the boys because they are juveniles.
The Los Angeles school district will also create a safety task force and implement peer-to-peer counseling to help combat the sudden surge in overdoses. Staff from a nonprofit organization will be brought in to train high school juniors and seniors to teach health education to freshmen peers, according to the news release.
An initial batch of naloxone doses will be distributed to high schools in the next two weeks, with doses for other grade levels going out after that. Training for staff will begin in October.
At the national level, 18 U.S. attorneys general signed a letter asking President Joe Biden to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.
“Treating this solely as a narcotics control problem has failed to curb the proliferation of
increasing quantities of chemicals that can cause a mass casualty event,” says the letter. “Your own DEA Administrator has called fentanyl ‘the deadliest threat [the DEA] ha[s] ever seen.’ We should treat it as such — thus bold action must be taken.”
Ryan Garza contributed to this report.