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Naloxone medication will be available in all K-12 public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) due to recent cases of overdose by drugs mixed with fentanyl, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced Thursday.
LAUSD’s decision was made after the death of a 15-year-old student at Bernstein High School, who pushed the second-largest school system in the United States to take the lead in a strategy increasingly supported by public health experts.
This determination will impact approximately 1,400 elementary, middle and high schools, and is part of LAUSD’s recently expanded anti-drug strategyestablished in response to recent cases of overdoses that have occurred among students.
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Authorities said that nine students overdosed across the district in recent weeks, including seven linked to the Bernstein campus and Hollywood High School.
Response plans will also include increased parent outreach and peer counseling.
The death of 15-year-old Melanie Ramos, who died in a school bathroom last week after taking a pill she bought from another student, shocked the student community and raised concern among parents in LAUSD, which has 430,000 students.
The pill that the young Hispanic woman took contained fentanyl, an opioid that is deadly in small doses.
Naloxone turns out to be very effective in reversing opioid overdoses if given quickly by nasal spray or injection.
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In a press conference, Superintendent Carvalho said that offering naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, is a life-saving issue, plus the drug can be delivered quickly and relatively easily.
“We have an urgent crisis on our hands. Research shows that the availability of naloxone, along with overdose education, is effective in decreasing overdoses and death and will save lives. We will do everything in our power to ensure that no other student in our community falls victim to the growing opioid epidemic,” Carvalho said.
Candidates for training would include school nurses and police officersbut the scope could be broader.
Even older students could be trained because the training is not complex, but Carvalho clarified that it is not something that is going to be put into practice.
LAUSD said the priority would be to get the medicine first to middle schools and then to high schools.
California law allows K-12 schools to provide and administer naloxone, but it is not required.
Specialists said that the nasal version of naloxone is easy to use, while the injected version requires the ability to use a syringe with a needle.
Naloxone doesn’t harm a person if they overdose other than opioids, so it’s best used if an overdose is suspected, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. States (CDC).
Los Angeles County Health Department provides naloxone doses at no cost to LAUSDwhich is also supported in this effort by the Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
LAUSD will have enough doses for high schools, to be distributed over the next two weeks, while training for staff in the use of the drug will begin in early October.
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