High rates of heroin addiction and opioid overdose continue to rise in Pennsylvania. The local government gave public schools easy access to antidote drug naloxone to help fight the addiction.
The new law was passed following Pennsylvania Yough School District's request to keep naloxone in public schools. The rural school district continues to battle high rates of heroin cases. It is home to over 2,200 students in the southwest.
The law was passed in 2014 and covered all of Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Wolf made sure that all 500 school superintendents in the state are aware of the new law. He sent a letter explaining the school's responsibility to stock and oversee the distribution of the antidote drug to students under its influence. The letter was signed by Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy, Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Gary Tennis and Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera.
"In light of this tragic fact, we would encourage any person or entity in a position to help individuals who are vulnerable to an overdose to obtain naloxone," said Wolf. The new law is called Act 139 which allows authorized personnel to administer naloxone to a student or person with opioid overdose.
Opioid overdose has taken the lives of many young people in Pennsylvania. The state police saved over 300 lives using naloxone. It takes longer for medical responders to reach rural areas in Pennsylvania. This law equips the school to become first responders to heroin and opioid risks. Giving naloxone access to schools may help save lives.
The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs supports the new law with an online training program for authorized individuals in charge of naloxone administration. In 1971, the Food and Drug Administration approved the antidote drug which is also known by its brand name Narcan. It can be injected or inhaled and only takes a few minutes to work. Naloxone can get an overdosed patient to breathe again.
The law hopes to decrease the rise of heroin and opioid overdose in young people which quintupled from 2001 to 2013. About 70 percent of the surge can be traced to the 2013 prescription drug called opioid painkillers.
Five states, including Rhode Island, adopted the law and required middle, junior high and high schools to stock up on naloxone.