Children under 14 are dying from fentanyl overdoses at the highest rate of any age group in the nation, leading schools to keep plenty of Narcan on hand to treat victims.
From 2019 to 2021, Fentanyl overdose deaths rose more than 1,400% for children ages 1 to 14, according to an analysis by Families Against Fentanyl.
The Cleveland Independent School District outside of Houston, Texas has seen 15 drug-related emergency calls since the beginning of the current school year. Narcan had to be administered in four of those cases, forcing Cleveland ISD Superintendent Stephen McCanless to take steps to keep the district’s students safe.
“In the first two weeks of school, having numerous EMT calls – to especially our high school – it alarmed us,” he said. “It was very abnormal, especially when the reason for the calls being drug use… some overdoses.
“We call it the fentanyl crisis. Again, we’re still waiting on lab results. But, we’re treating it as if it is because of the response to the Narcan that was used.”
As a result, the district is partnering with the Texas A&M Opioid Task Force, along with local hospitals, to supply Narcan to students and parents.
It will also begin teaching students how to administer the opioid reversal drug, start a community program to help monitor the issue and include counseling in its drug education curriculum.
The district reports it has not seen any additional drug related emergency calls in the last four weeks.
Parents in the district are grateful something is being done to help keep their children safe, but some are also concerned that giving Narcan to students may elicit more drug use.
“One side of me says no. I’m scared that the children are going to have an outlet because they will think ‘I have something that’s going to save me. I can try it, right?’” Cleveland ISD parent Onelia Santos said. “They’re going to think it’s OK. But, on the second side of me, I’m like, these are still innocent children. We have to have some way to be able to save them.”
The problem of fentanyl overdoses in schools has become so widespread federal legislation was introduced in September 2022 which would allow elementary and secondary schools to apply unused COVID relief funds for:
“(1) purchasing naloxone or other opioid antagonists; (2) providing training to school nurses, teachers, school administrators, and school resource officers on how to administer naloxone or other opioid antagonists; and (3) providing fentanyl awareness classes or materials to students.”
Last week in Virginia, Loudon County Sherrif Mike Chapman reported nine Park View High School students overdosed on fentanyl in the past month. Four of the overdoses occurred on school property. Narcan was given in three of those cases, with teachers administering CPR twice.
In California, state Sen. Dave Cortese, D-San Jose, told the press Monday he will introduce legislation in the next session to heighten awareness of the dangers of fentanyl and increase distribution of Narcan in areas with large youth populations.
“We can’t continue to wait for more youth to fall victim to the deadly impact of fentanyl, and we must take action now,” he said at his press conference.
As reported previously by The Lion, fentanyl was responsible for at least 71,000 deaths nationwide in 2021, according to CDC statistics. The DEA says just two milligrams is enough to be lethal.