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Macon schools approve naloxone policy

Macon schools approve naloxone policy File photo

The Macon County School Board has approved a policy for emergency use of naloxone, an opioid inhibitor, within the school system.

The board approved the policy on an expedited schedule due to the life-and-death nature of its content. 

“It may be the difference between life and death for a possible student,” Chairman Jim Breedlove said during a December discussion on the issue.

The board first discussed a policy for the emergency use of naloxone during its December meeting. At the school board’s Jan. 22 meeting, Board Attorney John Henning brought a completed policy back before the board and presented board members with the opportunity to approve it more quickly than typical policy decisions.

“I can completely see the logic of, if we’re on board with this and we believe it’s a lifesaver and we want to go ahead and administer it in our schools when it’s required and necessary, I’d be completely comfortable with a motion to adopt it,” said Board Attorney John Henning. “Bypass our second reading and adopt this tonight.” 

According to Henning, several parties have inquired with him over the years about whether the school system should have a policy for administering Narcan, a brand of the medication naloxone which acts as an antagonist to opioids in the body. When someone is experiencing an overdose of opioids and their systems are failing, Narcan can be administered, interfering with the opioid’s ability to bind to neurons and quickly stopping the overdose process.

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“There are two things that, from a legal standpoint, favor erring on the side of administering Narcan if you find somebody who you think is in need of it,” Henning told the board in December. “One, there’s a good Samaritan law, and if you’re in good faith trying to help somebody, you’re not really subject to civil process, you’re not going to be subject to the criminal process and all that. Two, is that [Narcan] does not affect people that don’t have opioids in their system.”

Of the two policies Henning brought before the board at its January meeting, he said the Narcan policy was more fully developed. It was modeled after a policy that has been adopted by both Cabarrus County Schools and Jackson County Schools in North Carolina.

Jackson County Schools adopted its policy in spring of last year after the Jackson County Department of Public Health received a grant to prevent opioid use and overdose. The grant allowed for the purchase of naloxone and training for staff. According to its policy, each school principal was responsible for designating one or more school personnel to receive training annually from a school nurse, or other qualified representative of the health department, on storage and emergency use.

“[This policy is] a little more thorough in what it says we’re asking our administration to do in terms of defining who’s going to do it,” Henning told the board. “First off, it is still preferred that the school nursing staff administer it if possible.” 

If nursing staff is not available, there will be other staff within the school who are trained to administer the medication.

“As I told you in December, I’m pretty comfortable with administration of it if it’s an emergency situation, especially if you have somebody who knows what it is and how to do it,” Henning said. “The downsides are pretty minimal compared to saving somebody’s life.” 

According to Superintendent Josh Lynch, the proposed policy was discussed at a recent principals meeting, and no one had any qualms with the proposal.

“They knew training would then follow,” said Lynch.

Board member Melissa Evans inquired as to whether naloxone could be administered in the school system prior to the school board’s adoption of the policy.

Henning told the board that naloxone was available through school resource officers, first responders and potentially through school nurses who are contracted through the school system but are not school employees. However, school nurses who are school employees don’t have marching orders to administer the medication. The policy will make naloxone even more readily available when it is needed.

During the December meeting Henning noted that there can be a social stigma around naloxone but made clear that by adopting a policy around its administration, school districts are in no way encouraging or even excusing drug use.

“You’re not encouraging anybody to use drugs,” Henning said. “That’s not what this is about. It’s about saving lives when they become endangered by those things that we certainly are against and have always been against and will continue to educate against.”

School board members agreed that the policy should be expedited so that more staff would be available and trained to administer naloxone within the school system.

Evans made the motion to approve the policy and it was accepted unanimously.

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