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School Districts Increasingly Stocking Anti-Overdose Drug Narcan

Norwin School District in Westmoreland County will start stocking the anti-opioid drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, in its school nurses’ offices early this year.

Superintendent William Kerr said training for nurses, coaches and administrators is scheduled for February.

An increasing number of school districts are keeping the drug on hand, as the number of opioid overdose deaths in the region continue to skyrocket.

The number of heroin-related overdose deaths in Westmoreland County has more than doubled since 2009, according to the website OverdoseFreePA.

In Allegheny County, the number has tripled, and those rates don’t include overdoses from prescription opiates, such as fentanyl or oxycodone.

Kerr said those rising rates of overdose directly contributed to the district’s decision to keep Naloxone on hand.

“We felt that we needed to be very proactive in making sure that we did our part to save lives,” he said.

Credit Liz Reid & Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Total opioid-related overdose deaths in 2015 by county based on preliminary data from county coroners' offices.

  Act 139 of 2014 made it legal for schools to stock and administer the drug.

In a September letter to all of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera said he encourages school districts to keep Naloxone on hand.

“Many school districts across the state have equipped their personnel with this life-saving medication,” Rivera wrote. “While not required, these actions demonstrate a significant – and commendable – commitment to the health and well-being of students and all Pennsylvanians.”

Since then, several local school districts have begun carrying it, including Charleroi and Ringgold school districts, both in Washington County.

Ringgold superintendent Karen Polkabla said Narcan is not unlike the automated external defibrillators typically found inside schools. She said she hopes neither is needed, but if they are, the schools will have them.

“We have people that come into our buildings that are delivering food, that are bringing the mail, that are picking up their children, that are seeking information from our athletic office. We have any number of individuals that come into our buildings every single day,” Polkabla said. “We have quite a few visitors, so I didn’t have any expectations for any specific group. It was just something that was going to be available if needed.”

Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.