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Lawmakers consider mandating MN schools carry naloxone as teen opioid overdoses spike

Last year was the worst in American history for fatal drug overdoses. Minnesota alone saw a 49% increase in fatal teen overdoses. And drug overdoses are now the No. 1 cause of death for young people in the United States.

But there is a powerful tool available in the fight against this scourge: naloxone. An opioid antagonist, naloxone has the ability to rapidly reverse a heroin, fentanyl, or oxycodone overdose.

Rep. Patty Acomb (DFL-Minnetonka) sponsors HF2398, which would require all Minnesota public schools to maintain a supply of this life-saving medicine, best known as Narcan, or its generic equivalent.

“We need to make sure that naloxone is widely available in order to save lives,” she said. “Having it accessible in schools is important to ensure that no student dies of an overdose.”

On Wednesday, the House Education Finance Committee laid over the proposal, as amended, for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

Acomb’s bill would make opioid antagonists a standard school resource, akin to a defibrillator for heart attacks.

Effective July 1, 2023, local districts and charter schools would be mandated to have a minimum of two doses of naloxone available at each school building. Any school employee could be authorized by a health care professional to administer the medicine. State statute currently limits this to only licensed school nurses.

The Department of Health would identify and distribute training resources to schools. One trained staff member would have to be on school grounds at all times the building is open to students, staff, or the general public.

An undetermined appropriation would be earmarked in the upcoming biennium to reimburse schools for the purchase of naloxone.

Colleen Ronnei lost her 20-year-old son, Luke, to an opioid overdose in 2016. Following Luke’s death, Ronnei founded Change the Outcome, an advocacy organization committed to raising awareness of the opioid epidemic among the state’s youth.

“Sadly, overdoses are occurring in middle and high schools in Minnesota,” she said. “Our schools are not required to carry this life-saving tool, despite the fact that we are in the midst of a fentanyl crisis.”

Measured criticism of the proposal came from Kim Lewis, associate director of government relations for the Minnesota School Boards Association. “MSBA is not against this bill but rather we want to ensure this bill, if passed, would be executed with fidelity.”

Specifically, the association takes issue with the proposed directive to have trained staff on site at all times, even outside normal school hours. It would be next to impossible to meet this requirement with current staffing levels, Lewis said, especially considering that community organizations often use school facilities on nights and weekends.

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