COLORADO, USA — More schools in Colorado are ordering naloxone in case an overdose happens on campus.
The medicine comes as a nasal spray, and it reverses the effects of an overdose.
A bill passed in the Colorado legislature in 2019 created a "Naloxone Bulk Purchase Fund" to allow eligible groups to purchase naloxone at low or no cost. Eligible groups include school districts, harm reduction agencies and law enforcement.
The goal of the funding is to reduce the financial burden of purchasing naloxone and increase access to medicine that can save lives.
Since 2019, six school districts have signed up. Those include Clear Creek School District, Mountain Valley School District, Cherry Creek School District, Boulder Valley School District, Lewis Palmer School District 38 and Brush School District.
A student overdosing in class isn't something schools want to prepare for, but some districts feel they have to.
"Although it feels uncomfortable to imagine that you could be in a scenario where a person is at risk of death, including a young person, it is really important to have the tools we need to keep our community members alive," said Sam Bourdon, the Harm Reduction Grant Fund Coordinator at Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.
Part of Bourdon's job is to run this naloxone fund. She said one of the limitations of the program is that only school districts can apply. An individual school cannot get naloxone through this opportunity.
Bourdon said they have seen more interest in the past few months.
"We have seen an increase in those taking part in our bulk fund. Last fall we have increased by three school districts," Bourdon said.
Interest is picking up around a time when more teenagers in Colorado are accidentally overdosing on fentanyl. In Colorado Springs, police said in December a student at Mitchell High School died while in class. Court records say a woman sold fentanyl in pill form to two girls, and the girls shared it with a friend, who died.
A student at Alameda International High School in Lakewood died from an accidental fentanyl overdose during spring break last week, according to a letter sent to parents by the school principal.
Earlier this week, a teenager in Douglas County died, and investigators think it could be fentanyl again. On Tuesday morning, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office responded to a home in Highlands Ranch and found a 17-year-old boy. Investigators believe he overdosed, and evidence at the scene indicates fentanyl may have been involved.
"We are entering a new phase of the opioid crisis where fentanyl can be about anywhere, and unsuspectingly people will take something and overdose," said José Esquibel, Director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention.
Esquibel's team goes into schools to teach staff how to use naloxone. They also work to educate people about who is eligible for the state's fund.
Their staff members, who live and work in different parts of the state, provide training at the schools. They also utilize trainers through public health departments or harm reduction agencies.
"We want to see more schools take advantage of this opportunity to look at their policies and procedures," he said.
According to CDPHE, none of the six school districts have reported using the reversal drug yet.
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