The state of Arkansas will use a federal grant to distribute naloxone kits that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose to about 1,100 school nurses, who will be trained in how to use them.
The distribution was announced Tuesday (June 25) by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who handed the kits to six school nurses.
State Drug Director Kirk Lane demonstrated the kits’ contents to reporters. The kits contain two doses of Narcan, a brand name for the drug, which is consumed through a nasal spray. They also contain nitrile gloves because the opioid fentanyl can absorb through latex, along with a CPR face mask and information cards describing where an overdose sufferer can get help.
A $100,000 federal grant will pay for each of the kits, which cost about $90 each. The drugs are sold by maker Emergent BioSolutions at a discount. The University of Arkansas System’s Criminal Justice Institute buys the components separately and assembles them. Drugs will be replaced after use. The online training takes about two hours.
Lane said naloxone has been used on a student at three school campuses in the last year: at Alma High, Hot Springs High and Central High School. Hutchinson said the Central High student last year overdosed in a bathroom on campus but had a naloxone prescription in her purse, and a first responder was able to administer it.
Lane said the Arkansas Naloxone Project, which distributes the drug to first responders, has saved 262 lives in the past two years.
Hutchinson said Arkansas ranked highest in the nation in its percentage of students in grades 9-12 who took pain medication without a prescription.
He pointed to other efforts made by the state to combat opioid overdoses, including a prescription drug monitoring program to prevent overprescribing, revised rules allowing pharmacists to provide naloxone without a prescription, and a $275,000 grant by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Blue & You Foundation to supply naloxone to 2,500 law enforcement officers, and to train them.
The kits will be the responsibility of school nurses. Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-East End, who attended the meeting, said afterwards that not every campus has a school nurse full-time. Instead, some campuses share nurses, which means one might not be immediately available during an emergency.
She said she and her husband, former Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-East End, had both tried without success to pass a bill requiring a school nurse on each campus.