MANCHESTER – Manchester Schools will add a new tool to its arsenal to combat a growing crisis – the opioid epidemic.
A policy up for first reading at its most recent Board of Education meeting addressed guidelines for administering an opioid antidote in its six schools.
The policy cites New Jersey’s Overdose Prevention Act, which Governor Chris Christie signed into law in May 2013. It calls to protect people who reach out for medical help in the event of a drug overdose.
During situations where illegal drugs are found at a scene after a call is made to save someone’s life, “these witnesses and victims should be protected from arrest, charge, prosecution, conviction, and revocation of parole or probation for possession or use of illegal drugs,” the legislation reads.
The Overdose Prevention Act also mentions naloxone, commonly known by its brand name Narcan, as a cheap and easy-to-administer antidote for drug overdose victims that would greatly reduce the number of overdose deaths in the state.
The New Jersey Department of Education has also given the green light to school districts to adopt policies and procedures to administer opioid antidotes to students, school personnel or anyone who may be experiencing an opioid overdose during school hours or on-site school-sponsored activities.
Based on Manchester Schools’ policy, the school district physician will provide all necessary information, including: opioid overdose prevention and recognition, antidote dosage and administration, instructions on how to perform rescue breathing and resuscitation, importance of calling 911 during an opioid overdose, and appropriate care of an overdose victim after administration of the opioid antidote.
After receiving a report of a possible opioid overdose during school hours or a school-sponsored activity, 911 will immediately be called, followed by the school nurse being called. The school nurse can then administer naloxone if he/she feels the person is experiencing an opioid overdose.
The student will be kept comfortable until emergency medical service members arrive and they are transported to the nearest hospital by a school staff member. Parents or family members will be notified as soon as possible.
The Overdose Prevention Act does have its limits, though. It shies away from protecting individuals from arrest, prosecution or conviction for criminal offenses like drug trafficking.
The Manchester Police has a special Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) that pursues narcotic-related criminal offenders through aggressive highway exclusion, neighborhood tips and complaints. NET also plays an investigative role in the community by identifying, locating and arresting narcotic suspects and remanding cases to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office for criminal prosecution.