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Lawmakers consider requiring opioid overdose reversal drug in Alaska schools • Alaska Beacon


A state representative has proposed a bill to ensure that Alaska schools keep medication to reverse the effect of an overdose from opioids.

The proposal follows the move by the Anchorage School District last year to require the overdose-reversing drug naloxone to be in its schools in response to 10 fentanyl overdoses in the space of a month across its campuses.

House Bill 202, sponsored by Rep. DeLena Johnson, R-Palmer, would require all Alaska districts to keep at least two naloxone kits in each school and to have one person on campus that is trained in administering the drug. Additionally, naloxone kits and a person trained to use them would need to be present on school buses and at school sponsored events or weekend activities. The legislation tasks the Department of Health with developing a short training video for school districts that explains naloxone use.

Johnson said she proposed the legislation because the son of a friend of hers died of an overdose on school property in Minnesota. She said the intention is to “help children who are at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose and prevent deaths during school.”

Most states already allow naloxone to be present in schools and for staff to administer the drug. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommends there be “ready access” to naloxone in schools, including elementary schools.

Dj Tyson, a communications director for a behavioral health nonprofit called Volunteers of America, said the youth his organization serves are unknowingly using fentanyl when they take other drugs. VOA operates an Eagle River residential center for adolescents with substance abuse and behavioral health issues.

“Training school staff in overdose awareness and how to administer Naloxone should be as common as teaching CPR and first aid,” he said. “The passage of this bill will also have the additional impacts of helping to normalize the administration of naloxone and raise awareness of its potential to save lives anywhere in the community. The reality is that schools are seeing overdoses more frequently.”

House Education Committee members voiced their support for the bill, but had questions about its implementation and potential liability for schools and bus drivers.

Rep. CJ McCormick, D-Bethel, called the bill “life-saving” and urged the committee to advance it immediately. He said his conversations with rural school districts demonstrated real need for the legislation.

“This is a burgeoning problem. And so I think we really need to get out ahead of this,” he said.

Committee co-chair Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna and a pharmacist, said the bill is an “excellent start to a very significant issue” and pointed out that, though the drug is easy to administer, recognizing the signs of overdose can be more challenging. He pointed out that naloxone is available in the Capitol building and invited his colleagues to examine the kits.

The bill is scheduled for its second hearing and public testimony on Friday. Ruffridge set a deadline for committee members to submit proposed amendments to the bill for next week.

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