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Saving lives [Editorial]

Some people believe that everything public school systems do is complicated.

The recent action, or rather inaction, by the Harford County Board of Education does nothing to dissuade those views. The school board is mulling a policy proposal that would allow staff trained to administer naxolone, the fast-acting heroin antidote that has become as ubiquitous as opioid misuse.

Each school has two doses of naxolone – one is with the school nurse, who is trained in its use, and the other is with the school’s Automatic External Defibrillator, more commonly known as an AED, to revive people in cardiac distress.

It’s not as if the school board is somehow opposed to the presence and use of naxolone to save lives in schools because as far as we can tell, there’s no opposition.

It’s more of a question of why does there have to be a policy?

In the days before AEDs became prevalent, many people would get trained in cardio pulmonary resuscitation, more commonly known as CPR. It was a manual way for people to do chest compressions on an unconscious person to restart their heart, what AEDs do now. Many jobs required employees to have CPR training, or offered it to them.

For anyone who has taken CPR training, one of the keys is to not be afraid of further injuring someone who has collapsed and whose heart is not beating. As many an instructor has said, “you can’t hurt them. They’re dead.” Maybe CPR can bring them back to life, maybe it can’t, but it won’t do any harm.

The same goes for administering naxolone. Someone who has stopped breathing is dead … unless, someone nearby can get to the antidote and administer it before it’s too late for the victim to come back.

It’s as simple as that. Someone who collapses from a cardiac episode, or someone who stops breathing from an opioid overdose, is dead. An AED, CPR or naxolone might save that life, it might not, but it can’t make the person’s condition worse.

While we understand people should be trained in how to use an AED, or how to administer naxolone before they’re forced to try to figure it out under the pressure of a life or death situation, the reality is life, or death, doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, people have to react and just do the best they can with whatever they have available.

That’s why we’re glad the two lifesavers — AEDs and Naxolone — are in each of our schools. Whether someone knows how to use them or not, it’s better to have them learn on the fly how to use them, rather than wait for a rubber stamp of a policy on the use of something that can do no harm – but might be needed quickly to save a life.

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