All Harford County Public Schools employees will be authorized to give naloxone to any person suffering from an opioid-related overdose at a county school, pending approval by the school board of a new policy that would comply with a state law that took effect July 1.
“The way the law is written, it’s any school personnel,” Patrick Spicer, general counsel for HCPS, said Monday in response to a question from board member Joseph Hau on which school employees could administer the medication.
Spicer referred to a state law passed during the Maryland General Assembly’s 2017 session. That law, which took effect July 1, requires local school boards to approve policies to allow public schools staff to acquire and store on-site doses of naloxone, the life-saving drug which quickly reverses the effects of overdose from opioid drugs such as heroin. The law also grants school nurses, health services workers and other school staff the authority to administer a dose to someone, such as a student, suffering an opioid overdose, according to the Maryland State Department of Education’s website.
Spicer presented Harford’s version of the policy to the school board Monday. The board did not, however, take action.
He said the polices required by the new state law are meant “to address the opioid epidemic and the proliferation of opioid drugs.”
Heroin and other opioid drugs continue to take their toll in Harford County, with 417 overdoses and 79 fatalities as of Monday, according to Harford County Sheriff’s Office statistics.
There were 289 overdoses, with 55 fatalities, in all of 2016, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Harford County government, law enforcement, health and school officials have mounted an extensive campaign over the past two years to counter the scourge. Police carry and use naloxone, which officials have said has saved multiple lives.
Naloxone is not just in the hands of law enforcement.
“Currently every school has two sets of naloxone in the building,” Bernard Hennigan, HCPS director of student services, told board members.
Harford County has 54 public schools serving more than 37,000 students.
Hennigan said school nurses each carry one dose in their nurses’ bags, and another dose is in the other is in each school’s case that houses an Automated External Defibrillator, or AED, used to revive a person suffering cardiac arrest.
Stickers have been posted on AED cases indicating naloxone is inside, Hennigan said.
He said school nurses and school resource officers have been trained to administer naloxone. He said the police officers usually attend large after-school events, so they can administer naloxone if needed.
“At this point, the next step would possibly looking at the nurses’ training other staff in the building,” Hennigan said.
Naloxone training is “very quick,” Hennigan told the school board. told Hau. Hennigan said residents can get free training through Harford County and receive a dose to keep in their homes.
“It’s a pretty quick training and comes with a free dose of naloxone,” Hennigan said.
Pharmacists across Maryland can also dispense naloxone without a prescription following a June 1 statewide standing order issued by Dr. Howard Haft, deputy secretary for public health services, according to the Maryland Behavioral Health Administration website.
The next naloxone training in Harford County is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Norrisville Fire Hall at 2134 Harkins Road in Pylesville, according to a flier posted on the Harford County Health Department Facebook page.