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Preventing substance abuse at school

District policies about Naloxone on school campus differ
Posted at 5:22 PM, Aug 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-15 12:36:13-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – As kids from across San Diego County head back to school, districts are taking preventative measures to warn against the dangers of fentanyl and other drugs.

Families with loved ones old and young have become victims of substance abuse.

"He was starting to experiment with substances to mask the emotion and the mental struggle, and it progressed, and it just kept progressing," said parent Carmelita Trujillo.

Trujillo lost her son Marcelino on August 17th, 2022.

"We should be talking more about prevention and preventative measures," she said. "What more can we do to prevent them from getting to this point, where they are drugged addicted, where they are kicked out of school, where they experience so many incidents that they can't get out of bed."

According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office, between 2020 and 2022, 25 local kids ages 17 and under died from accidental overdoses.

That number doesn't sit well with San Diego County's District Attorney.

"Our combat plan involves prosecution and accountability," said District Attorney Summer Stephan. "We've prosecuted 503 dealers. We did seven murder cases."

At the school level, districts have started drug prevention outreach workshops.

Stephan and other community leaders hosted a Stop Fentanyl Overdoses And Save Lives" event with medical experts from the County of San Diego, free Narcan, and drug prevention and treatment information at Mar Vista High School.

"We host parent meetings every quarter, and the agenda for some of those parent meetings will include more fentanyl awareness education," said Principal Teresa Kramer.

Many schools across the county have also equipped locations with doses of naloxone, a medication that reverses an opioid overdose.

In June, Patrick Henry High School students in San Carlos were given Narcan kits and taught how to administer the drug.

"Naloxone binds to that receptor more tightly than what's there. So, whether that's heroine, morphine, oxycodone or fentanyl, it kicks that drug off, and so it does so very quickly," said Dr. Jeff Lapoint.

Lapoint is the Director of medical toxicology at Kaiser in San Diego.

He's also a dad to two teenagers.

"I tell them any time, any place you call me," he said. "It's not about being in trouble. It's about being safe and staying alive."

Doctor Lapoint says it's good public policy to have easy access to naloxone.

"In the field, if you see someone down that is not breathing, you give them the full dose. If you're wrong, it's ok. It's ok. This is public health and harm prevention. Naloxone is an extremely safe drug in the way we're talking about it for public health," he said.

Students Carrying Narcan 

Like other districts, Los Angeles Unified made Narcan available on all its campuses. However, the state's largest school district took things a step further.

In a January letter to members of the Board of Education, the Superintendent wrote in part, "Naloxone (Narcan) is available at all K-12 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Healthcare staff and school site staff are trained to administer Narcan in emergency situations. Because of the safety and effectiveness of Narcan, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health supports a clarification in the LAUSD policy would allow students to be able to carry Narcan in schools. The policy bulletin is currently being updated and will be reissued shortly."

A spokesperson for the district says that was updated, and students are allowed to carry Narcan on campus.

ABC 10News asked several districts across San Diego County about their policy regarding students having Narcan on campus.

The answers were mixed.

Some told us they don't have a policy. Others said it falls under a school medication policy and would need to be locked up on campus.

One district superintendent told ABC 10news, "We are an elementary school district. We do not have a policy on students carrying Narcan."

Another district said since naloxone isn't typically prescribed by a doctor, students should not be carrying it onto campus.

None of the schools we asked allow Narcan to be carried by students.

The San Diego County Office of Education has a prevention and awareness resource guide on its website.

Medical experts agree prevention is critical to helping stop drug use.