(Headline USA) The death of a 13-year-old student who apparently overdosed on fentanyl at his Connecticut school has drawn the attention of advocates, who are pleading for schools to stock the opioid antidote naloxone, as well as for training of both staffers and children on how to recognize and respond to overdoses.
The seventh grader died Jan. 15 after falling ill at a Hartford school that did not have naloxone on hand. City officials vowed Wednesday to put the antidote in all city schools, as part of a wider drug use and overdose prevention strategy.
“Naloxone should be available in all schools, and there should be education on signs and symptoms of overdose and how to use this,” said Dr. Craig Allen, vice president of addiction services for Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network. “Unfortunately, a horrible incident like this happens and suddenly everyone’s vision is 20/20.”
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said that because of the student’s young age, an opioid overdose did not immediately come to mind when the school nurse and first responders treated him.
City officials are also proposing more training and curriculum changes aimed at educating staffers, students and community members in substance use awareness and prevention, he said.
In response to the student’s death, advocacy groups are repeating calls they’ve made for several years for schools to stock naloxone—often delivered as a nasal spray under the brand name Narcan—and train educators, support staff and students to recognize signs of opioid use and overdoses, especially because younger people are falling victim more frequently.
The powerful opioid fentanyl has been showing up in marijuana, illicit pills and other substances accessible to school-age children, experts say. Fatal overdoses in the U.S. are at record levels, fueled by fentanyl, and have been increasing among younger people, national data shows.
Ethan’s Run Against Addiction is one of many advocacy groups that weighed in on social media about the Hartford student’s death. It is named after Ethan Monson-Dupuis, a 25-year-old Wisconsin man who died of a heroin overdose in 2016.
“This tragedy is unbearable. Our nation’s opioid crisis has reached into the lives of children, into places where we want to assume that they are safe,” the group said in a Facebook post Thursday.
It’s not clear how often overdoses happen in U.S. schools, but experts and advocates say they are not common.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.