LANSING — A drug used to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose could be on hand in Michigan schools free of charge.


The drug, called Naloxone, is currently not available without a prescription. The Senate recently passed legislation which would allow schools to decide to have the drug on hand for free as long as training is received by a registered nurse. The bill now goes to the House.


Opioid addiction has been tackled before in the Legislature, including requiring life support vehicles, like ambulances, to carry the life-saving drug. More than 1,000 opioid-related overdose deaths were reported in Michigan in 2014 by the Department of Health and Human Services.


Opioids are drugs that relieve pain. They include heroin, morphine and prescription medicines such as oxycodone. They are addictive. Abuse isn’t increasing just in Michigan, but nationwide.


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2.1 million Americans suffered from substance abuse disorders related to opioid drug use in 2012. The reason is due to over-prescription and dispensation, marketing from pharmaceutical companies and more social acceptance for taking medication, the institute reported.


Eric Roath, the director of professional practice for the Michigan Pharmacists Association, said his organization supports the bill.


“You can’t predict when and where someone might experience an overdose,” Roath said. “It’s important to have quick access to this medication, because it quite frankly saves lives.”


Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, who sponsored the bill, said having the drug on hand is as important as schools having EpiPens.


“When someone has diabetes, you give them a shot with the EpiPen. You never know when it’s going to happen but we’ve prepared our schools for that scenario and now we’re preparing our schools for this scenario,” Zorn said. “It’s to help save lives in distress and it’s unfortunate that people are in need of this kind of help but it’s important that we be prepared for it.”


The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that those between 18 to 25 are most likely to abuse opioid pain relievers, among other drugs.


Jennifer Smith, director of government relations at the Michigan Association of School Boards, supports the legislation.

“We supported the bills because they are not a mandate. They would just allow the schools to do it, and our members feel that some of their schools would want to do that,” Smith said.


This bill would give schools the choice and the authority to have it on hand, said Zorn.


“There’s no jurisdiction for schools on this, so this will give them the authority to have this in stock, have people trained to administer it. It’s all up to the local school district whether they choose to keep it,” Zorn said.


Smith said she has not been made aware of concerns about overdoses in Michigan schools, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.


“It’s become such a nationwide epidemic that I think the bill sponsors are trying to get out in front of it,” Smith said.


— CAITLIN DeLUCA, Capital News Service


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