TRENTON– Its finally come to this. After years of alarm bells being sounded and increased youth death from addiction and overdose, new laws are now being crafted to save lives - in the schools.
According to a media release, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Joseph Lagana, Bob Andrzejczak, Andrew Zwicker, Bruce Land, Dan Benson & Joann Downey to require schools to maintain a supply of an opioid antidote was released Thursday by an Assembly committee.
The bill (A-542) would require high schools to maintain a supply of naloxone hydrochloride, or a similar opioid antidote, and permit the school nurse to administer the antidote to a student or staff member who is experiencing an overdose. The board of education may designate additional employees who may be trained and authorized to administer the antidote in the absence of the nurse.
“The harsh reality is that opioids are killing thousands of people in this country, many of them young people,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Narcan has been proven to save lives. Having it readily available in schools can help ensure that our schools are ready to respond in every emergency situation.”
“Schools should be equipped to deal with overdoses in the same way they are prepared to deal with life-threatening incidents like allergic reactions and cardiac arrest,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “If we have a means to save a child, there is no reason why we shouldn’t use it.”
“Loved ones often don’t know that a child is using drugs until it is too late,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “Given the current crisis situation, schools should be on alert and equipped to act if a student or anyone else at the school has an overdose.”
“Our response to the opioid epidemic in New Jersey must go beyond ‘Just say no,’” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “Having Narcan in schools is one element of a larger comprehensive effort to stem the tide of this enormous public health challenge.”
“We have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our students,” said Land (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “That includes being ready and able to administer life-saving medication to reverse a drug overdose.”
“Narcan is a resource that we’ve seen save lives as New Jersey works to overcome a major problem with opioid drugs,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex) “Making this antidote available in schools will ensure that school nurses can take action to help students in a crisis.”
“Ideally, no student would use drugs, but the reality is that kids in New Jersey – whether their parents know it or not – are using them and are dying,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “This legislation acknowledges that hard truth and responds accordingly.”
The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee.
The legislation is sure to be yet another wake up call for any school with their head in the sand on drug and related alcohol abuse in their local school systems.