School nurses would be permitted to administer an opioid antidote to a student or staff member who overdoses under legislation sponsored by Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman and advanced on Jan. 12 by the Senate Education Committee.
S-2635 would also require high schools, and permit any other schools, to maintain a supply of naloxone hydrochloride. The bill provides immunity from liability for a school nurse or trained employee who acts in good faith to administer an opioid antidote to a student or staff member.
“School nurses are battling the opioid epidemic right alongside our police and first responders, the only difference is they don’t have access to the only drug that can stop an overdose within seconds,” Senator Bateman said. “We can save lives by having Narcan on school grounds, or we can lose them waiting for an ambulance to arrive. It is time to arm the people we entrust to care for our children with the same lifesaving tool used by first responders in every county in this state.”
Senator Bateman worked on this bill with Janice Wagner, Director of Intensive Care and Respiratory Therapy at Hunterdon Medical Center.
“Unfortunately, opioid and prescription drug usage is increasing and our youth are not immune to this increase. One life lost while waiting for someone else to administer the life-saving medication in these situations is one life too many,” said Janice Wagner, BSN RN CCRN. “It is very exciting that a bill to allow school nurses in New Jersey to administer Naloxone to a potential opioid overdose victim is moving forward.”
Senator Bateman’s legislation amends the “Overdose Prevention Act” to include schools, school districts and school nurses among the recipients that may be prescribed the opioid antidote naloxone hydrochloride through a standing order. Commercially available brands include Evzio and Narcan.
Under the bill, the opioid antidotes must be accessible in the school during regular school hours and during school-sponsored functions that take place in the school or on school grounds adjacent to the school building.
“I am proud to partner with people like Janice Wagner who recognize that we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the disease of addiction has found its way into the classroom,” Senator Bateman added. “Last month, Ocean County became the first county in New Jersey to supply all of its high school nurses with Narcan. It’s time for us to give every school statewide a legal right to save lives.”
The school nurse will have the primary responsibility for the emergency administration of an opioid antidote. However, school officials can designate additional employees who volunteer to administer an opioid antidote when the nurse is not physically present at the scene.
The New Jersey Department of Education would be responsible for establishing guidelines for school districts in developing policies associated with this legislation, including training requirements.