Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. already had stocked the opioid overdose antidote naloxone at its schools, well ahead of a new state law that took effect in July allowing the medication in schools.
“We were two years ahead of the state,” said Larry Perkinson, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. employee and student assistance coordinator.
In the spring of 2016, school officials sat down with then-Superintendent John Quick and talked about the school corporation’s response to the opioid epidemic, Perkinson said.
“And our thought process was that if there’s an epidemic, it’s likely something could happen at a school, with the number of adults we have visiting our campuses,” he said. “We were way ahead of the curve on this.”
Naloxone has been used twice in incidents in BCSC schools, once by an emergency medical technician, where it turned out the person was not overdosing, and in another case last fall when a student at Columbus East High School was overdosing in a restroom.
On Oct. 3, 2016, a 16-year-old female East student was found in a restroom, believed to have attempted suicide by overdosing on pills, school officials said. BCSC credited students, staff and school resource officer Julie Quesenbery, who headed toward the restroom, and then turned back to pick up naloxone from the school office.
The girl was able to walk out of the restroom to a stretcher and was then hospitalized, school officials said.
Each school’s nurse’s office has one dose of naloxone available, taking into account that first responders with additional doses have a 2- to 5-minute response time to each school to provide additional doses if needed.
“You can potentially save a life,” Perkinson said. “You can also save young people from that trauma of witnessing young people dying in front of them.”
Indiana emergency rooms average more than 400 overdose visits per week, according to the state Department of Health. More than 600 residents Indiana are reported to have died from opioid overdoses last year.
The epidemic also has led to law enforcement and emergency responders to carry injectable or nasal spray naloxone. Columbus Police Officers, Bartholomew County Sheriff deputies, Indiana State Police and local ambulance crews have the antidote available for use when needed.
The antidote binds to opioid receptors in the brain, preventing the drugs from binding. It can temporarily reverse an overdose within minutes after being administered.
Under the law, school districts are allowed to stock naloxone as an emergency medication, the same category as albuterol for severe asthma and auto-injectable epinephrine for severe allergies.
The law requires additional training for school nurses and protects schools from some potential liabilities. Districts are required to report to the Department of Education when the drug is used on school property, and pay for the drug out of their own budgets.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.