FARGO - The nasal spray form of Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, will not only be on hand soon in all of Cass County's middle and high schools, but is also expected to be made available throughout the broader community.
Elementary schools in Fargo and other public and private school systems are also likely to get Narcan kits and training in their use and rescue breathing in a later round of distribution.
Cass County Health Officer Dr. John Baird was joined by representatives from the county's school systems at a news conference Thursday, Nov. 16, at Fargo Cass Public Health to talk about the latest moves to quickly treat opioid overdoses and save lives.
There were 31 deaths from opioid overdoses in Cass County in 2016 and 12 deaths so far this year, said Baird, who is also the Cass County coroner.
"That's at least a death a month or more. Every one of those is tragic," Baird said.
More than half of the opioid overdose deaths involved people in their 20s or 30s, he said.
Narcan, also known by the generic name naloxone, reverses the effects of opioids and brings a person who is overdosing back to consciousness and breathing, Baird said.
Naloxone has been used for a long time. The nasal form is absorbed almost as quickly as the intravenously administered form, Baird said. It has no side effects and isn't dangerous to use, he said.
"If we can save one life, or more, because of Narcan use, that would be wonderful," Baird said.
No deaths have been recorded in the county's schools, he said. School nurses and other personnel in the schools are being trained in Narcan use.
A state grant is paying for the training and some Narcan kits. Narcan manufacturer Adapt Pharma is also donating a kit to each of the high schools, Baird said.
The kits contain two nasal inhaler doses of Narcan, an instruction card, a CPR microshield for rescue breathing and gloves to help protect rescuers from possible exposure to opioids.
State law allows people to possess Narcan, and it can be prescribed. Baird has prescribed naloxone under a standing order for people trained in its use in the schools.
Fargo Superintendent of Schools Jeff Schatz said having Narcan in the schools just "makes sense," particularly since schools regularly host community events.
"We want to be prepared. We see this as very proactive," Schatz said
Schatz said that after the middle and high schools have Narcan available, a second phase of training and distribution will take place for the district's elementary schools.
Several other school leaders indicated by nodding that they planned to eventually have Narcan available in their elementary schools, too.
Morgan Forness, superintendent for Central Cass School District in Casselton, said
rural schools are well-aware of the need for quick responses in emergency situations, and that law enforcement or ambulance service personnel may not always be immediately available.
"It just makes sense to add this to our tool chest," Forness said.