RICHMOND, Va. — School nurses will soon be able to store and administer a life-saving drug to fight the opioid crisis because of a new law.
Gov. Ralph Northam signed HB2318 into law last week. It gives school divisions the option to train nurses and school healthcare professionals to administer and store naloxone and similar drugs to stop opioid overdoses.
School nurses couldn’t do this before, due to ambiguity in the law.
While meeting with teachers in Goochland County, Del. John McGuire (R – District 56) says nurses approached him with concerns.
“By the time an ambulance gets to a school to help a kid it might be too late,” he said. “This is a bill I wish we didn’t need.”
According to the Virginia Dept. of Health, there were more than 1,200 opioid overdose deaths in Virginia in 2017. Health officials say most cases were of middle-aged people. Other data from the department shows Narcan was used about 4,500 times in the same year by first responders.
“More people died of overdose last year than died in the Vietnam War,” McGuire said, speaking to nationwide figures.
The law isn’t a mandate, so schools can opt out of it. Del. McGuire says that’s because some schools might not be able to fit naloxone purchases in the budget. There is some money set aside, he says, in the General Assembly’s budget to cover the costs of buying naloxone.
Del. McGuire hopes the new law will fight the opioid epidemic before more lives are taken.
“It’s important,” he explained, “at every level, elementary, middle and high school they have the option.”
The changes will be made before children return to school in the fall. The law takes effect on July 1, 2019.