CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — Schools in Chesterfield will soon be stocked with Narcan, an anti-opioid treatment, in an effort by the county to fight deadly overdoses.

Heather Snyder, a registered nurse and Student Health Services Coordinator for Chesterfield County, told the board at a meeting on Tuesday, March 11 that the medication would soon be widely available in the community — including in schools.

“It was actually just approved for use as an over-the-counter medication and should be on shelves later this summer,” she said.

Narcan — also known by the generic name Naloxone — is a decades-old medication that can be used to reverse opioid overdoses, restoring breathing within minutes of administration.

And overdoses are an increasing problem in Virginia and across the country. Opioids make up the vast majority of drug deaths in Chesterfield County, and drug overdoses have been the leading cause of unnatural death in Virginia since 2013 — more than homicides, suicides and car accidents.

(Courtesy of Chesterfield Public Schools)

And drug overdoses aren’t confined to adults in Chesterfield.

“From 2018 to 2021, there were actually ten deaths for the age group of 15-19 that were attributed to overdose,” Snyder said.

The move was met with enthusiasm by members of the school board, who said they were eager to see the medication available in schools.

“I just wanna say thank goodness,” said Ryan Harter, representing the Matoaca District. “Because it really is scary what we see going on.”

The other advantage of the medication is that it’s safe even if given to someone not undergoing an opioid overdose. That makes it safer even than another medication commonly carried in schools, epinephrine — better known as an epi-pen.

“If somebody does not have an opioid in their system and it’s given to them, they will not have any side effects,” Snyder said.

The school division hopes to get the Naloxone free of charge through the Virginia Department of Health. Naloxone normally costs between $75 and $150 per two doses.

Snyder said they intend to carry the medication at all schools, but may seek to stock extra doses at the high school level, where the risk of an overdose is greater.