OPIOID CRISIS: Narcan programs in schools give nurses a new role in care
School districts around the area have been giving nurses and School Resource Officers access to Narcan for about a year, and it's helping save lives.
In Hamilton County, school nurses started receiving Narcan training last year. Since then, the drug has been used on just one student out of almost 46,000.
Nurse Manager Sheryl Fletcher says those numbers are promising. Over the years, she's seen nurses’ roles change. They now play a much more critical part in care.
Fletcher says nurses felt like they needed to be prepared for the opioid problem to seep into the schools.
"Tennessee has an opioid problem. Hamilton County is a part of Tennessee, it has an opioid problem,” Fletcher said. “What happens when the community has a problem, it has a tendency to impact the schools. Whatever goes on in a community, we have to deal with it in school. We try to manage as best we can in our school settings."
Thanks to partnerships with the Tennessee Departments of Education and Health, the Narcan program in Hamilton County is completely free for schools. Schools in Walker County, Georgia are using grants to bring free Narcan access to nurses too.
Since the nurses got Narcan last year, they haven't had to use it. School nurse John Logan says they are trained to recognize signs and symptoms of overdose. They're also trained to administer the Narcan through the nose.
Logan says he believes the opioid epidemic is impacting Walker County. Even though nurses haven't had to use Narcan, he wants them to be prepared for the day they do.
"We can't perform if we don't have the tools in our toolbox. So this is a tool that helps up in a need of intervention to have that,” Logan said. “And it's a life or death intervention. If we don't have it then it's not a good thing.”
Right now, Walker County’s program is only available in high schools.