School nurses would be able to administer Narcan to students or staff members who overdose on drugs, under a law advanced Thursday by a New Jersey Senate committee.
The measure would also require high schools -- and permit any other schools -- to maintain a supply of naloxone hydrochloride (known as Narcan) on hand both during regular classroom hours and for school-sponsored functions that take place on school grounds.
Any school nurse or trained employee who acts in good faith to administer the opioid antidote to a student or staff member would also be free of any liability, under the bill.
“School nurses are battling the opioid epidemic right alongside our police and first responders," state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman said after the Senate Education Committee forwarded the bill to the full Senate. "The only difference is they don’t have access to the only drug that can stop an overdose within seconds.
“We can save lives by having Narcan on school grounds, or we can lose them waiting for an ambulance to arrive. It is time to arm the people we entrust to care for our children with the same lifesaving tool used by first responders in every county in this state,” Basteman said.
The senator said he worked on the bill with Janice Wagner, director of Intensive Care and Respiratory Therapy at Hunterdon Medical Center.
“Unfortunately, opioid and prescription drug usage is increasing and our youth are not immune to this increase," Wagner said Thursday. "One life lost while waiting for someone else to administer the life-saving medication in these situations is one life too many."
Bateman’s bill amends the “Overdose Prevention Act” to include schools, school districts and school nurses among the recipients that may be prescribed the opioid antidote naloxone hydrochloride through a standing order.
The school nurse will have primary responsibility, under the proposal. However, school officials can designate additional employees who volunteer to administer an opioid antidote when the nurse isn't there.
The New Jersey Department of Education would be responsible for establishing use guidelines and training requirements.