opioid epidemic

School nurses across the Commonwealth will soon be able to assist in a possibly life-saving practice of administering a drug to fight an opioid overdose to schoolchildren that may abuse the deadly drugs. The legislation was passed following Virginia’s struggle to curb addictions across the state.

The measure gives school divisions the option to train nurses and school healthcare professionals to store naloxone and similar drugs on the school premises and administer them to students to stop opioid overdoses, which was signed by the governor last week.

H.B. 2318, introduced by Delegate John McGuire (R-Goochland), adds school nurses to the list of individuals who may possess and administer naloxone or other opioid antagonists, provided that they have completed a training program.

The bill passed unanimously through both the House of Delegates and State Senate.

Delegate McGuire said in an interview with WRIC that teachers in Goochland County approached him with some concerns about the law.

The provisions of the law, however, are not a mandate; schools can opt out of the program. Some school divisions may not have the funding necessary to purchase naloxone, but McGuire said there is some money within the General Assembly’s biennial budget to cover the costs.

“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.”

In 2017, the Virginia Department of Health recorded 1,220 opioid-related overdose deaths – the Commonwealth’s deadliest year on record with the drug.

“More people died of overdose last year than died in the Vietnam War,” McGuire said, speaking to the nationwide numbers of opioid deaths.

Although most deaths were of middle-aged people, McGuire hopes that his legislation will help save the small minority of school-aged children that may use the drug.

The law will take effect on July 1, 2019, before children return to school.