‘I hope we never need it’: Iowa schools stocking up on Naloxone

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 10:49 PM CST
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Iowa (KCRG) -Schools across Iowa are stocking up on Naloxone, the drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, often referred to by the brand name, Narcan. It’s part of an expanding state program to combat a rise in opioid deaths in Iowa.

This state program, which is being funded by a two year, $18 million grant, was already available for organizations and businesses, but is now expanding to offer school districts free naloxone nasal spray kits.

State data says Iowa is seeing an increase in opioid related deaths, with 258 opioid related deaths in 2021. That’s up from 213 deaths in 2020. Data from the CDC also shows a upwards trend in deaths nationwide, with overdose deaths involving opioids increased from an estimated 70,029 in 2020 to 80,816 in 2021.

Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse takes a closer look at people ages 15-24, showing a jump in deaths due to synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl. In 2010, 229 people in that age group died due to synthetic opioids. In 2020, that number went up to 5,393.

So far more than a dozen schools have requested to take part in this program, and that list is growing. But some of those districts say they aren’t seeing an immediate need for Narcan. But they want to make sure they’re prepared, just in case. Cathy Thalkan is a school nurse in the Keota Community School District. “I saw that Narcan is available through the Iowa Department of Public Health,” says Thalkan, “We’ve got it, and if we don’t need it, that’s fine. I hope we never have to use it.”

Ben Miskle, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy, and Heidi Wood, Pharmacist with UIHC, are on a personal mission to educate school nurses on the opportunity to have Naloxone in public schools. They’re hosting sessions to help share how districts can take advantage of the program, and why it’s an important drug to have ready. “We don’t plan for the bad thing to happen, but if it does, we want to be prepared and so this isn’t necessarily just for students. This is for visitors of the school. This could be anybody,” says Miskle.

Their sessions include information on how to spot key signs someone is experiencing an overdose, common myths about Naloxone, and why harm reduction is an important approach. “Really breakdown that stigma, you know this is the first step, but normalize this and realize this is a part of life that many may be going through,” says Wood. And they’re hoping to expand their work, by reaching out to UI College of Pharmacy students and alumni across Iowa to offer sessions to any district that wants to learn more.

The Naloxone request form for districts interested in applying can be found here. Districts interested in holding sessions can reach out to Miskle at Benjamin-miskle@uiowa.edu and/or Wood at Heidi-wood@uiowa.edu.