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Narcan OK'd for Manchester middle, high schools

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 28. 2016 11:08PM
This is a prefilled syringe containing two doses of Narcan. 

MANCHESTER — School officials in Manchester gave the OK Monday night for city health officials to make the overdose-reversing drug Narcan available in Queen City middle and high schools — but not yet at elementary schools.

School board members voted 10-4 in favor of stocking Narcan and establishing protocols stating a school must go into lockdown and two adults be present before the drug is administered to an overdose victim.

Voting in favor were school board members Sarah Ambrogi, Debra Langton, Leslie Want, Dan Bergeron, Nancy Tessier, Connie Van Houten, Katie Desrochers, Art Beaudry, Erika Connors, and Mayor Ted Gatsas.

Opposed were Mary Ngwanda-Georges, John Avard, Ross Terrio and Rich Girard. Board member Lisa Freeman was absent.

The drug could be in school nurse offices across the city by the end of the week.

Manchester Public Health Director Tim Soucy appeared before the city school board to pitch the proposal.

“This is another tool to fight this epidemic,” Soucy said.

Manchester becomes the fourth school district in New Hampshire to approve stocking Narcan in schools. Earlier this year Nashua and Berlin approved providing Narcan in all public schools. Conway voted earlier this month to provide the drug in middle and high schools.

Several board members expressed concerns over the policy, based on calls they have received from residents about Narcan’s use in elementary schools or potential adverse reactions to the drug.

“We’re not ready for this right now,” school board member John Avard said. “We need to do our due diligence on this. Clearly we have all heard from constituents on this. Maybe what we need to do is have a public hearing. I can’t support this as the policy is written.”

“I don’t want to see nurses or staff at risk of a reaction they are not prepared to handle,” said At Large school board member Rich Girard.

“I support the policy,” School Board Vice Chair Art Beaudry said. “I don’t want to have anyone die of an overdose when we could have saved them but didn’t because of the repercussions.”

“I can’t see not supporting this,” said School Board member Katie Desrochers. “It’s a human life.”

One city resident, Mike Porter of Ward 8, spoke against the proposal, citing a New Hampshire Union Leader article that reported individuals who overdose on heroin laced with the synthetic marijuana “spice” can have violent reactions after being administered Narcan.

“This is happening,” said Porter. “We are seeing it with our police and firefighters.”

Porter also warned of the liability issues if a nurse revives an overdose victim “too quickly,” and they become “combative.”

Mayor Gatsas urged the board to act on the policy quickly.

“I would hate to think about the tragedy that could happen next week or next month, because we are still talking about it,” said Gatsas. “Maybe this needs more discussion at the elementary school level.”

The proposal to place Narcan in elementary schools was sent back to administrators for further review, to be brought back before the board at a future meeting.

In 2015, Manchester fire and American Medical Response personnel responded to 726 suspected overdoses, resulting in 83 suspected fatalities.

Statistics released this month by Manchester fire officials show 20 fatal overdoses in the Queen City in the first two months of 2016, compared to 11 at this time a year ago. The youngest fatal overdose victim was 23, the oldest 57.

Each Narcan kit costs about $90 and contains two doses of the drug.

Soucy said the Narcan will be provided free of charge by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Soucy said all school nurses and administrators have already been trained to properly administer the drug. 

According to paperwork provided by Soucy, Narcan will be clearly marked and stored in a secure space in the school nurse’s office or main administrative office, and locked up “at all times except during actual administration.”

Records related to the administration of Narcan will be kept individually by each school nurse.

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