Buncombe County Schools are now better prepared to prevent fatal overdoses on campus thanks to collaborative efforts by Vaya Health, MAHEC and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office.
On Wednesday, September 6, Lieutenant Mike Ruby of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office delivered opioid overdose-reversal kits and training to student resource officers for more than 14 Buncombe County middle and high schools in Enka, Erwin, North Buncombe, Owen, Reynolds, and Roberson school districts.
Each kit contains two doses of NARCAN® nasal spray, the first and only FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone, which can be administered by student resource officers and school nurses for emergency treatment of a suspected opioid overdose. These kits were made possible through a state grant to Vaya Health, a regional public managed healthcare organization.
“No one wants to see a young person develop a substance use problem or overdose on heroin or prescription painkillers,” said Vaya CEO Brian Ingraham. “But more importantly, no one wants to see an overdose result in a death that could have been prevented. Keeping NARCAN® on hand is similar to having epinephrine available for someone experiencing a severe allergic reaction. It just makes good sense.”
“We are grateful to partner with Vaya to protect our young people by making this life-saving resource available,” shares Blake Fagan, MD, MAHEC’s Chief Education Officer. It is estimated that 90% of adults with a substance use disorder start using drugs before the age of 18.
This is the first time Buncombe County schools will have access to naloxone on campus. Cost and school medication policies have been barriers in the past. Alice Elio, MSN, School Health Program Manager at MAHEC, worked with Buncombe County’s student services to create a procedure for administering naloxone based on North Carolina’s standing order that authorizes dispensing naloxone without a prescription.ss
“If a student were to overdose at school, we need to be prepared,” explains Elio. “One life lost is too many.”
In the last four years, naloxone has reversed more than 800 potentially fatal overdoses in Asheville alone. Since 2016, more than 12,000 North Carolinians died from opioid-related overdoses, with some of the highest overdose rates occurring here in Western North Carolina.
Naloxone, while effective in reversing opioid overdoses, also causes unpleasant opiate withdrawal symptoms which can help prevent future drug use.