Proposal could put overdose-reversal drug in schools

  • DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen backed a plan to let school nurses administer a drug that can help save people who overdose on heroin.

      DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen backed a plan to let school nurses administer a drug that can help save people who overdose on heroin. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/11/2015 5:52 AM

Legislation that would allow school nurses to administer a drug that could save students overdosing on heroin won preliminary approval from Illinois lawmakers Tuesday.

Narcan, a trademarked version of the opiate antidote naloxone, saved 44 lives in DuPage County over the past year, DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Two DuPage County students recently overdosed while in school and were saved by firefighters using the drug, Jorgensen said.

Separate legislation was introduced by state Sen. Michael Connelly, a Lisle Republican, and state Rep. Grant Wehrli, a Naperville Republican, that would allow school nurses to administer the antidote to overdosing students.

Connelly's proposal specifically names Narcan, while Wehrli's is more broad.

The drug works by reversing the effects of an opioid overdose, which include slowed or even stopped breathing.

Both proposals were approved by committees Tuesday and moved along for further debate.

Under current law, school nurses cannot administer medication that has not been prescribed to a student.

"Right now a person could be overdosing right in front of them and they wouldn't be allowed to do any treatment," Jorgensen said.

Meanwhile, discussion on legislation proposed by state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, which includes a comprehensive bill to curb heroin use, began in a House committee Tuesday.

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Lang's proposal is expected to catch flack from state medical organizations because of the increased patient documentation and prescription drug monitoring it proposes.

Hinsdale's Robert Crown Center for Health Education supports the legislation for its promise to provide drug prevention education.

While some oppose Narcan because they believe it gives drug users an incentive to overdose if they know someone can save them, Jorgensen says the drug offers people a second chance.

"The first step in recovery is not death," Jorgensen said. "If you have an overdose and you die, you have no chance for redemption, no chance to become a productive citizen again."

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