As students arrived this week for the start of a new school year, nurses in the Pittsburgh Public Schools were prepared to combat the opioid epidemic. Experts from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, the Pittsburgh Poison Center and the Allegheny County Department of Health recently held a seminar on opioid overdose prevention for more than 50 nurses from across the school system.
Dr. Michael Zemaitis of the Pitt School of Pharmacy notes that the number of overdoses occurring nationally in the student population is rising. “The introduction to opiates often occurs at a fairly young age, and there is a disturbingly high number of overdoses that occur in middle and high school,” he said. “School nurses would be the frontline of defense against those overdoses.”
With the help of a patient simulator, the nurses gathered at Pittsburgh Carrick High School to learn the signs and symptoms of an overdose. They were also taught how to administer Narcan, the potentially life-saving drug that has the ability to reverse the chemical effects of an overdose. All high schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools will be equipped with Narcan kits by the end of the calendar year.
Rae-Ann Green, director of health services for Pittsburgh Public Schools, said no opioid-related incidents have occurred in the district’s schools, but training nurses and stocking Narcan is a proactive step to keep students healthy.