Times sure are changing. Fargo Cass Public Health has teamed up with Cass County high schools and middle schools in a preventive effort to combat an opioid problem. At a November 16th news conference, it was announced that going forward all Cass County high schools and middle schools will begin carrying Narcan (naloxone)– a drug designed to reverse the effects of overdoses.
According to the article from the Fargo Public Schools website:
“No reported opioid overdose deaths of students, faculty or community members have occurred at these schools; the placement of Narcan at the schools is part of a preventive community-wide response to the opioid crisis. Designated school faculty and staff members will receive training on how to administer Narcan and provide rescue breaths to potentially save someone’s life. Additional community-wide trainings will be offered in the coming months at Fargo Cass Public Health.”
According to a report , in 2013 there were 20 people that died as a result of opioid overdoses in the entire state of North Dakota. Then in 2014 that number more than doubled to 43. In 2015 it increased to 61. And while the rate of growth slowed in 2016, the year still ended with 68 deaths.
Numbers specific to Cass County show the following information:
There are at least two things that stand out to me from these statistics.
First, Cass County’s 31 deaths in 2016 represent over 45% of the deaths in the entire state of North Dakota for that year.
Second, if the 2017 rate continues, the number of Cass County deaths in 2017 may be nearly half what it was in 2016. This is encouraging considering they represent such a large percentage of the state-wide number.
While the focus here has been on overdoses, it leaves to me to wonder how much of a problem opioids are in these public schools? While there have been no apparent deaths, is opioid abuse a problem among the middle school and high school students? Thus the reason for the preventive measure of placing Narcan in these schools?
We certainly live in changing times. When I was in school, the biggest issues facing middle school and high school students were tobacco and beer. And all we had on hand for emergencies were fire extinguishers. But now we’re saying that these schools must have a drug to reverse overdoses on hand for those as young as twelve.
While it is admirable that public health and school officials are trying to do their part; perhaps the most effective way to combat the opioid problem – or any risky behavior for that matter – is to embrace the support system found in the home. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that positive parenting can actually prevent drug abuse.
Let’s hope that the 2017 numbers related to opioid overdoses carry through and reflect an overall reduction by years end. The trends must be reversed for a myriad of reasons. But when it comes to education, I think we can expect more parents to remove their children from public schools in favor of alternative forms of education if the overall problem of opioid abuse isn’t turned back. And would you blame them? I certainly wouldn’t.
1. https://www.fargo.k12.nd.us/cms/lib/ND01911460/Centricity/domain/94/journey/features/20171116_Narcan_in_Schools.pdf 2. http://www.kfyrtv.com/content/news/Opioid-Overdoses-on-the-Rise-458811223.html