Joyce, Phillips Introduce Legislation to Reduce Opioid Deaths in Students

May 05, 2023
Opioid Crisis
Press

WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Congressman Dean Phillips (MN-03) recently introduced the School Access to Naloxone Act to reduce opioid overdose deaths amongst young Americans by providing support to local schools looking to procure and store naloxone for use by trained professionals in school settings. 

“The number of young Americans dying due to an overdose doubled in 2020, underscoring the reality that the opioid epidemic is impacting Americans of all ages, locations, and socioeconomic statuses,” said Congressman Joyce. “While I will continue to support substance abuse prevention efforts, it is also critical to make drugs, like naloxone, available in schools to help reverse overdoses. If we can increase access to this drug, we can save lives.”

“Representation begins with listening, and what I heard resulted in the introduction of this bill,” said Congressman Phillips. “Before I was first sworn into office in 2019, I heard from constituents of all backgrounds about the toll opioids were taking on their families and our communities. While stemming the domestic and cross-border flow of deadly opioids will take time, we can prevent overdose deaths immediately. Overdoses claimed the lives of almost 1,000 adolescents last year and requiring schools to have naloxone available for emergencies is an inexpensive, safe, and proven way to protect our children.”

This bill would expand eligibility under the PHSA Section 544 program Grants for Reducing Overdose Deaths to provide new grant opportunities specifically directed at providing schools with funding to access and administer naloxone. The Grants for Reducing Overdose Deaths program is already authorized and appropriated under existing law at $1 million per year, and each grantee can receive up to $200,000 per grant year. The grants are open to entities (states, localities, districts, or tribes) that require 1) schools to stock naloxone 2) staff to be trained on its administration and 3) civil liability protection for trained personnel who administer naloxone in a school setting.

BACKGROUND 

  • The number of adolescent overdose deaths in the United States has been steadily rising, increasing from 492 in 2019 to 952 in 2020 and, in the most recent available data, 1,146 in 2021. Experts estimate prescription and synthetic opioids account for 77% of overdose deaths (Friedman et al, JAMA, 2022). The increased lethality of synthetic opioids including fentanyl when compared to prescription opioids is believed to be a major contributing factor to the rising national overdose mortality rate.
  • Most opioid overdose deaths could be avoided by the timely administration of naloxone, a safe and effective opioid reversal agent.  Whether the overdose is the result of a prescription or synthetic opioid, naloxone effectively reverses the respiratory depression that causes death.  Additionally, it has no negative effects if administered to an individual who is not experiencing an overdose.
  • As exposure and addiction to highly lethal opioids continue to impact a growing number of American adolescents, school staff will continue to serve on the front lines of this crisis.  Schools across the country have developed emergency management plans for overdoses, and ensuring staff are trained and able to quickly access naloxone is a critical part of these protocols.  Additional funding opportunities would allow for more American adolescents to access lifesaving overdose reversal treatment.

Read the full text of the bill here.

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