The Opiod Crisis: District Prepares for Growing Epidemic

Drug addiction has destroyed numerous individuals in our community. Find out what the School District of Waukesha is doing to fight this devastating crisis.

The Opiod Crisis: District Prepares for Growing Epidemic

The Waukesha School Board is planning a change to a school district policy that, when enacted, will provide schools with Narcan, a type of medication that blocks the effects of opioids and helps to prevent overdosing, for use in emergencies.

The School District is adding a clause to district policy 5330, concerning the application of medicine in emergencies, pending formal Board approval. The District currently does not have any precautionary measures to help someone who overdoses on any form of illegal substance. We spoke with Dr. Joe Koch, Waukesha School District Deputy Superintendent, about the new policy.

Narcan, a brand name form of naloxone, is an anti-opiate. Anti-opiates prevent the opioids from entering the body’s nervous system, lessening the likelihood of a fatal overdose. Narcan is applied via a nasal injection, making its use simple and quick.

Certain members of staff, including principals, their secretaries, athletic directors and coaches, and health service personnel will receive specific training in procedures that would need to happen, from initial diagnosis, to transferring care, to paramedics. This training would likely happen sometime in March or April.

Funding for the Narcan supply will be covered in full through a grant from Waukesha County. It is estimated that supplying district buildings with the medication will cost about $1500. That estimate does not include training; however, the district has contacts with multiple agencies who can provide that support.

The Narcan doses will be placed within the automated external defibrillator (AED) units that are present on all district properties. There are three in each high school, two at the middle schools, and one to two in each elementary school. There are also a number of others at locations such as the Lindholm Building and the district Maintenance Building. All in all, there are about 45 AEDs spread amongst the various campuses.

Photo by chuttersnap / Unsplash

Local districts such as Arrowhead and Oconomowoc are also considering implementing similar policies, bringing Waukesha into a growing group of school systems in Southeastern Wisconsin and nationwide. The opioid crisis is especially relevant here in the Waukesha School District after a man overdosed on various medications while parked with his children in the district administration building parking lot.

One general reason for this seemingly new push for preventative measures in this opioid crisis is that the epidemic has taken the country by surprise. Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, an increasing number of babies were born already addicted to cocaine. Cocaine was all the rage back then, with its usage becoming widespread. Many considered it a national epidemic. A similar trend is emerging here, with clear parallels between the two. On the subject of keeping up with this abrupt societal change, Dr. Koch told us, “Student’s needs have changed, and we need to make sure [that] our practices have changed too.” Several examples of this philosophy exist within the schools, from policy 5330, to the Stairway to Heroin event hosted last year at Waukesha South.

Koch also talked about how the most important factor in the fight against opioids is education. Not just education within our schools, either. He believes that we must educate both the student body and the general populous on matters ranging from the signs and symptoms of overdose, to safe practices when it comes to the handling of opioids in things like pain relief medication. He warns that we must take a holistic approach to the issue at hand, and that policies like this are only the beginning of a long and arduous fight against opioids.