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Health Officials Conduct Large-Scale Training in Opioid Overdose Response for Staff of 11 Local School Districts

In an effort to reverse the rise in heroin and opioid-related deaths in Suffolk County, health officials on Monday conducted Opioid Overdose Response training for staff of 11 local school districts at the Eastern Suffolk ...

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At a large-scale opioid overdose response training, school nurses from the Middle Country School District, Gail Breslin & Ruth Conte observe as colleague Marilyn Sint assembles a naloxone syringe with mucosal atomizer device.

Suffolk County, NY - December 15, 2015 - In an effort to reverse the rise in heroin and opioid-related deaths in Suffolk County, health officials on Monday conducted Opioid Overdose Response training for staff of 11 local school districts at the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Milliken Technical Training Center in Oakdale. Participating in the training were more than 40 school staff, including school nurses, security officers, administrators and guidance counselors from Westhampton Beach, Islip, East Moriches, Connetquot, Middle Country, Sayville, North Babylon, Huntington, Rocky Point, Hauppauge and Hampton Bays.

“I commend the School Superintendents Association for partnering with us in our multi-pronged approach to dealing with the heroin epidemic and for responding promptly to the state’s call to get Narcan into the hands of those who are closest to our youth,” said County Executive Steve Bellone.

Though Monday’s session was not the first time the county has trained school personnel in opioid overdose response, it was the first large-scale training tailored specifically for school personnel and supported by the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association (SCSSA).

“Heroin abuse has become an epidemic in our communities and we will do whatever we can to save a life,” said Susan Schnebel, president of the SCSSA and Superintendent of Islip School District. “Given the state’s authorization to train school staff in opioid overdose response, it made sense for us to gather at one location during the work day to train as many as possible as quickly as possible. We hope to host additional sessions in the coming year.”

At the session, school officials learned not only about the warning signs of drug use in the student population and the administration of nasal naloxone, an opioid antidote, but also about New York State’s directive to school districts to outline a policy on opioid overdose response.

“School districts are being offered one of three options by New York State,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of Health Services. “We urge school districts to determine a policy and get it into place as soon as possible.”

Option 1 is for the school district to become a registered NYSDOH authorized Opioid Overdose Response Program, which allows the school district physician to issue non-patient specific orders to staff, conduct training, and obtain naloxone from NYSDOH. Option 2 eliminates the relationship with the NYSDOH, in which case the school district bears the burden of issuing non-specific patient orders, training, and acquiring their own supply of naloxone. Option 3 allows the school district to permit its staff be trained by a registered NYSDOH Registered Opioid Overdose Prevention Program, which includes the provision of non-patient specific orders, and the supply of naloxone. 

According to Robert Delagi, Suffolk's director of emergency medical services and public health emergency preparedness, “It is important for school district personnel who receives opioid overdose reversal training to understand that naloxone administration is safe and effective, and comes with protection from liability Ultimately, we want to get naloxone into the hands of as many people as possible, the goal being saving one life at a time.”

Since November 2013, when Suffolk County began training community members in opioid overdose response, the county Department of Health Services has held 142 training sessions and distributed 4,158 overdose response kits to trained individuals.

Since July 2012, when the NY State Department of Health authorized equipping basic life support emergency medical technicians, including police officers, with Narcan, Suffolk County has recorded 1805 opioid reversals, 483 of those to date this year.