Mazzeo Edit Meeting

Vince Mazzeo, 2nd District Democratic State Assemblyman running for re-election, during an editorial board meeting at The Press of Atlantic City, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015.

The epidemic of abuse of opioid drugs and heroin has led to many overdoses, too many of them fatal. As a result, the antidote - naloxone, brand name Narcan - that quickly and effectively counters those drugs is carried by first responders and regular pharmacies.

Something that can easily, cheaply and at almost no risk save a life sounds like it should be part of any medical kit where there's a chance it might be needed. The state Board of Education in May told schools that naloxone should be "included in district emergency response procedures." The Overdose Prevention Act already provides immunity from liability actions to those administering the antidote in an emergency.

Nearly a year before that, the National Association of School Nurses recommended that opioid overdose response be part of school preparedness. It noted that nearly a quarter of teens reported misusing prescription drugs, and that 2.2 million youths ages 12 to 17 were using illegal drugs in a 2013 federal survey.

Despite all this, plenty of schools are delaying or even resisting preparations to save a youngster from an overdose.

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, has a cure for that. He will introduce a bill in the next session to require naloxone to be part of every school's emergency response procedures and school nurses to be given primary responsibility for administering the antidote.

Various unconvincing arguments have been offered why schools need not or might not want to carry naloxone.

One is that police and fire responders are nearby, so a quicker response isn't needed - which obviously could not be true in all circumstances.

Another is that reducing the risk of a fatal overdose makes continued use of illegal drugs more likely, a view offered by the governor of Maine in his veto of naloxone programs. This pretends that drug addiction isn't addiction.

Others worry about the cost and training required for schools to have and use naloxone.

Here's some good news - there doesn't need to be any cost or training.

In January, a company that makes a nasal spray version of naloxone - Adapt Pharma - said it would offer the antidote to U.S. high schools free through their state departments of education. New Jersey already meets the requirement of immunity from liability for those who administer it.

And as the company says, the nasal spray requires no special training. It's just a nasal spray. Any nurse could easily administer it, and they should already know the signs that someone is experiencing an opioid overdose.

So let's get the requirement into law. But schools shouldn't wait until then - and possibly miss the chance to save a youngster's life.

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