Wednesday, 17 April 2019 15:57

Mills' school naloxone plan stirs debate

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AUGUSTA (WGME) - Gov. Janet Mills' plan to supply the state's middle and high schools with the overdose antidote drug naloxone is generating some debate.

Portland is one of the districts in Maine that already decided to put the life-saving drug naloxone in its high schools.


Megan Jackson of South Portland said that if it can save a student's life, it's worth it.


"We are losing way too many people, too many young kids because obviously, this epidemic is not stopping," Jackson said.


But an official from a local treatment center questioned the need for naloxone in schools.


"I just want to know, how many people have actually died or overdosed in middle school?" said Nathan Cermelj of Liberty Bay Recovery Center.


Maine's director of opioid response said the governor's plan is not just about protecting students but their parents as well.


"The school is the one place where you meet other parents," Director of Opioid Response Gordon Smith said.


"We don't want to wait for the first fatal overdose and then get interested in getting this life-saving medication to anyplace that's willing to have it," he said, adding that the governor won't force schools to do this and the decision would be up to school boards.


The head of the state teacher's union said she things access to the overdose antidote drug is a good idea.


"This is a public health crisis so it's the whole community that is affected by this, and to have something that might save somebody's life makes sense," Maine Education Association President Grace Leavitt said.


Leavitt said school nurses and staff who volunteer to be trained should be the ones administering the drug if and when it is needed.


"Our preference would be that this not now be a requirement to be a teacher," she said.


Cermelj said first responders should be the ones administering naloxone "because what if one isn't enough? What if two isn't enough? You still need medical help."


The plan is still in the developmental stage but Smith said he hopes to have naloxone available in middle and high schools as soon as possible. 

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