Arkansas is making more progress in the state’s fight against the opioid epidemic.
School leaders gathered at the Arkansas State Capitol Tuesday where Governor Asa Hutchinson announced every school nurse in the state now has access to train to use and receive a Narcan kit.
"Putting this in the hands of school nurses will give every school the capability to save lives,” said Hutchinson. "The priority has to be saving lives first and then changing behavior."
Governor Hutchinson responded to the state's School Safety Commission by securing a federally funded grant worth roughly $100,000 to provide the overdose-reversal drug to 1,100 school nurses.
So far, more than 300 school nurses across the state have already trained and registered to use Narcan ahead of the new school year through the Criminal Justice Institute.
And Tuesday, a handful of those nurses received their Narcan kits.
"We didn't have to go anywhere for the training, we did it online so we didn't have to leave our schools unattended,” said Ellen Hutchison, school nurse at Mountain Home School District.
Hutchison, a RN, said it’s about sixth grade, sometimes even before, when she starts to see kids experimenting with opioids.
"We've had a couple of instances where we didn't have to treat, but the risk was there,” she said. “So, it’s time and it’s important to have this with us and in schools.”
According to State Drug Director, Kirk Lane, there have been three recorded overdoses in high schools across the state, and it was Narcan that became their life saver.
"With them alive, we can push them to recovery,” said Lane. “A lot of people say Narcan is an enabler. I would say that is true. It enables life.”
Lane said sending Narcan in to all schools is just another element to fight the opioid crisis.
Others already in place include a robust prescription drug monitoring program that aids doctors to make sure they are not over prescribing opioids, revised rules which allow pharmacists to write a Narcan prescription without having a doctor’s order, and a Blue and You Foundation grant providing 25,000 law enforcement officers with the Narcan kit.
In two years, 262 lives in Arkansas have been saved with Narcan. The Criminal Justice Institute hopes to see that number go down, but they are prepared if that number goes up.