Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), introduced the Stop Overdose in Schools Act to address the skyrocketing adolescent fentanyl overdose rate with Reps. Kim Schrier (D-WA), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Ryan Zinke (R-MT), and John Moolenaar (R-MI). This legislation would set aside funding for naloxone training and purchasing and increases naloxone access for school resource officers, security personnel, and school nurses.
“Fentanyl overdoses are now the leading cause of death for people ages 18-45, and no community has been left untouched by this crisis,” said Rep. Newhouse. “I am proud to introduce the Stop Overdose in Schools Act, which would address the skyrocketing adolescent overdose rate, since it has become clear that our police and school resource officers need more support. This bill will be absolutely critical in helping our hardworking frontline workers prevent the tragic drug-related overdose deaths of Central Washington—and America’s—youth.”
“The opioid epidemic is a devastating public health crisis that has impacted every part of our nation, including our children. As a mother, a pediatrician, and a congresswoman, I am concerned and understand this issue needs to be addressed from every angle, and that includes in schools,” said Rep. Schrier, M.D. “The Stop Overdose in Schools Act will allow for school administrators, security personnel, and nurses to be trained in the administration of opioid reversal agents, with a focus in areas with high rates of drug-related overdoses in youth and in rural communities. This should be part of a greater strategy to educate parents and children about the danger of taking any pill not prescribed by a physician and purchased in a pharmacy because ‘one pill can kill.’ It is time to address this issue and keep our children safe from what could very easily be a fatal overdose.”
“Opioid overdose deaths among children and adolescents have risen exponentially in the last several years, and some of those young lives could have been saved if they had been treated quickly,” said Rep Strickland. “While we work in Congress to address the root causes of the opioid crisis in this country, with this legislation, Rep. Newhouse and I are making sure that those on the frontlines of this battle have all the tools they need to save lives.”
“Facing the heartbreaking rise in adolescent overdoses requires bold action and immediate support to our schools,” said Rep. Kilmer. “The Stop Overdose in Schools Act represents a profound commitment to our young people and the future of communities grappling with substance abuse. There’s no silver bullet to ending overdose deaths – it’s more like a silver buckshot approach – and I’m committed to getting federal resources into our communities to protect folks from the dangers of opioid addiction.”
“Making sure kids are safe at school shouldn’t be a Republican or Democrat issue, it’s an American issue, which is why this legislation is so important to me. Although Montana is far from the Mexican border, we are feeling the effects of the drug cartels smuggling deadly fentanyl across our northern border. Unfortunately, their first stop is the Blackfeet Reservation, and that fentanyl ends up poisoning kids who don’t even know they are taking it,” said Rep. Zinke. “The Stop Overdoes in Schools Act will help to save lives by equipping and training school staff with Narcan to reverse the effects of fentanyl overdose and poisoning. This is a life-saving and common-sense resource that should be readily available in schools and the bill cannot pass quick enough. I am very proud to be a sponsor of this legislation.”
“The opioid crisis has impacted Michigan families of every background. Unfortunately, this issue has begun to affect more school children than ever before,” said Rep. Moolenaar. “I am supporting this legislation because it will increase access to life-saving resources and help make sure rural schools in particular receive much-needed funding to confront this crisis,” said Moolenaar.
“NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, is appreciative of Representative Newhouse as he seeks to increase naloxone access for school resource officers, security personnel, and school nurses and educate those that have first responder contact with American’s youth. The Stop Overdoes in Schools Act allows for 50% of the recipients of this pilot program to be located in rural areas, the areas we know that receive the least amount of resources. NAADAC also applauds that the other 50% is prioritized in school districts with high rates of drug overdoses by youth. This is an important step in lowering the overdose and death rates among youth in American.”— Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, BSW BSW, NCACII, CDCIII, SAP, Executive Director of NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals
Click here to read the full text of the bill.
Over the past couple of years, we have seen a dramatic increase in adolescent drug overdose–largely due to the substantial influx of illicit fentanyl in our communities. During 2019, the first year of the COVID-19 global pandemic, overdose mortality increased by 94%. Unfortunately, this trend continued throughout 2020 and 2021 with an additional increase by 20%. More than 77% of these overdoses were directly caused by fentanyl-related substances.
The Stop Overdoses in Schools Act is a re-introduction from the 117th Congress, H.R. 7189. Specifically, this bill:
- Set aside funds for naloxone training and purchasing.
- Increases naloxone access for school resource officers, security personnel, and school nurses.
- Requires that 50 percent of the grants be awarded to school districts in rural areas.
- Requires that the remaining 50 percent be prioritized to school districts located in areas with high rates of drug-related overdoses by youth.
- Addresses the skyrocketing adolescent overdose rate.
Naloxone is beneficial to school resource officers through the following:
- Naloxone, (frequently referred to by the brand name, “Narcan”) is an FDA-approved drug that reverses the effects of opioids, including fentanyl, by blocking their uptake in the bloodstream. If administered quickly, either by injection or nasal spray, it can prevent someone who has overdosed from dying.
- School resource officers and school nurses are often the first ones on the scene in the event of an overdose that occurs during the school day. If equipped with Naloxone and prepared to deploy it effectively, they can prevent and reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths.
- Lack of availability and high costs of the necessary personnel, training, and the drug itself are prohibitive to schools in rural areas – whose budgets are already and increasingly constrained – seeking to develop effective overdose response programs.
Rep. Newhouse has been leading the effort to combat the fentanyl crisis in Central Washington and in U.S. Congress:
- In June, Rep. Newhouse introduced the Law Enforcement Officers Preventing Overdose Deaths Act, a pilot grant program for rural community response to allow state and local law enforcement agencies to purchase naloxone, an effective tool to prevent and reduce opioid overdose deaths, and directs at least 50% of the programs’ grant funding to rural communities.
- Earlier this year, Rep. Newhouse launched the Central Washington Fentanyl Task Force, a working group of consisting of groups and individuals on the local and state levels who are on the frontlines fighting the fentanyl crisis throughout Central Washington. Task Force members include law enforcement, addiction treatment groups, medical professionals, drug court officials, school resource officers, tribal leaders, elected officials, and community leaders. This October, the task force will hold its second quarterly meeting.
- In March, Rep. Newhouse introduced the William and James Wonacott Act, named after two Yakima brothers who succumbed to fentanyl in separate instances. The legislation enhances penalties for those who sell, give, or distribute any substance that contains two milligrams or more of illicit fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances to another person without their knowledge.
- In January, Rep. Newhouse introduced the Save Americans from the Fentanyl Emergency Act or SAFE Act to permanently schedule all fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs.