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Narcan distribution planned beyond secondary schools in Cass County

Cass County Health Officer Dr. John Baird holds up a a dose of Narcan nasal spray during a news conference at Fargo Cass Public Health on Thursday, Nov. 16, in Fargo. Narcan kits and training in the drug's use is being provided at all of the middle and high schools in the county to treat potential opioid overdoses. Baird said wider distribution of Narcan around the community is being planned. Helmut Schmidt / The Forum1 / 2
Opioid overdose kits are being provided to all of the middle and high schools in Cass County, along with training in their use, officials announced Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Fargo Cass Public Health in Fargo, N.D. The kits include two doses of the drug Narcan, administered with nasal spray devices. The kits also include directions, a clear plastic barrier for CPR use, and rubber gloves to protect a rescuer from exposure to opioids while they assist victims. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)2 / 2

FARGO - The nasal spray form of Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, will not only be on hand soon in all of Cass County's middle and high schools, but is also expected to be made available throughout the broader community.

Elementary schools in Fargo and other public and private school systems are also likely to get Narcan kits and training in their use and rescue breathing in a later round of distribution.

Cass County Health Officer Dr. John Baird was joined by representatives from the county's school systems at a news conference Thursday, Nov. 16, at Fargo Cass Public Health to talk about the latest moves to quickly treat opioid overdoses and save lives.

There were 31 deaths from opioid overdoses in Cass County in 2016 and 12 deaths so far this year, said Baird, who is also the Cass County coroner.

"That's at least a death a month or more. Every one of those is tragic," Baird said.

More than half of the opioid overdose deaths involved people in their 20s or 30s, he said.

Narcan, also known by the generic name naloxone, reverses the effects of opioids and brings a person who is overdosing back to consciousness and breathing, Baird said.

Naloxone has been used for a long time. The nasal form is absorbed almost as quickly as the intravenously administered form, Baird said. It has no side effects and isn't dangerous to use, he said.

"If we can save one life, or more, because of Narcan use, that would be wonderful," Baird said.

No deaths have been recorded in the county's schools, he said. School nurses and other personnel in the schools are being trained in Narcan use.

A state grant is paying for the training and some Narcan kits. Narcan manufacturer Adapt Pharma is also donating a kit to each of the high schools, Baird said.

The kits contain two nasal inhaler doses of Narcan, an instruction card, a CPR microshield for rescue breathing and gloves to help protect rescuers from possible exposure to opioids.

State law allows people to possess Narcan, and it can be prescribed. Baird has prescribed naloxone under a standing order for people trained in its use in the schools.

Fargo Superintendent of Schools Jeff Schatz said having Narcan in the schools just "makes sense," particularly since schools regularly host community events.

"We want to be prepared. We see this as very proactive," Schatz said

Schatz said that after the middle and high schools have Narcan available, a second phase of training and distribution will take place for the district's elementary schools.

Several other school leaders indicated by nodding that they planned to eventually have Narcan available in their elementary schools, too.

Morgan Forness, superintendent for Central Cass School District in Casselton, said

rural schools are well-aware of the need for quick responses in emergency situations, and that law enforcement or ambulance service personnel may not always be immediately available.

"It just makes sense to add this to our tool chest," Forness said.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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