Starting in mid-March, PAUSD will store emergency naloxone kits in school health offices, automated external defibrillator boxes and in high school athletic offices.
Naloxone, delivered in products such as Narcan, reverses a fentanyl overdose by blocking the effects of opioids. The district received the naloxone kits in February following the county’s approval for the use of $135,000 in state funding to provide for the emergency kits.
In the case of an emergency, PAUSD Health Services Coordinator Rosemarie Dowell said in an email that the kits will be provided free of charge from the Santa Clara County Office of Education and will be continually supplied by California. Dowell also said staff will be formally trained to administer the naloxone.
“A call for volunteers was sent to all district employees, including substitutes, and any interested employees will be trained,” Dowell said.
Since COVID-19, non-prescription drug dealers have increasingly started to sell fentanyl, a potentially lethal substance 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, on platforms like social media. The substance is undetectable by smell, taste and color and is often found in counterfeit painkiller pills.
Santa Clara County Opioid Overdose Prevention Project lead Mira Parwiz, who is also a staff member with Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services, said increased circulation of counterfeit pills has led to fentanyl overdoses on school campuses in the area.
“Los Gatos had a (case) on the east side,” Parwiz said. “(The students suffering from fentanyl overdoses) were able to get the Narcan and survived the overdose, but I have not heard of anyone who might have suffered from a fatal case on campus.”
Fentanyl-related deaths for California youth between the ages of 10 and 19 have increased dramatically over the last couple of years, from 36 deaths in 2019 to 239 deaths in 2021, a 563% increase according to CDC. Parwiz said the accessibility that social media provides might be a contributing factor in the recent surge of fentanyl-related deaths.
“The surge started during the pandemic when the younger population spent more time at home and on social media platforms,” Parwiz said. “(Younger people) can go on the social media app and find anyone who is selling (opioids), order it and have it delivered to (them).”
Marketing trickery from drug vendors, Parwiz said, may have further contributed to the fentanyl crisis.
“Drug cartels are pushing (fentanyl) into other forms of drugs like Xanax or OxyContin,” Parwiz said. “(Young people think they are) buying Xanax from somebody, but now, (more) often than not, it is laced with fentanyl. There was evidence of this in Monterey County in an edible package, like rainbow candy.”
To raise awareness of the dangers of fentanyl, the SCCOOPP and Paly and Gunn PTAs are sponsoring an awareness event on March 22 in the Performing Arts Center. The event will run from 6-7:30 p.m.
The event will include an introduction from Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, an expert panel on opioid addiction prevention and treatment and advice from parents who lost their children from fentanyl overdoses. The event will also provide free naloxone distribution and training.
Symptoms of fentanyl addiction include depression and drastic changes in sleep patterns, energy, mood, personal interests and clothing styles. Dowell said anyone with an opioid addiction should reach out for help.
“Speak to a trusted adult,” Dowell said. “If a student does not know where to get help, the wellness center can help guide students to the right resources.”
The Santa Clara County emergency rooms can provide further assistance to anyone currently struggling with opioid addictions, Parwiz said.
“You can walk into an emergency room in Santa Clara County and get started in treatment,” Parwiz said. “You can come in anytime even without an appointment. If you do want an appointment, we also have opioid addiction (treatment) available.”
To prevent further deaths and overdoses, Dowell said students should avoid non-prescription opioids.
Dowell said, “Treat every pill as possibly counterfeit and remember that one pill can kill.”
WHERE AND HOW TO GET HELP:
Here are potential steps for anyone struggling with opioid addiction or anyone hoping to help out.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.