Los Angeles Unified will provide opioid overdose treatment naloxone to schools following multiple overdoses in students this school year. Nine students across the district have overdosed, including a 15-year-old who died last week.
With support from the Los Angeles County Department of Health, LAUSD is distributing the naloxone units free of charge to its schools, beginning with middle and high schools. Naloxone, also known as narcan, can temporarily reverse overdose effects and is distributed in the form of a nasal spray, which Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says will make it easier to use when needed. School police officers will also have the drug on hand.
“We are experiencing a devastating epidemic,” Carvalho said at a press conference on Thursday. “While we are talking about fentanyl, or the many variations of fentanyl, there is a plethora of medications that students have easy access to. But there are solutions.”
The LAUSD community has been processing the death of Melanie Ramos, 15, who died on the campus of Bernstein High School last week after taking a pill she bought from another student that was laced with fentanyl, a strong opioid that can be fatal in small doses. Seven of the nine overdose cases reported by officials occurred on the Bernstein campus and Hollywood High School.
Fentanyl overdoses have been increasing since before the pandemic, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Health. It is becoming increasingly common for pills to be spiked with fentanyl.
As the district continues to look into the issue, it has formed a task force to take a closer look at the data and determine which areas of the district are being disproportionately affected. Carvalho said the district now has an idea of what those areas are but will wait until it liaises with communities first before officially announcing the patterns. LAUSD will continue to work with the Los Angeles School Police and the Los Angeles Police Department to ensure safety.
In addition to measures to respond to consumption, the district is also working on prevention. It launches peer-to-peer counseling for students to spread knowledge about the effects of drug use. Students are trained by the Health Information Project, which focuses on delivering health education through this model.
The district will also begin offering classes on drug use and effects through its family academy starting next week. The courses cover the topic through various aspects, including the impact and signs of use, as well as the impact on mental health. LAUSD is also launching its Make a Choice campaign across social media, posters and messages to raise awareness.