What are opioid antagonists and why are they now allowed in schools?

BOX ELDER, S.D. — Governor Kristi Noem recently signed into law Senate Bill 84 which allows for opioid antagonists in South Dakota schools. Opioid antagonists, like Narcan, reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

The Douglas School District in Box Elder says they’ve been looking at stocking up on Narcan for about eight months. The Box Elder Police Department already carries Narcan, saving a life for the first time in Sept. of last year.

There has been no need for the drug in Box Elder schools so, why is this something that schools are looking into having on hand?

Advocates say the focus is prevention.

“I’m not naive enough to think that, you know we have about 4,000 students and employees total, you never know if you’re going to have a problem,” said Superintendent of Douglas Schools, Alan Kerr. “It’s better to be prepared and have it than not have it when you need it.”

Douglas schools are aiming to have Narcan available in all nurse’s offices in each of their five buildings.

“With the signature of Gov. Noem, it allows us to have this conversation with the schools,” said Sgt. Chris Hislip, school resource officer supervisor with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. “The school can determine if there’s a need and if it fits their needs.”

Furthermore, the law allows schools to train nurses and school resource officers to have Narcan on site and be able to administer it.

But does carrying Narcan accept the opioid crisis, plaguing the local area and parts of the country, and give students a reliable fall back for using drugs?

“That’s not the way I think of it,” said Kerr. “If you can help someone, whatever happens after that, that’s their choice. I think if you have the ability to help someone, you should.”

Sgt. Hislip says the goal of the school resource officers is to continue an open and positive relationship with students to get ahead of the problem before it becomes a crisis in schools.

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