Montrose and Olathe high schools have received a supply of the opioid overdose treatment drug Naloxone, or Narcan, in case an overdose happens on campus. The treatment is in the form of a nasal spray, and reverses the effects of a narcotic overdose. Montrose County School District received 12 boxes — 24 doses — of Narcan from Advantage Treatment Center in Montrose. ATC operates the community corrections program here.
According to Cyndle Sinclair, lead nurse for MCSD, these treatments won’t expire until 2025 – at which time, doses can be replenished. The medication is part of the “Naloxone Bulk Purchase Fund,” a Colorado bill passed in 2019 to allow eligible groups to purchase naloxone at low or no cost. Eligible groups include school districts, harm reduction agencies and law enforcement. MCSD board member Stephen Bush expressed appreciation for the medication, remarking that the district was “past due” on beginning the opioid response. “It’s not happening here yet, but a lot of these overdoses are not on purpose because they’re starting to cut other drugs with the fentanyl and people aren’t knowing what they’re getting – that’s what some of this is,” Bush said.
MCSD Director of Operations Jim Pavlich noted that the district hired two more nurses this year after retaining three nurses over the past few years. The new nurses are employed through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) workforce grant. A nurse is stationed at all district high schools. Sinclair said that the district will later assess if more people will need to be trained in Narcan use. The state program aims to expand access to Narcan and reduce cost-barriers to schools through the bulk fund. MCSD was just one district in the state to receive standing orders for the medication from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Education. The order prompted the district to apply for the medical supply.
Data snapshotMontrose had five deaths due to opioid overdoses from 2020-2021 compared to the 2,214 cases statewide, per the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In that same period, there were 13 hospital admissions and 28 emergency department admissions. Statewide, there were just over 2,000 hospital admissions and nearly 5,390 emergency department visits due to opioid overdoses. While hospital admissions have decreased marginally since 2020, the total number of drug overdose deaths due to opioids have increased by nearly 31.6%.
The group most impacted throughout the state are white, non-Hispanic males between the ages of 25-44, according to CDPHE reports on deaths due to opioid overdoses. Emergency department visits due to overdoses reflect this data. In contrast, white, non-Hispanic women make up 50.1% of hospital admissions compared to men, with age groups between 55-64 and 25-34 most impacted.
Comparatively, individuals between the ages of 15-24 made up less than 14% of deaths due to opioid overdoses. “I’m not necessarily speaking about our students, but any visitor on our campus: parents, siblings, people like that,” Sinclair said of the numbers. “That’s a huge problem. That’s a big part of our population.”
Montrose Fire Chief Tad Rowan said he’s seen an increase in overdose cases in the area as well. He has not yet, however, seen any overdoses caused by direct skin contact. The fire chief said he supports adding the treatment to local schools in case an overdose ever occurs.
How does Narcan work?
The treatment competes with the opioids in the brain to “knock” the substance off the brain receptor before being absorbed by the body.
“It’ll kick you out of that overdose and bring you back temporarily,” Sinclair told MCSD board members Tuesday evening. Due to the treatment’s short life span, a second dose may be necessary to fully remove the opioid substance. Bush pointed out that the medication’s side effects are minimal compared to the ease of use. “We’re past due. We need to start this. I’m fully on board with getting Narcan in our schools,” Bush said. “Not just for students, but for staff.”