Gloucester Township Police Chief David Harkins, Camden County Prosecutor Grace MacAulay and county commissioners have annouced the distribution of Naloxone kits to Triton Regional High School and other districts as well as bus drivers.
The move is part of the county’s ongoing initiative to make the overdose reversal medication, also known as Narcan, more accessible.
“Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a critical tool in our battle against the opioid and overdose epidemic,” said Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr. “We need to keep this medicine on hand in every corner of our community, because you never know when you are going to need it.
“Unfortunately, we know that it is possible to lose a child to overdose in a school setting – and most recently on a school bus – so distributing these kits and training school staff is a measure we must take to keep our children safe.”
So far, four county school districts are participating in the program and 104 bus drivers have been trained to administer Naloxone.
“With our teachers in the school districts already being trained and having it (available) in the schools, we wanted to get it onto the buses, as our bus drivers are the first and last point of contact for students on school days,” explained county health officer Dr. Paschal Nwako.
“Getting trained in Naloxone or Narcan is like getting CPR certified,” he added. “It’s very (simple).”
The program follows the death last year of a 12-year old student at Gloucester Township Elementary School who came into contact with fentanyl via his uncle’s drug paraphernalia and was pronounced dead on his school bus.
Indicted in the case was Blackwood resident Troy Nokes, who was charged last March with first-degree aggravated manslaughter and second-degree employing a juvenile in a drug distribution scheme. He could face 10 to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
“You need to have something like (Narcan) on the bus to cover all of the safety bases,” Nwako pointed out. “The drug reverses the effects of fentanyl. You have to get the person to the hospital as soon as possible. Once the effects of Narcan begin wearing off, due to the high toxicity of the drug, you want someone to get (treatment) quickly.”
The Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force and the county Department of Health have made policy decisions on Narcan since the onset of this epidemic that have yielded programs like operation SAL, which provides communities with treatment options; litigation against pharmaceutical companies and their distributors; and education programs on opioids and recreational narcotics.
The county commissioners have undertaken a number of harm-reduction policies by installing Naloxone boxes throughout the county park system and in every public school from Camden City to Winslow. They also provide free Narcan training sessions, fentanyl test strips, NaloxBoxes for social-service organizations and mental- health support for those who have lost a loved one to substance use disorder.
If you are a Camden County in need of help, call the office of Mental Health and Addiction at (856) 374-6361.