'Seconds matter': Nurses in Henrico Public Schools to begin carrying naloxone

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — In Henrico County, there’s a new medicine in the school nurse’s office. The medication will be used to help fight the opioid epidemic.

Nurses in Henrico County Public Schools can now carry and administer naloxone, a drug overdose medication that’s used to reduce or reverse the effects of opioids.

Naloxone is a nasal spray or injection that works to pull the opioid drug out of someone’s body.

A vote by school board members on Thursday, Dec. 8, amended the school system’s Health Services Policy to allow nurses to give Narcan — the market name for naloxone — to students and staff.

School resource officers were already authorized to administer naloxone, and the General Assembly added school nurses to the list of trained professionals who can administer it.

The Virginia Department of Health is partnering with schools who want to provide naloxone to trained staff.

Kerri Rhodes is a trauma therapist at Chesterfield County Jail’s Drug Addiction Recovery Program. She’s also the mother of Taylor Rhodes, who died of a fentanyl overdose in 2019.

“As a parent, I wish I was more educated when Taylor was struggling because we just don’t know what kids are going to get into,” she said.

Many young people under 25 years old in Virginia are impacted by the opioid epidemic, Rhodes said. In fact, health leaders reported that a person’s chance of dying from a drug overdose is higher than dying in a car crash.

“You’re very lucky if you survive a fentanyl overdose,” Rhodes said. “Seconds matter.”

However, Rhodes thinks state leaders should take it a step further and add teachers to the list of trained professionals who can administer naloxone, too.

“To have first responders in our buildings carrying that is huge,” Rhodes said. “I know when I was working in schools, we were altering to use EpiPens. This is far more severe, you know, than something like that, but both of them save lives.”

Henrico Schools declined 8News’ interview request on Thursday, but indicated that the school system is in the process of ordering supplies and completing the required training for nursing staff.