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Durango School District 9-R to begin Narcan training Wednesday

Parents must sign waiver for students to participate
Durango School District 9-R will train students from Durango and Big Picture high schools on how to use Narcan and will distribute the drug for students to carry on May 17. (Durango Herald file)

Durango School District 9-R will host its first student Narcan training event for Durango and Big Picture high school students Wednesday in the school district’s board room.

The event will start at 4 p.m. and cover what students should do if they encounter a student suffering from a drug overdose.

“The reason that we're doing this is so that more people are able to respond to an emergency in the community,” said DHS health sciences teacher Kyle Montgomery, who will be assisting with the training. “It's not in support of using or abusing drugs.”

Other members of Durango School District’s health staff will help oversee the training, including 9-R registered nurses Ocea Truman and Jana Edmondson.

The district was the first in Colorado to adopt a policy allowing students to carry and administer opiate antagonist, the nasal spray version of naloxone or more commonly known by the brand name Narcan. The policy states that students must be trained if they want to administer the lifesaving drug on campus.

Parents or legal guardians must be present at the event to sign a waiver, according to a flier distributed by the district.

The waiver states that if students carry and administer an opiate antagonist on district property it will be at the students’ and parents’ sole risk.

By agreeing to the waiver, parents will be affirming they understand the district may not be able to protect them from civil and criminal liability if a student were to die or have a bad reaction to the administration of the drug.

This was a point of contention during the three-month discussion between the district and a group of students who advocated for the right to carry Narcan on campus.

However, after reviewing Colorado’s Third Party Naloxone Law, the 9-R board members felt better about their decision to allow the district to take the risk.

Board member Erika Brown said during a meeting March 29 that learning about the third-party law made her feel more confident about voting in favor of allowing the district to assume the legal risk of allowing students to carry Narcan.

The law allows for a person other than a health care provider or health care facility that acts in good faith to administer naloxone to another person whom the person believes to be suffering an opiate-related drug overdose without the risk of criminal prosecution. It also protects those who have administered expired Narcan, which was among the district’s concerns when deciding whether to allow students to carry it.

“We're ecstatic. This is what we've been hoping for since the beginning and we're just so incredibly proud of our school district for listening to students and taking a risk and working to create a safer district for 9-R,” said DHS senior Hays Stritikus, who was one of the students who advocated for the policy change.

Montgomery said the training will cover how to care for people who are suffering from a drug overdose and then taking steps such as administering Narcan, CPR and calling 911.

He said its important for people to be trained in emergency situations and that the most important thing students can do is call 911 once an emergency is identified.

Stritikus, who already has Narcan training through San Juan Basin Public Health, said administering Narcan is relatively straight forward. It usually consists of learning how to identify an overdose and discussion of Colorado’s laws for rendering use.

He said laws like Colorado’s Good Samaritan law are normally discussed. The 911 Good Samaritan Law states that a person is immune from criminal prosecution for an offense when the person reports, in good faith, an emergency drug or alcohol overdose to a law-enforcement officer.

He said administering Narcan is as simple as placing the nasal spray into the victim’s nostrils and pressing the plunger at the bottom of the container to administer the spray. He added that training will normally cover other lifesaving maneuvers such as rescue breaths or even some CPR techniques.

Stritikus applauded the district for taking swift action to allow students to carry Narcan on campus before the school year ended.

“They very well could have said, ‘OK, we'll do it next year.’ And they didn't, and they're offering students a service now,” Stritikus said.

Montgomery said it is the district’s goal to educate student about drug use and its negative affects to prevent students from making bad choices.

That is why DHS’s Narcan Club is being rebranded and shifting its focus to how it can raise awareness about substance use. The club will be renamed Friend's Anonymous with the emphasis on educating students about the risks of substance abuse, developing an individual's desire to avoid using substances, and providing support and resources for those who struggle with substance abuse.

“This opioid epidemic has increased exponentially. It's becoming a lot easier for people to access these things and it's really important for people to recognize that this is a problem,” said DHS junior and Friend’s Anonymous President Bailey Noonan.

She said having great communication with first responders is important for students in emergency situations and that sometimes students may avoid contacting emergency services in fear of repercussions from being involved with illegal substances.

The district intends to have more of these events throughout the 2023-24 school year.

If students have a parent who is unable to attend, they can contact dhshealthoffice@durangoschools.org to schedule an alternative pick up time.


An earlier version of this story erred in saying Durango School District 9-R’s Narcan training is also for Animas High School students. The training is available for Durango High School and Big Picture students. Incorrect information was given to the Herald.

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