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Durango students’ advocacy leads to passing of state Narcan bill

Student says more can be done about drug education
Leo Stritikus, left, and brother Hays Stritikus were among the students who led the charge in passing state legislation to allow greater access to Narcan on campus. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

After more than a year and a battle with Durango School District 9-R, a group of Durango and Animas high school students succeeded in helping pass state legislation allowing students to possess Narcan on campus.

HB24-1003, which Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera signed into law in late April, flips the script and prevents school districts from prohibiting students from carrying Narcan on school property. Furthermore, properly trained students can administer Narcan on school grounds or at sanctioned events with protection from civil and criminal liability.

Narcan is a brand of naloxone, which is a medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. It can be administered through a nasal spray or intravenously. The spray is the most common form of the drug.

The bill also allows school districts to maintain a supply of opiate antagonists on school buses and extends civil and criminal immunity to school bus drivers and other employees present on buses if the medication is administered in good faith.


“I’m so proud to have worked closely with the students from both Durango and Animas High Schools to create this life-saving law,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan in a news release. “Too often, Colorado youth have seen their classmates suffer from the current opioid crisis, which is why our new law will increase availability and training for the administration of opiate antagonists. The advocacy from these students on this topic who have seen the challenges their peers face will make a significant impact throughout our state and save countless lives.”

In an interview Thursday, McLachlan said the legislation was sparked by students because of a fatal overdose involving an Animas High School student in December 2021.

Also, in 2022, 920 Coloradans died from a fentanyl poisoning or overdose, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

A student group led by Hays and Leo Stritikus, sons of former Fort Lewis College President Tom Stritikus, approached McLachlan in May 2023. McLachlan said the new law is about the potential to save lives because many youths may not know they are taking fentanyl until it is too late.

A Drug Enforcement Agency laboratory found that of the fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed in 2022, six out of 10 contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

This could mean people who believe they are taking another form of opioid like Oxycodone could be at risk of ingesting fentanyl if the drug is given to them without getting it from a licensed pharmacy and consulting a doctor.

“Fentanyl poisoning deaths are skyrocketing and our current system just isn't preparing students adequately to deal with them,” Hays Stritikus said.

The point of the bill was to create a more cohesive law surrounding the ability to carry Narcan on campus. Previously, state law said that only trained staff or agents were allowed to carry and administer the medication, but did not clearly define who an “agent” can be.

“This is a bill that was written for students, by students. And I'm just incredibly grateful that our governor and our political system listened,” Stritikus said.

Stritikus admitted there were times when students weren’t sure how to move forward with achieving the bill. But students persevered to find themselves at the center of the groundbreaking legislation.

From a harm reduction standpoint, there is always more to be done, he said.

Much of the language around drug education focuses on abstinence and refraining from use, he said. But the realities of drug use and how it can be done more safely should also be discussed, he said.

“Abstinence-only education will fail those students,” Stritikus said. “What we need is an education system that also teaches peers how to help each other, and what resources are available to help their friends if they are struggling.”


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