Amid the ongoing opioid crisis in Butler and the entire country, controversy rages over the use of naloxone amid reports of multiple overdoses and multiple doses of Narcan. Narcan has not put a dent in the crisis and has not changed addiction levels. The problem is also rife among veterans.
Mar 27, 2018
You won’t find the opioid-reversing drug naloxone, or Narcan, in Butler Area schools. That’s unusual among the school districts surveyed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — only Butler and the Connellsville Area School District said they don’t stock naloxone in any schools.
“That’s probably my fault,” said Bill Halle, a Butler Area school board member. “The board of Butler actually had passed a policy to have naloxone at the school. To make a long story short, I was successful at getting that overturned.”
Mr. Halle is well-versed in the realities of addiction. His life’s work is the Grace Youth and Family Foundation, which helps the homeless and kids with drug problems. He’s got mixed feelings about naloxone, which can reverse an overdose, but not an addiction.
First, revived users sometimes get violent. Second, he thinks the money spent on naloxone could be better spent on prevention. Third, the lifesaving drug sends a message that students shouldn’t receive, in his view: “It would be not so bad to OD in school if the school had the ability to bring you back.”
None of the dead were high school students. But many students have felt the effects. Superintendent Brian White said that an elementary school counselor in the district has, in the past year, worked with the children of three overdose victims.
More broadly, there’s a cloud over Butler.
“There’s a tremendous pride in this community, and at the same time, [students] know things aren’t how they should be,” the superintendent said. “They don’t want it to be recognized as the center of an opioid crisis.”
The district’s reaction to the overdoses includes the StandTall Program, in which some 250 students agree to be subject to random drug testing, march against heroin and share social activities.
That’s the carrot. The stick is the strictest disciplinary provisions of any school drug policy reviewed by the Post-Gazette. Any student caught buying, selling, possessing, using or appearing to be under the influence of drugs faces a 10-day out-of-school suspension, followed by either a drug assessment and treatment, or expulsion.
That old-school approach can backfire, according to experts.