LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – All high schools in Arkansas now have the option to have NARCAN on campus for free or at a reduced cost.

NARCAN has been administered in Arkansas high schools in the last few years. But now, the goal of an authorization letter from the Arkansas Department of Health is to have more of the medication on campuses across the state by making it easier to get.

It was 2018 when a student at Little Rock’s Central High School overdosed on heroin in the bathroom.

“Unfortunately, the statistics in our state do show that our youth are experimenting and using opioids,” said Suzanne Jones with the Arkansas Department of Education.  

In that incident, the Little Rock Police Department said another student happened to have a dose of NARCAN and it was administered by the Little Rock Fire Department.

Years later, the opioid epidemic continues to grow in Arkansas, and it’s being made worse by a global pandemic.

“Particularly in rural states, it impacts higher because of social isolation and loneliness,” said Dr. Bala Simon with the Arkansas Department of Health.

That’s why state agencies have come together to get free or reduced-cost NARCAN on qualifying campuses across the state.

“We want to be proactive in this measure to have these life-saving treatments available,” Dr. Simon said.

There’s a program that gives schools two free cartons, or four doses, of the NARCAN nasal spray.

Schools can then buy more doses at a reduced cost.

But the Arkansas Department of Education says not a lot of schools in the state have been able to take part in that.

“Because the application process for the reduced cost or free doses required an authorizing physician and that was something that a lot of schools don’t have,” Jones said. “They have school nurses, but not physicians on staff.”

That’s why Dr. Simon with the ADH created an authorizing letter so more schools can get the free doses.

And it’s needed.

“Unfortunately, opioids affect all aspects of society, including our educational settings, and so having this on hand can really help in the case of an overdose,” Jones said.

Preventing an overdose is the goal, but state agencies are being proactive about saving kids’ lives.

It’s important to note that this authorization gives every qualifying campus within a school district free or reduced doses. Essentially, every high school in a school district can have the medication on hand.

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