LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Over the years, the opioid overdose rate for teenagers has significantly increased.
The CDC says opioid overdose deaths in teens aged 14-18 increased by 94% between 2019-2020.
Thursday, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed House Bill 1514, making it law for Naloxone or Narcan kits to be visible and labeled in public high schools and state-supported institutions of higher education.
“I’m very excited that a law has been enacted to make it mandatory,” Kimberly Ashley-Pauley said.
Ashley-Pauley’s son, Joshua passed away on May 12th, 2014, after experimenting with opioids. Kimberly says her son had “4 different types of opioids” in his system.
Joshua’s death led to the Joshua Ashley-Pauley Act, which is now law and provides immunity for Arkansans seeking medical assistance for an overdose.
Those with Joshua, when he overdosed, didn’t call for medical help because of fear of running into trouble with the law.
Now, individuals who attempt to assist a person they believe to be overdosing are protected from arrest, charge, or prosecution for possessing an illicit substance or violating their parole, restraining order, probation, or pretrial release if those violations are connected with seeking assistance.
“Back then, even if they had called 911, first responders did not carry Narcan. The only one that carried Narcan at that time was EMTs.” Ashley-Pauley said.
All first responders are now required to carry Narcan. As Kimberly sifts through photos of her son, she’s happy to see how far the state has come.
Dr. Jeremy Owoh, Superintendent for the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District says he looks to have of many his staff members trained to know how to use Narcan.
“Those are some of the things you never want to have to use it, but you also want to have it in case you need it,” Owoh said.
House Bill 1514 says only school nurses and resource officers are required to carry it at all times.
At Jacksonville High School, Owoh says they have 1,200 students and it’s important many are trained because the “nurse can only be in so many places.”
The bill states that it must be reported to the Department of Human Services immediately following the use of the opioid overdose rescue kit.
This will begin on January 1, 2024.