MADISON COUNTY, Ala. -- Students in Madison County are now on their second week of school. The district is starting this school year with a potentially life-saving device.
"We have the antidote, we have Narcan. Why would we choose not to use it?" said Donna Stiles, lead nurse of for the district. Hopefully, they'll never have to but for the first time, Madison County Schools have naloxone. Carried by the brands Narcan and Evzio, it's a tool in their arsenal to help combat the opioid epidemic in our state.
"We know that there's a problem and those medications are in our communities. And our schools are gathering places for the community. Our students are in homes where those medications are available," said Stiles.
All five high schools have at least two doses of the opioid reversal drug, the location known to a medical emergency response team. Led by the nurse and an administrator -- the M.E.R.T. can include staff members from coaches to counselors.
"It's just another set of eyes ears and hands to assist with any kind of medical emergency," explained Stiles. Drills are held every semester with a reusable tester. That tester, as well as the device with the medication, talks the user through the steps. The usability of the device has been compared to an EpiPen.
Students in health science class are also learning about the potentially life-saving device. Madison County Schools say their emergency medical response teams are ready to administer Narcan not just to students but to anyone that happens to be on their schools' campus.
Some parents may wonder if it's necessary. President of 'Not One More Alabama' Patty Sykstus says knowing the medication was there would give her peace of mind. "I have a son in recovery who was using at that age and could have possibly been one of those people who could have benefitted from that. And we didn't have the occur but it could have, the possibility was there and they [Naloxone] weren't in the schools back then."
Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a grant of $6.3 million to help combat the epidemic in schools. "Currently the Alabama Department of Public Health is providing Narcan for each school at no cost. We don't know if that will be in place next year but I'm hoping that the grant will help supply that need," said Stiles.
Alabama Department of Education Nurse Administrator Jennifer Ventress says their goal is to get extra funding by November 1, when she said the current Naloxone supply will expire.
She says they are working to get a version of the medication with a longer shelf life of two years into the districts.
Ventress says the majority of the state's 140 school systems are participating in the program. Madison City Schools tells us they are training school administrators before they stock the Naloxone, but all of their nurses have been trained.
Madison County Schools aims to get Naloxone into their middle schools when available.
"It's everybody's child. As long as somebody's alive we have the opportunity to save them," Sykstus said of having Naloxone in schools.