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caption: Naloxone can reverse opioid overdose.
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Naloxone can reverse opioid overdose.
Credit: Courtesy of Shawna Murphy

As youth overdoses rise, Seattle parents push schools to expand training

In response to pressure from parents, Seattle Public Schools is adding more doses of naloxone to high schools and offering training to all school staff.

Some parents say that's not enough.

Her child called her from a bathroom floor in their Seattle high school, unable to get up. The teen had taken something — now they were vomiting and couldn't stand.

"In the moment, all I could think of was that I have to get to my child," the mother said.

Now, a few months later, she allows herself to sob as she tells the story.

Children’s Hospital called it a near-overdose of OxyContin laced with fentanyl. Her child could have died on that school bathroom floor. We're not naming the mother to protect the family's privacy.

A total of 22 youths, age 19 or younger, died of opioid overdoses in King County last year, more than double the 2019 rate.

A group of parents is pushing Seattle Public Schools to require training for all school staff to administer naloxone, the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal medication. Currently, only nurses and security guards are mandated to be trained to use the nasal spray, and many schools lack full-time nurses or security staff.

“As we know, things can happen anywhere. If there’s only one or two people who are trained, and they’re not available right at the moment, we’re missing the opportunity to save a life," said Manuela Slye, who chairs the Seattle Council PTSA Student Safety Committee.

Slye is among the parents calling on the district to expand its naloxone availability and training.

Lisa Davidson, who manages the district's prevention and intervention programs.

"Ensuring that we have staff trained to administer naloxone on campus is a priority for Seattle Public Schools so that we can ensure that we are helping to keep our students and our families and visitors safe," Davidson said.

However, the district cannot mandate that most staff receive the training, Davidson said, unless it falls within their job description.

Since 2020, high schools in Washington state districts with at least 2,000 students have been required to keep naloxone on hand. Seattle goes beyond that, and stocks the medication in all schools. The district is now adding more doses to its largest high schools so naloxone can be stationed in different parts of the building.

All King County residents can obtain free naloxone from Kelley-Ross Pharmacy. Other sources for residents across Washington are listed here.

Free training to administer naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose is here.