Policy
Empowering schools with emergency opioid antagonists
A closer look at new bills regarding schoolsite medication distribution
Illustration of person crouched down in front of a syringe and pills while covering their ears

In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in opioid overdoses. The American Medical Association states that “drug-overdose deaths among people 10-19 years old jumped 109 percent between 2019 and 2021 in the U.S. … We are facing a national opioid crisis and it’s affecting our young people at an alarming rate. Just as students carry prescription inhalers to treat an asthma attack, we must destigmatize substance-use disorders and treat naloxone as a lifesaving tool.”

Statistics such as these have prompted legislative action to ensure the safety of individuals in various settings, including schools. California has taken significant steps to empower school districts to address opioid-related emergencies effectively. Senate Bill 114 and Assembly Bill 1166 stand out as key pieces of legislation that aim to equip schools with the necessary tools and legal protection to combat opioid overdoses on district premises.

SB 114: A game-changer for school districts

Before the enactment of SB 114, schools faced challenges in promptly responding to opioid-related emergencies due to a lack of readily available antagonists. SB 114 provides crucial funding to county offices of education (COEs) specifically for the purpose of purchasing and maintaining a sufficient stock of opioid antagonists for districts and charter schools within their jurisdiction. This legislation not only allocates funds, making it more likely that districts will have the antagonists on hand when needed, but also establishes certain requirements for districts receiving opioid antagonists from COEs. These requirements encompass training protocols, storage, stocking and restocking guidelines, and reporting mechanisms to ensure responsible and effective use of the opioid antagonists within school settings.

These bills underscore the evolving landscape of school health and safety, reflect a holistic approach … and highlight the need for comprehensive measures.
AB 1166: Legal protection for first responders

In conjunction with SB 114, AB 1166 plays a pivotal role in enhancing school safety by providing legal protections for employees and volunteers who render emergency treatment by administering an opioid antagonist and/or furnishing an opioid antagonist at the scene of a suspected opioid overdose. Pursuant to AB 1166, these individuals are shielded from civil damages resulting from acts or omissions during the administration or furnishing of opioid antagonists, unless such acts constitute gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. This legal protection encourages prompt and decisive action, ensuring that potential hesitations are set aside in the face of a life-threatening situation. The bill’s author, Dr. Jasmeet Bains Bains (D-Delano), stated, “Hesitation at the scene of an opioid overdose can literally be the difference between life and death … the purpose of extending these liability protections … is to ensure no one who is able and willing to administer naloxone or opioid antagonists at the scene of an opioid overdose hesitates of withholds card for fear of wrongful prosecution.”

Expanding the scope
In addition to SB 114 and AB 1166, which specifically address opioid-related emergencies, it is essential to recognize other legislative efforts that impact the administration of medication in schools. AB 1283 authorizes districts to provide emergency stock albuterol inhalers for use by a school nurse or trained employee who volunteers to provide emergency medical aid to persons suffering or reasonably believed to be suffering from respiratory distress. AB 1810 authorizes a school nurse or other trained district employee to provide emergency anti-seizure medication to a student diagnosed with seizures, a seizure disorder or epilepsy who has been prescribed such medication from a health care provider and is suffering from a seizure. AB 1651 requires district to store emergency epinephrine auto-injectors in an accessible location upon need for emergency use and include the location in annual notices to staff. All three of these bills underscore the evolving landscape of school health and safety, reflect a holistic approach to safeguarding the well-being of students, and highlight the need for comprehensive measures to address various medical emergencies that may arise among students.

As schools implement training programs and integrate these life-saving measures into their emergency response protocols, the collective effort will foster a safer and healthier environment for all.

Districts with questions regarding administration of medication and reporting requirements should consult CSBA’s District and County Office of Education Legal Services or district legal counsel.

To reflect recent legislation related to emergency medication for opioid overdose, anti-seizure medication, epinephrine auto-injectors, and albuterol inhalers, CSBA has updated sample Administrative Regulation (AR) 5141.21 Administering Medication and Monitoring Health Conditions.

This AR provides a good starting place when considering the administration of medication to students on a continuing medication regimen or in an emergency medical situation at school and can serve as part of a long-term strategy for student safety.