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Washington Senate approves requirement for all public schools to have naloxone

The overdose reversal medication is only required in larger high schools under current law

The Washington Senate approved a bill to expand an existing state law that requires all school districts with more than 2,000 students to carry a naloxone kit in high schools. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Jerry Cornfield Washington State Standard

Washington moved a step closer to requiring all public, charter and tribal schools in the state to stock medication that can reverse opioid overdoses.

The state Senate last week unanimously approved legislation to expand existing law, which mandates school districts with 2,000 or more students must have at least one kit of the medication, known as naloxone or Narcan, in high schools only.

“Unfortunately, that isn’t enough. Some very bright, dedicated, passionate students from Lake Washington High School came to me and pointed out that we have forgotten about the rest of the school system,” said Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, the bill’s prime sponsor.

Kuderer called Senate Bill 5804 a simple fix with a small price tag — about $85 a year per school.

It requires schools to obtain and maintain at least one kit. School districts will need to adopt an opioid-related overdose policy covering how medications will be obtained, maintained, distributed and administered.

“Having these opioid overdose reversal medications in our schools is important,” said Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee.

Senate Bill 5804 now goes to the House for consideration.

Washington has seen a dramatic increase in opioid overdose deaths among young people, particularly due to fentanyl, a cheap and devastating drug.

According to the state Department of Health, rates of opioid-related fatalities among adolescents ages 14 to 18 surged almost threefold from 2016 to 2022. The agency says the increase can largely be attributed to fentanyl.

A separate Senate bill would require schools to give opioid and fentanyl-use prevention education at least once a year to all students in seventh and ninth grade.

Under Senate Bill 5923, state education officials must also include substance-use prevention in health and physical education learning standards for middle and high schools starting next school year. The legislation is awaiting action in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The Washington State Standard is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news outlet that provides original reporting, analysis and commentary on Washington state government and politics. 

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