Md. bill tackles school overdoses, opioid education

WASHINGTON — Maryland lawmakers passed the bill that will require schools to stock the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone.

The “Start Talking Maryland Act” also will require school systems to develop lesson plans on the risks of opioids — including heroin — starting in the third grade.

In Montgomery County, school nurses who are county Health Department staff members already have access to Naloxone and are trained in how to administer the drug. The bill that passed in Annapolis would require all schools to have Naloxone and would expand training to designated staff members — not just school nurses.

In March, Toni Torsch, the mother of a 17-year-old who died of a heroin overdose after becoming addicted to opioids when he was treated for a shoulder injury, told lawmakers during a Senate hearing: “We need you to do something. The old programs — the ‘Just Say No’ programs — they’re just a slogan.”

But Torsch told members of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee that education, along with treatment, “is the key” to avoiding tragedies like the one experienced by her family.

Education efforts that start in the elementary years are not new, said Donna Mezyck, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses.

“We’ve done that with tobacco, we’ve done that with alcohol, and we’re adding opioid misuse awareness to that,” Mezyck said.

The bill is expected to be presented to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature next week. Hogan has made dealing with the state’s opioid crisis a priority. 

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