OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Opioids, including pain pills and heroin, kill four people every hour in the United States.
There's a widely used medicine called naloxone, known by brand name Narcan, that can almost instantly reverse the effects of an overdose, helping save lives.
Now, a metro school district is moving ahead with plans to begin stocking naloxone in school nurse offices.
Paramedics used Narcan 273 times in Johnson County last year. And although opioid drug overdoses have yet to occur inside a metro school, districts want to be prepared to respond if and when it does.
“We have minutes once their respiration stops in order to prevent further damage,” said Shelby Rebeck, Shawnee Mission School District director of health services.
With thousands of students, staff, parents and community members coming in and out of Shawnee Mission school buildings daily, the district doesn't want to take any chances when it comes to possibly confronting a drug overdose.
That's why it's been studying how to equip its nurses with Narcan.
“My hope is that we never, ever have to use the Narcan. That would be my hope. But certainly our nurses are trained to assess and identify the symptoms of when they would need to use it,” Rebeck said.
Rebeck compares it to another life-saving drug -- the Epi-Pen, which can save someone facing potentially fatal food allergies. People expect schools to stock it, and Shawnee Mission does.
"That gives us that comfort level that we would be able to help them in the event they needed that. So the same applies with an opioid overdose. If we have the Narcan and are able to help them, it could possibly save a life,” Rebeck said.
Several students and parents that FOX4 talked to aren't surprised at the need for stocking Narcan in schools.
“To be completely honest, no, because I'm friends with people who obviously don't do that, but I feel like there are people out there that probably do that,” student Conner Hattaway said.
The opioid overdose reversal drug is also getting cheaper. Pharmaceutical companies offer Narcan to high schools for free, and government pricing allows districts to buy two-dose kits for just $75.
“Should someone do something they may later regret, this is that life saving measure,” Rebeck said.
The Shawnee Mission School Board has approved the plan to stock Narcan. It still needs sign-off by the county commission since Johnson County EMS and the health department are partnering on the effort.
It's likely several other metro school districts will follow suit.