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Board member wants naloxone in Rio Rancho high schools

Rio Rancho Public Schools board member Catherine Cullen is on a mission to have the potential overdose lifesaver naloxone available in Rio Rancho high schools and possibly the middle schools, as well.

Rio Rancho Public Schools board member Catherine Cullen

Catherine Cullen

She made a presentation about naloxone, which is used to block or reverse the effects of opioids in overdose situations, to the school board last month.

A procedure for the drug’s use and cost plan will be presented to the board this month, she said.

“Everyone supported it and Tonna (Burgos, executive director of student services) was already aware of it,” Cullen said. “(It) will also possibly go into middle schools, as well.”

It’s not that Cullen has heard that any high school in Rio Rancho has a plethora of opiate abusers. But if one life can be saved, how can that be wrong? she asked.

“Rio Rancho Public Schools should lead by example,” she said. Albuquerque Public Schools doesn’t have a naloxone program.

“You hope that you never have to use it; it’s another tool for our toolbox,” Cullen said. “Time is of the essence (in an overdose).”

The 21st Century Cures Act, signed by President Obama, authorizes giving states $1 billion over two years to prevent and treat the abuse of opioids and addictive drugs, such as heroin. All 50 states are competing for the financial help.

Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, is effective in the treatment only of an opioid-based overdose – morphine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, methadone, heroin, etc.

“A lot of people don’t talk about (heroin addiction),” Cullen said. “It doesn’t discriminate.”

She gave an hourlong presentation to fellow board members last month at the New Mexico School Boards Association’s meeting in Albuquerque.

Gov. Susana Martinez signed House Bill 277 into law on Feb. 9, 2016. It provides for the “authorized possession, storage, distribution, prescribing and administration of opioid antagonists; providing for immunity from civil and criminal liability; declaring an emergency.”

Rio Rancho Fire Rescue carries the drug, according to chief Paul Bearce.

“Naloxone has been part of the scope of practice for EMTs and paramedics for at least two decades. … We have used naloxone 48 times in 2016,” he said.

The Albuquerque City Council recently approved a bill adding naloxone to first-aid kits in city buildings open to the public.

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