Arizona Department of Education unveils new plan to protect students from fentanyl

May 8, 2024, 4:35 AM

STOPIT plan to protect students from fentanyl...

Education authorities in Arizona want to fight the spread of fentanyl in schools. (Photos: Arizona Department of Public Safety, Pexels)

(Photos: Arizona Department of Public Safety, Pexels)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Education has formed a new task force dedicated to reducing fentanyl overdoses in schools.

The School Training Overdose Preparedness and Intelligence Taskforce — or STOPIT — aims to educate students and school staff about the risks of using fentanyl.

There are also plans to get overdose-reversing drugs stocked in Arizona schools, according to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne.

“We will work to get Narcan into schools and assist training for youths,” Horne said.

Narcan, known generically as naloxone, is a drug that can reverse the effects of opioids like fentanyl. It’s known for helping to prevent overdoses.

Horne and other leaders announced the STOPIT task force to fight the issue of opioid overdoses during a Tuesday press conference.

Arizona students and opioid overdoses over the past few years

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there were more than 1,900 opioid-related deaths and more than 4,000 confirmed overdoses in Arizona last year.

People aged 25-34 had the highest likelihood of suffering from a non-fatal overdose. They made up 33.5% of non-fatal overdoses in 2023.

Data shows 3.2% of non-fatal overdoses occurred in people 17 or younger in 2023.

Youths are uniquely vulnerable to opioid-related health issues, authorities said. In fact, 26 people under the age of 18 died last year due to overdoses.

Furthermore, over 80 youths died of opioid overdoses from 2021 to 2022, according to Horne.

“Four actually died in school,” he said. “They could have been saved.”

STOPIT task force aims to prevent student overdoses

Another goal for STOPIT will be educating students and staff about fentanyl so youth never come across the drug in the first place.

That’s being done in tandem with the Sold Out Youth Foundation, a national nonprofit. It provides online materials about the risks of drug use, as well as a curriculum that’s free for schools to access.

Dr. Holly Geyer, a local addiction medicine specialist with the Mayo Clinic, also wants to work on drug risk awareness with STOPIT.

“Seven out of 10 fentanyl pills on our streets have enough fentanyl to kill the average American adult,” Geyer said. “Kids need to understand this is lethal. This is deadly. There is no opportunity for experimentation in 2024.”

Horne indicated schools will be responsible for buying Narcan. However, he said he wants to find a way to get wholesale prices on the drug.

“The districts can afford it at $25 or $50 dollars per school, minimum,” Horne said.

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Arizona Department of Education unveils new plan to protect students from fentanyl