Several Clark County school districts have made changes to address the expanding drug crisis, including one district that now keeps overdose revival drugs at its schools and more prevention efforts in the classroom.
A survey of six public Clark County school districts revealed one overdose incident that took place on school property last year — an overdose in the parking lot of Indian Valley School during its latchkey program.
The Southeastern Local School District now has naloxone kits — the drug used to revive overdose victims better known by its brand name Narcan — at both Southeastern High School and Miami View Elementary School as a proactive measure, Superintendent David Shea said.
Southeastern is the lone district in Clark County with Narcan on site.
“My initial thoughts were to have this for student in case, God forbid, something happened, that we have this on hand,” Shea said. “Through further discussions (we thought) what about parents or someone attending an event? That really hadn’t entered into my mind as much as a student.
“If you save a life, that’s a good deal. You can’t knock that. We’ve been fortunate we haven’t had an issue here,” he said.
South Charleston resident Kelly Mickens, whose daughter is a first grader at Miami View, understands the need for Narcan at the school, but also said she reservations about it.
“It’s an idea to be thrown around,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent on board with it, but I understand if it’s something they feel they’ve got to have there.”
It’s always a possibility because the drug problem is rampant in Clark County and Ohio, Mickens said.
A record 86 people are suspected to have died from a drug overdose this year, including 66 confirmed deaths — the majority of which involve illicit fentanyl that’s 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin, Clark County Coroner Dr. Richard Marsh said.
Clark County has seen nearly 800 overdoses this year, including 620 in Springfield, according to statistics provided by Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson.
‘All schools will have it’
A Southeastern school board member asked Shea to consider bringing Narcan into the buildings during the last school year. The kits were ordered at the end of the last school year and were donated to the district at no cost, Shea said.
While Southeastern may be the only school with Narcan on-site in case of an emergency, several superintendents told the Springfield News-Sun they plan to discuss it with their school board members.
More schools likely will stock Narcan, Shea said, especially as more and more people overdose in public.
“It’s going to heighten awareness,” he said. “Before it’s all said and done, all schools will have it.”
Southeastern school nurses are trained on how to use the medicine and Shea said he’ll likely have teachers and staff members also taught.
The biggest challenge is figuring out where to store Narcan kits, he said. It’s currently locked down with other medicine at Southeastern but could be placed with defibrillators.
Shea doesn’t believe South Charleston has a significant drug problem but said he’s not naive enough to think the activity isn’t occurring. Narcan is on site simply as a proactive measure, he said.
“We have a great town but just like any town, we have challenges we have to prepare for,” Shea said.
Mickens hopes the police can keep drugs off the street in the village so that the Narcan is never needed.
“It’s good they’re being proactive,” Mickens said. “I understand why they wouldn’t want an accident to happen because they weren’t prepared, even if it’s for someone from another school district.”
Overdoses at schools
Last fall a person was walking to their car to leave Indian Valley and noticed a woman was slumped over with children in the car, Greenon Superintendent Brad Silvus said.
The person tried to get the woman’s attention but couldn’t wake her up and then sought out a school nurse. Staff members then called 9-1-1, said Silvus, who also serves as the co-director of the Families of Addicts Springfield chapter.
The person was revived with assistance from the Enon police department, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Mad River Twp. EMS, he said.
Silvus and school board members will discuss the district’s policies and procedures regarding overdoses and similar situations, he said. He will also speak to school nurses about their comfort level with Narcan.
Several other schools in Ohio have had overdoses, Silvus said, including some at football games in the Toledo area.
“We have to remember what our role is as a school,” he said. “It’s really no different than having a defibrillator.”
He’s also spoken with other districts about their policies. Local districts had hoped for some guidance from the state, he said, but no directives have been issued.
“Most people are still up in the air,” Silvus said. “If there’s any doubt, we would call for help immediately.”
Several other districts, including Springfield, Tecumseh, Clark-Shawnee and Northeastern, have yet to discuss having Narcan ready in case of an overdose, local superintendents said.
Springfield City School District will talk about in the future, Superintendent Bob Hill said.
“I don’t know what the right answer is for that,” he said. “You want to be prepared, but is it the school’s responsibility or is it the police and fire department’s responsibility? Where does that fall and is there a line that you have to draw? It’s not a discussion most school districts have broached at this point.”
Clark-Shawnee hasn’t had any overdoses on its sites but the topic is on the school board’s radar, Superintendent Gregg Morris said.
The district has seen multiple children affected by the crisis throughout Clark County, he said. The district has two counselors with mental health backgrounds on staff to work with students.
“You see the stress on students, many times not living with parents,” Morris said. “It definitely affects our kids and it particularly affects them with what happens outside the school day. We’re asked to do more and more, but if there is a need for our students, we’re going to do it.”
Springfield also has a crisis intervention team to counsel children, Hill said.
“I can’t imagine what that does to a kid,” he said of students with family members who overdose.
Northeastern’s school board has discussed the issue, Superintendent John Kronour said, but will likely stick with its current policy of calling EMS rather than stocking Narcan.
“Our plan would be to call 9-1-1,” he said.
The Clark County Combined Health District’s 2015 Middle School Youth Risk Behavior study showed about 24 percent of middle school students surveyed said they tried alcohol at least one time, while another 11 percent tried marijuana and 6 percent tried cocaine.
More than 34 percent of high school students said they tried marijuana, according to the 2015 high school study. The study also showed more than 5 percent of students had tried heroin one or more times.
An updated study will be completed later this year, Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said. More education can help students make better choices, he said, but it’s difficult to find resources to implement programs.
“One of the things we have to realize is that it’s not on the state test,” Patterson said. “The schools are being pulled in lots of different directions.”
Research shows children who use drugs at an early age are more likely to use as adults, he said.
“It’s not a good place for those kids to be,” Patterson said.
The Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education released in February its list of recommendations on options for implementing age-appropriate substance abuse education in schools across all grade levels.
The 15 recommendations included required reporting for schools on substance abuse education, social and emotional content standards, expanded drug abuse education across all curriculum and continuing D.A.R.E. programs.
More awareness is always better, Silvus said. Some one-time programs that have been used aren’t as effective as they’ve been in the past, he said. Rather it needs to be a regular, ongoing part of a student’s education over the years, Silvus said.
“It’s just not something that’s going to go away,” he said.
Greenon recently purchased new health textbooks that address issues with opioids, Silvus said.
“The scary part is trying to figure out where we put that,” Silvus said. “If we put it some place, what are we taking out? We have to find ways to do that but it’s definitely something we’re looking at.”
It’s also important for parents to reinforce the lessons taught by these types of programs by speaking with children about the effects of illicit drugs, Northeastern’s Kronour said.
“Parents need to talk to their kids about drug usage and the damages that it creates, not only for their own personal lives but society in general,” he said.
Botvin life skills
A new program — Botvin Life Skills — will be piloted in two schools in Clark County, said Hill, who also serves as president of the Family Children’s First Council.
“Anything we can do from a curriculum standpoint to further educate our students, we’ll continue to look at,” Hill said.
While data for middle school children using drugs is trending downward in recent years, Family and Children First Council Executive Director Leslie Crew wanted to find a way to decrease the numbers even more.
Local schools are stretched with preparing kids to take state tests, she said, leaving no time for character building.
“The day-to-day isn’t about manners or being appropriate in relationships,” Crew said.
It led her to research Botvin Life Skills, an evidence-based curriculum used in 23 counties across Ohio, including all five districts in Champaign County.
The program will be used in health classes, Crew said, which includes sections on social and emotional resiliency, drug and alcohol prevention and peer relationship skills. It takes place over three years, meaning it can be implemented in third through fifth grades and sixth through eighth grades.
The program will be done in addition to the D.A.R.E. program, she said. It costs about $2,600 and will be paid for through grants from the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison Counties, the Community Health Foundation and United Way. It’s also been endorsed by the Clark County Substance Abuse Task Force.
It will kick-off this year in third grade classes at Miami View Elementary, she said, as well as sixth grade at Tecumseh Middle School. She hopes every district in Clark County will offer the program in the future.
Greenon will examine how it can use the Botvin curriculum, Silvus said.
The earlier the skills can be learned, Crew said it will help students resist the temptation to use drugs.
“That exposure is just so crazy right now that they need anything they can get to say: ‘I want to have a future. I don’t want to make poor choices for myself,’” Crew said. “It also helps them in a judgment-free environment to understand there might be people in your family that do (drugs), but here’s how you can avoid doing that … Having the conversation in regular day-to-day life is a good thing.”
SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR
ABOUT THIS SERIES
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and heroin problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about multiple overdoses in one weekend and efforts to expand treatment options. This year, the News-Sun will take a deep dive into the community’s drug epidemic and what local leaders are doing to solve the problem.
By the numbers
86: Unconfirmed, suspected drug deaths so far this year, a record number
66: Confirmed drug deaths in 2017
800: Estimated number of drug overdoses in Clark County this year, the majority attributed to heroin and fentanyl