Bill Establishes Opioid Prevention and Education Programs In California Schools

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Special to the Vanguard

Sacramento, CA – The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill by Senator Dave Cortese that seeks to prevent opioid overdoses at public schools and would also give students and their families’ information about the growing fentanyl crisis. SB 10 would require that school safety plans – which are already mandated by law – include concrete strategies for the prevention and treatment of an opioid overdose, such as new campus safety rules and regulations concerning fentanyl on campus.

“The opioid crisis has claimed countless lives, and has devastated families and community across California. We cannot continue to wait for more young people to fall victim to the deadly impact of fentanyl and other opioids. We must take action now,” said Senator Cortese (D-San Jose). “My SB 10 would create opioid prevention and education programs in schools. We want to give school staff, students, and their families’ information about the danger of this lethal drug.”

School safety plans are comprehensive documents that cover a range of emergencies and dangerous activity that can occur at school, including active shooters, hate crimes, bullying and discrimination, and natural disasters. Yet the law does not currently require educators to articulate plans for addressing overdoses.

Fentanyl kills an average of 18 Californians each day, and the drug is responsible for one in every five deaths of young people. It kills more youth than all other drugs combined.

Over the past few years in Senator Cortese’s legislative district of Santa Clara County, the number of youth who died of fentanyl has increased by 365 percent, killing 135 young people in 2021, the latest year for which data is available.

SB 10 is named in honor of Melanie Ramos, a 15-year-old who overdosed on fentanyl and died in the bathroom of her high school in Hollywood. Melanie and her friend had no idea they were taking fentanyl.

The bipartisan bill would also require the California Department of Education to develop training materials on the use of emergency opioid antagonists for school personnel, and safety materials for parents, guardians, and students. SB 10 is supported by California’s teachers and other school and law enforcement groups and aligns with the Governor’s budget proposal to make sure every middle and high school in California can easily access and afford the opioid antagonist Naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan.

SB 10 will:

  • Require local education agencies (school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools) to embed opioid overdose prevention and treatment in their School Safety Plans, including synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl; and
  • Distribute Opioid Antagonist Training & School Resource Guides to all local education agencies regarding the emergency use of opioid antagonists, such as naloxone, on school campuses; and
  • Distribute safety advice to families regarding opioid overdose prevention including through student orientation materials and through posting online information; and
  • Establish a State Working Group on Fentanyl Overdose/Abuse Prevention focused on public education, awareness, prevention and minimizing overdoses; and
  • Set up a framework to incentivize County Working Groups on Fentanyl Overdose/Abuse Prevention like the successful model in Santa Clara County through a new state grant program.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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