Lake County is spearheading a program through the Lake County Opioid Initiative to combat the growing opiate crisis in their area. Nurses throughout Lake County are being trained in techniques to combat opiate related overdoses and provided with the medication needed to do so. Lincolnshire's Stevenson High School was chosen to be the first school in the county to receive their training for the administration of Naloxone through the Evzio auto-injector. This new delivery system provides an instant antidote for those who are overdosing on prescription pills, heroin, or any other opiates.
Substance abuse providers such as Susan McNight, strongly believe that opiate use is rising in school age children, an epidemic that many people are not realizing. In fact, both McNight and Chelsea Laliberte (co-founder of Live4Lali, the organization that is providing training to school nurses) are certain that there have been opioid overdoses within local schools that are not being publicized.
They will soon be able to see if this information is true as this summer, the Illinois Heroin Crisis Act came into law. This law states that districts must report overdoses that occur at school, and also creates precedent for nurses to be provided with training on how to treat overdoses and administer antidotes. Ensuring that this safeguard is in place throughout schools is common sense due to the rise in opiate use throughout the country.
"We are in the midst of an epidemic involving heroin and opiate medication, and the reality is that this epidemic is also affecting our kids and our schools." state Michael Nerheim, who is the co-founder of a local opiate initiative and the Lake County State Attorney. While heroin is definitely a concern, local official state that there are more overdoses of prescription pain medication in the area, raising concerns about overdoses on school grounds. It is critical to have the medication that is needed to respond quickly to these sort of crisis during school.
Laliberte says that the county is now seeing residents who are dying over overdoses who are under the age of thirteen. This drives home the need of having Naloxone in schools, although Stevenson spokesman, Jim Conrey, doubts that high school overdoses are very likely to occur. Stevenson was the first school in Lake County to receive training regardless of his skepticism, and Conrey states that having nurses trained with medication available is a helpful tool although he hopes that they never have to use it. The numbers show that this precaution may be needed though. Last year the police saved 39 people from overdosing with these auto-injectors. They received training from the Lake County Opioid Initiative, which includes Representative from the Lake County Health Department and Live4Lali. Both of these organizations are overdose prevention training entities that are licensed by the state. The difference between having this training and this medication is the difference between life and death for many addicts. This initiative was funded through a donation of the antidote that cost about three million dollars, offered by the Virginia-based Kaleo company and is one of many steps towards battling this epidemic.