March 21, 2023

Oneida County Opioid Task Force Urges Increased Naloxone Access in Schools

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Oneida County Opioid Task Force Chairs, County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr., District Attorney Scott McNamara and Sheriff Robert Maciol, recently convened a drug overdose informational session with school officials and called for increased naloxone access in their facilities.

School superintendents and staff were presented with local data showing that the risk of overdose death for young people has dramatically changed from what it was just a few years ago because of the introduction of illicit fentanyl in the drug market. The discussion focused on identifying ways to work together to address the growing issue which is taking more lives of adolescents across the country.

“The lives of our young people are at risk,” Picente said. “Deadly fentanyl has invaded nearly every drug supply in Oneida County and is readily available. It is more important now than ever to work with our schools to increase awareness, ensure we are ready to respond to overdoses in any setting and take preventive actions to protect our young people. That starts with making life-saving naloxone available in every school building in the county.”

The Opioid Task Force meeting took place March 9, 2023 at Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES in New Hartford.

“It was an honor and privilege to attend the meeting with the local school administrators to share the Task Force’s desire to have naloxone placed in each school in Oneida County,” McNamara said.

According to Overdose Detection & Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) data, there have been 66 reported overdoses in Oneida County involving individuals 18 years-old and younger since 2019. While the total number of overdoses among that age group did not increase in 2022, the number of overdoses involving a suspected opioid — such as fentanyl or a prescription opioid — rose dramatically to 43% from 15% in 2019. Moreover, Oneida County saw its first overdose death of an adolescent in 2022 due to fentanyl and methamphetamine, making rapid access to life-saving naloxone all the more critical.

“Insuring that Naloxone is available in as many places throughout our entire community, including our schools, will definitely save lives - which is our number one priority,” Maciol said.

Currently, naloxone (also known by the name brand Narcan) is available in the New Hartford and Waterville school districts. Maciol also recently directed all special patrol and special resource officers assigned to schools to carry naloxone while on duty.

Since the Opioid Task Force meeting, other school districts have expressed interest in making naloxone available in their facilities.

“Oneida-Herkimer-Madison (OHM) and Madison-Oneida (MO) BOCES are appreciative of the attention and support that Oneida County continues to provide in addressing the opioid epidemic,” said OHM District Superintendent Patricia N. Kilburn Ed.D. and MO Deputy Superintendent Lisa Decker. “To assist in this endeavor, we have offered to facilitate naloxone programs for interested component school districts in order to make sure that the only effective first aid for opioid overdose is available when it is needed. Having naloxone available in our local schools and individuals trained in how to administer it, is incredibly important and can certainly save lives. In partnership with our component school districts, we are currently exploring ways to make this naloxone program part of a larger strategy aimed at the early prevention of opioid misuse and overdose.”

The Opioid Task Force will continue discussions with all of the school districts in Oneida County, their boards of education and the BOCES that represent them, in order to ensure first aid tools are in place to respond to any potential overdose in a school setting through naloxone training and emergency cabinets or kits. Significant efforts will also be made to identify evidence-based prevention strategies that can be implemented to help stop students from adopting risky behaviors related to substance use that can lead to addiction and other harms.

Oneida County Partners