Camden County is equipping school bus drivers with Narcan kits
At least four Camden County school district are participating in the program for bus drivers, with 104 drivers already trained to administer naloxone.
After equipping its schools with Narcan kits nearly a year ago, Camden County is now giving the life-saving treatment to school bus drivers to use in case of a student’s suspected fentanyl overdose.
“Naloxone is a critical tool in our battle against the opioid and overdose epidemic,” county Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said in a statement. “We need to keep this medicine on hand in every corner of our community because you never know when you are going to need it. Unfortunately, we know that it is possible to lose a child to overdose in a school setting.”
The county launched the pilot program for bus drivers last spring in the Black Horse Pike Regional School District, and on Tuesday announced the kits would be distributed to school bus drivers across the county. Participation is voluntary and the county hopes every school bus will have a kit.
So far, Black Horse Pike and four other districts -— Winslow, Pennsauken, Eastern Regional and Camden County Technical — are participating in the program, according to Dan Keashen, a county spokesman. Already, the county said it has trained 104 bus drivers on how to administer the opioid overdose-reversing drug.
The kits are assigned to drivers who are responsible for bringing them on the bus daily as they transport students. Each kit contains naloxone spray, the generic name for Narcan, gloves and directions.
Black Horse Pike bus driver Stacey Kendall embraced the program.
“As a bus driver, we do not have the authority to stop and scream for help,” she said at a news conference.
In January 2022, a 12-year-old boy was found unresponsive on a school bus at nearby Gloucester Township Elementary School. A school nurse performed CPR until emergency responders arrived with Narcan.
The boy later died from what was ruled drug intoxication from fentanyl. His uncle was charged in his death for directing the boy to clean drug paraphernalia that contained fentanyl.
Camden County began installing the Narcan kits in public, private, and parochial schools a year ago, and is believed to be the only county in New Jersey doing that. The bright red, metal Narcan kits were strategically placed in locations where they can be reached quickly in case of an emergency. A cheap synthetic opioid, fentanyl is 50 times as lethal as heroin.
“We hope to never have to use it on our students or staff, but if there is an overdose, we know we have a lifesaving antidote that can be accessed for the opportunity to render aid and save a life,” said Black Horse Pike Regional Superintendent Brian Repici. “The realities of the world dictate to us the need for Narcan in schools, and we never want to be put in a dire situation where we are not prepared to act or, for that matter, don’t have the proper tools to effectively act to save a student’s life.”
Keashen said the county has spent about $4,000 to distribute the kits to bus drivers. The program is expected to cost about $21,500 to give the kits to all drivers in the county, he said.
The county has added the boxes to churches, boarding houses, apartment complexes, shelters, food pantries, courtrooms, and social service facilities. As Narcan has become more widely available, some experts say everyone should consider including it in their first aid kit.