On September 30, 2014, Governor Corbett signed into law Senate Bill 1164, now known as Act 139 of 2014, which allows licensed medical professionals, such as school nurses, as well as trained law enforcement officers to administer Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, an antidote for heroin or other opioid overdoses. Subsequently, on September 18, 2015, the Secretaries of Education, Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs sent a joint letter to District Superintendents encouraging Districts to consider stocking and being prepared to administer Naloxone. Act 139 is not absolutely clear about its application to Districts. However, the authority and immunity that it provides does cover Districts and the risks of harm posed by even erroneous Naloxone administration appear to be extremely low.
Act 139’s five main elements are that it:
- Establishes a form of good Samaritan immunity from criminal prosecution for persons who call for help in such an emergency.
- Establishes procedures for first responder agencies to follow in order to stock and equip their responders with the drug under the supervision of the medical director of an emergency medical services agency.
- Authorizes medical professionals otherwise having prescription authority to prescribe and dispense Naloxone to “a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose or family member, friend or other person in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose.”
- Exempts from the provisions of the Drug Act the handling of Naloxone by a first responder or “a person or organization” acting at the direction of a health care professional so long as their Naloxone administration is without charge.
- Establishes immunity from civil, criminal or professional licensure liability for prescribing health care professionals, as well as for a “person” relating to their involvement with Naloxone, so long as they act in good faith and with reasonable care, which are to be presumed if they have had the free training being offered.Act 139 does not appear to have been written with Districts specifically in mind and lacks express language including school entities. It has extensive language addressing how the authority given to first responder organizations is to operate. However, the applicability to school entities depends on the reasoning that a school entity is a “person in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose”. That reasoning is supported by the definitions of “person” in the Statutory Construction Act and in the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act, which specifically include government entities.Nonetheless, the definitions of “person” in the Statutory Construction Act and the Drug Act provide a sound basis for concluding that school entities are within the authority and protections given by Act 139. However, just like with the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), we recommend that you have a policy or procedure, which addresses the administration of Naloxone. Some of the items that your policy or procedure should contain are:
- Specify that the health care professional supervising building-level administration of Naloxone is the school nurse or other authorized individual.
- Establish recordkeeping/inventory procedures for stocking and storage and to ensure supplies are refreshed as recommended.
- Establish internal and external reporting procedures for any incidents where an overdose occurs and Naloxone is administered.If you should have any questions regarding the above or need assistance with developing a policy or procedure to address the administration of Naloxone, please contact Al Maiello at [email protected] or Mike Brungo at [email protected] to discuss this matter further.