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Schools, Overdose Education & Naloxone

Resources and information for schools on opioid overdose education and response.


Why naloxone and overdose education in schools?

Schools should be equipped to recognize and respond to overdose. While overdose events are rare on school property, schools should be prepared for overdose they way they are for any other medical emergency.

In WA State, SB 5380, passed in 2019, requires school districts with 2,000 or more students to have naloxone on site at each of its high schools. To support this policy, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction created guidelines and a training available here:

Opioid-Related Overdose Policy Guidelines & Training in the School Setting, January 2020, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)

All schools that have naloxone on site are required to have a policy and procedure in place. A sample policy can be found here, and a sample procedure can be found here. Any school, even those in smaller districts, can have a policy and procedure for naloxone and overdose response.

A group of four high school students of mixed race and gender look as one student in a wheelchair shows the rest of the group a flyer.

Individuals and organizations are legally allowed to have and use naloxone in case of an overdose. Learn more about the legal basis for bystander naloxone in WA State.

WA State has a Good Samaritan Law that protects the person who overdosed and the person calling 911 from prosecution for possession. This law also provides similar protection for minors in possession of alcohol. However, students may still face school-based discipline. Learn more about the Good Samaritan Law.

illustration of Washington State map in green with the state seal positioned in the middle. The seal features the face of George Washington encircled by the words The Seal of the State of Washington 1889

School nurses, substance use preventionists, student health programs, and counselors may play an important role in overdose prevention and response in schools. Schools can work to reduce overdose deaths different ways.

  • Have an Opioid Overdose policy and stock naloxone on site
  • Train staff to recognize overdose and how to respond
  • Opioid and overdose education for students, including where to get naloxone
  • Identify opioid use disorder and refer students to evidence-based care.
  • Provide naloxone directly to students at risk of an overdose

Schools should engage students, staff, and administration and identify what strategies are most important for their students population, as well as what is feasible.

Have naloxone on site and train staff how to use it.

  • Train staff on how to recognize and respond to an overdose, as described in SB 5380.
  • Training should also include information about how why students may be using opioids, current trends in youth opioid use, use disorder, and overdose deaths, and

Provide students education on substance use, opioids, opioid use disorder, overdose, naloxone and where to find it, what to do if they’re worried about someone else, and the Good Samaritan Laws.

Overdose training can be incorporated into schools in various ways, including:

  • sharing information through flyers or social media
  • substance use prevention programs
  • first aid/CPR classes or other health focused courses
  • counseling sessions with students
  • through student health programs at universities.

Learn about the basics of overdose education for youth here.

Provide naloxone to students at risk of an overdose or students who want to help others

WA State naloxone laws and the Statewide Standing Order allow organizations to distribute naloxone to individuals at risk of having or witnessing opioid overdose. Schools could train staff to be able to counsel students on overdose response and hand them a naloxone kit directly. Potential sources for training are listed below. Resources to train youth on overdose are here.

Schools can purchase naloxone using the naloxone using the statewide standing order. This can be done at a pharmacy or directly from the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture it.

Many organizations in WA State hand out naloxone to people at risk of overdose, and their friends and family. These locations may also be able to provide kits to schools. You can find locations for free naloxone here.

Emergent Biosolutions, the makers of Narcan Nasal Spray, provide a one-time donation of two naloxone kits to high schools and four kits to universities. Find the application here.

If your school is interested in giving students naloxone directly, you can reach out to the WA Department of Health Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution Program. The naloxone in this program is not currently available for schools to have on site as part of an overdose response kit.

High school-aged students travel up and down a school stairway

Expiration dates for naloxone kits are usually 2-3 years after manufacture date. Many kits in schools will expire before they are used. If you have expired or expiring kits, please contact the Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution Program at the WA Department of Health. Expired kits can be redistributed to other organizations.

Schools can partner with local organizations to find training and education on opioids, opioid use disorder, and overdose for staff.

six hands of mixed diversity raised in the shape of a lightbulb with the illustration of the base of a lightbulb