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Few Indiana schools report using Narcan despite dozens of overdose runs

Schools are required to report Narcan administration to Indiana Department of Education
Butts with Narcan.JPG
Posted at 5:01 PM, Aug 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-30 17:28:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS— Very few Indiana schools have reported they’ve used Narcan, this despite dozens of emergency runs to schools because of possible overdoses, WRTV Investigates has learned.

Narcan, also known as naloxone, is a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose caused by heroin, fentanyl or prescription opioids.

Since January 1, 2022, emergency responders in Marion County have been dispatched to schools 109 times for suspected overdoses.

Dispatched Overdoses

Despite those numbers, only one Marion County school has reported using Narcan since 2017 — Franklin Township used the medication once during the 2022-2023 school year, records show.

A 2017 law requires schools to report when they use Narcan to the Indiana Department of Education.

Below is a breakdown of the reports filed with the Indiana Department of Education since 2017.

Indiana schools reported using Narcan:

  • 2022-23     15 times
  • 2021-22     3 times
  • 2020-21     4 times
  • 2019-20     2 times
  • 2018-19     0 times
  • 2017-18     0 times

Here’s which schools have reported using the medication:

WRTV Investigates surveyed two dozen Central Indiana school districts and all of them told WRTV they are stocking Narcan, many have been for years.

But for some districts, like MSD Wayne Township, this is the first year they've used the medication.

“We've seen an increase in the number of potential overdoses that have occurred on campus,” said superintendent Dr. Jeff Butts. “We felt it was important for us to make sure we have the tools and resources available for our staff to be able to react."

Dr. Butts said he would have liked to have his staff trained on Narcan sooner, however, the pandemic slowed things down.

“We were in the process of doing the training, but COVID. Without a doubt through that three-year period slowed everything down,” said Dr. Butts. “There was a downside before when you're talking about cost and liability, but we've come so far the past few years. None of those exist anymore."

Overdose Lifeline, an Indianapolis nonprofit, has distributed 900 Narcan kits to Indiana schools in 50 counties since June 2022, including MSD Wayne Township.

Overdose Lifeline also trains school employees, including nurses, administrators, and school resource officers on how to use it.

Wayne Township staff is trained on providing Narcan

“Each time one of these naloxone gets used, it really does save a life," said Cameron McNeely, director of Youth Education at Overdose Lifeline. “It’s finally getting to the point where unfortunately a lot of schools don’t have the option anymore. They need to bring something in like this.”

More schools are also stocking Narcan because of a 2017 law that says school employees are not liable for civil damages resulting from administering Narcan.

The 2017 law also requires districts to report to IDOE when a school employee uses Narcan, but WRTV Investigates found very few schools are reporting they’re administering the medication.

WRTV Investigates shared the numbers with Overdose Lifeline.

McNeely was surprised at how few schools have reported using Narcan.

“It seems like there's a lot of hesitancy in the schools that have been trained to even use it,” said McNeely. “It's a pretty serious accusation of that young person — we think you're under the influence of opioids and having an overdose, so we're going to give you this Narcan."

McNeely offered another explanation for the low school numbers.

“A lot of the substance use may be going on at home versus the school,” said McNeely. “With a little more pessimistic approach, I’m worried — do people know how to recognize what’s actually happening? Do they know the person is overdosing versus they don’t feel very well?”

A deadly epidemic

Opioid overdoses can kill, and they do.

In Indiana, 1,732 people died of opioid overdoses last year and nearly 400 have died so far this year.

Click here or on the chart below to view the full list of Opioid related deaths by county.

Two Avon High School students, Noah Pillow and Raymond Jones, died of suspected overdoses this year— both happened off school property.

On August 29, 2022, an Avon High School employee called 911 to report a possible overdose involving a 15-year-old student.

The employee tells the operator that the student's breathing has become rapid. Experts say trouble breathing can be a sign of an overdose.

The 911 operator tells her to go ahead and give the student the Narcan.

OPERATOR: Hendricks County 911. What's the location and town of your emergency?
SCHOOL EMPLOYEE:  Avon High School.  We have a student that says she took a bunch of pills. She is not sure what she took.
OPERATOR: Is she awake?
SCHOOL EMPLOYEE: She's awake and answering questions. She had the pills in an Aleve bottle.  I have Narcan on hand. I haven't given her any. She wasn't sure what she took.
OPERATOR:  Was this accidental?
SCHOOL EMPLOYEE: No, intentional.
OPERATOR: Is she breathing normally?
SCHOOL EMPLOYEE: Kind of rapid.

“It’s not going to have any ill effect on you if you’re not having an overdose,” said Cameron McNeely with Overdose Lifeline.


Overdose Lifeline is working to prevent overdoses among students, whether they happen on or off school property.

“I think the next step after that would be to educate the public about what naloxone is, that it's OK to use it,” said McNeely. “It's OK to have it around."

Overdose Lifeline is working to place boxes and dispensers at more public places, like fire stations.

Wayne Township superintendent Dr. Jeff Butts plans to take Narcan with him to school events in other districts.

"These two are mine,” said Dr. Butts. “I carry these with me just in case."

Butts with Narcan.JPG

MSD Wayne Township also plans to open up Narcan training to other staffers who want to learn how to administer it.

Everyone trained through Overdose Lifeline receives two doses of Narcan, and the medication will also be stocked anywhere an AED is located.

If you’re interested in Overdose Lifeline training for your school, call 1-812-564-1310.