New school health procedures are headed to Florida’s districts to address student opioid overdoses or seizures while in school.
In a Friday memo, the Florida Department of Education notified school superintendents to inform school boards of “new responsibilities and considerations related to school health” following new laws from 2022 legislative session — one dealing with the care of students with epilepsy and seizure disorders and another dealing with opioid overdoses.
SB 544 deals with a variety of opioid issues, including authorization for publics schools to purchase and store an opioid antagonist called naloxone on campuses.
“Children are dying in schools because of overdoses. It’s sad but it’s true,” bill sponsor Sen. Jim Boyd said on the Senate floor in early February as the chamber discussed the legislation. He is a Republican who represents Manatee and part of Hillsborough counties.
Staff analysis of the legislation says that opioid antagonists “block one or more of the opioid receptors in the central or peripheral nervous system” and can reverse the effects of opioids in the system, potentially saving the life of someone experiencing an overdose.
Several drugs classify as opioids, including fentanyl, methadone, heroin, oxycodone, morphine, and hydrocodone.
According to a report from the Medical Examiners Commission through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 19 children younger than 18 died after ingesting fentanyl during 2020.
That same report shows three deaths of children under 18 from oxycodone and one death from methadone, as well as additional deaths of kids under 18 with opioids detected in their systems.
The most recent report was published in November 2021 and amended in April 2022.
The new law also exempts school district employees from civil liability if they administer an opioid antagonist to a student under Florida’s Good Samaritan Act. The law will go into effect on July 1, 2022.
The Department of Education also highlighted legislative changes for handling students with seizure disorders.
HB 173 establishes what are called “individualized seizure action plans” outlining recommended care for these students. These plans are to be developed by a medical professional in consultation with a student’s parents.
The legislation was co-sponsored by Rep. Nicholas Duran and Rep. Mike Gottlieb, both South Florida Democrats.
The plans should describe the symptoms associated with the student’s seizure disorder and outline when to administer anti-seizure medications if applicable, among other requirements.
This new law will also be effective July 1, 2022.
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix