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Bill Requiring WA Schools to Carry Overdose Reversal Medication Heads to Inslee

According to the WA Department of Health, opioid-related fatality rates among adolescents ages 14 to 18 surged almost threefold from 2016 to 2022.

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Washington House and Senate lawmakers have unanimously passed a bill requiring all public, charter and certain tribal schools in the state to carry naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication also known by the brand name Narcan.

Senate Bill 5804, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, will move to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law, Kuderer’s office said.

“We all wish we weren’t here as a nation, but we are,” Kuderer said. “This bill is about saving lives.”

Washington has seen a dramatic increase in opioid overdose deaths among young people, particularly due to fentanyl, a cheap and devastating drug.

According to the state Department of Health, rates of opioid-related fatalities among adolescents ages 14 to 18 surged almost threefold from 2016 to 2022. The agency says the increase can largely be attributed to fentanyl.

Current Washington law requires school districts with over 2,000 students to carry at least one box of naloxone in each of its high schools. But students at Lake Washington High School, who brought the bill to Kuderer, told lawmakers during committee hearings that over half of the state’s districts have fewer than 2,000 students.

The group of students said in a statement that they believe the legislation “will mark a critical turning point in protecting students from the opioid epidemic.”

SB 5804 is part of a larger effort by Washington lawmakers to combat youth opioid use and the broader opioid epidemic. The state Department of Health in January also said they would offer every high school in Washington a box of naloxone for free.

“Despite being divided along party lines on many things, we’re unified in this front,” said Rep. Mari Leavitt, D-University Place, during a bipartisan press conference on the opioid epidemic.

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: info@washingtonstatestandard.com. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

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