As fentanyl overdoses rise, DOE works to place Narcan at all school campuses

As the number of fentanyl overdoses in Hawaii climbs, Honolulu’s director of Emergency Services is joining a growing list of officials calling for Narcan to be
Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 2:39 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 12, 2022 at 7:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the number of fentanyl overdoses in Hawaii climbs, Honolulu’s director of Emergency Services is joining a growing list of officials calling for Narcan to be placed inside every Hawaii school.

The nasal spray is used to reverse an opioid overdose.

Right now, only a fraction of Hawaii schools are armed with the antidote. But that’s expected to change.

After months of not knowing exactly where the state Department of Education stands on the issue, school officials now confirm they’re working toward improving access to Narcan at all DOE schools and offices.

It’s expected to happen sometime early next year.


“Everyone likes to think drugs aren’t being done at my school. Or not with our kids. Or we have good kids,” said Jim Ireland, director of Honolulu’s Emergency Services Department.

“But the fact is kids experiment with drugs. And the problem with fentanyl is it can be one and done.”

He said if someone has an opioid overdose, an ambulance may not be able to respond in time.

“We can’t always be there in a minute or two, it may take a little while,” Ireland said.

State Department of Health data shows Hawaii’s EMS crews responded to more fentanyl overdose calls in October than ever before ― a total of 38 statewide.

That was up 60%, from 24, in September ― which at the time was also a record.

Ireland said, “We’re seeing fentanyl overdoses here, in all ages of people, from young to old.”

Fentanyl is suspected in the deaths of at least two young people on Hawaii Island since September: An 18-year-old man and an underage girl.

According to the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office, a 14-year-old girl also died from a fentanyl overdose in November last year.

To date, the state Department of Education says there have been no fentanyl overdoses reported on school property. Officials also say the drug has never been confiscated on any campus.

“I hope nobody overdoses at a school in Hawaii. I hope we never see that,” Ireland said. “But if it happens I want the school officials, the teachers, whoever’s there to be able to save that child, that young adult.”

Currently, Hawaii Keiki Nurses carry Narcan in their emergency medication bag. The thing is, those nurses aren’t at the vast majority of school campuses.

HNN confirmed there are just 54 statewide, most of whom work on Oahu.

Meanwhile, there are 295 DOE schools.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said in a statement:

“The Department is collaborating with the Hawaii Keiki program and the Department of Health to: provide training to employees on opioid overdose response, improve access to naloxone for all HIDOE schools and offices, and develop materials for our school communities to prevent and reduce the risk of overdose.”

School officials confirmed the decision was made after consulting with the state Attorney General’s Office.

“It may not need to be in every single classroom,” Ireland added.

“If we think of it like AED, when we put them in the airport, we put them every 90 seconds. So no matter where the emergency was, help was only was only a minute or two away. Life-saving help.”

There are grants that will cover the cost of Narcan for organizations that work with children.