ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Oneida County Opioid Task Force met with school officials within the county at the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES in New Hartford on March 9, to have a discussion about increased access to naloxone.

The drug overdose informational session was held by Oneida County Opioid Task Force Chairs, County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr., District Attorney Scott McNamara and Sheriff Robert Maciol who all spoke about the growing issue taking the lives of more children across the county.

According to the Oneida County Opioid Task Force, naloxone (also known by the name brand Narcan) is currently available in the New Hartford and Waterville school districts. Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol has also recently directed all special patrol and special resource officers assigned to schools to carry naloxone while on duty.

The session presented local data to school superintendents and staff showing that the risk of
overdose death for adolescents has dramatically changed in just a few years because of the increase of fentanyl in the drug market.

“The lives of our young people are at risk,” Picente said. “Deadly fentanyl has invaded nearly
every drug supply in Oneida County and is readily available. It is more important now than ever
to work with our schools to increase awareness, ensure we are ready to respond to overdoses
in any setting and take preventive actions to protect our young people. That starts with making
life-saving naloxone available in every school building in the county.”

The discussion focused on identifying ways to work together to address the growing issue which is taking more lives of adolescents across the country.

“It was an honor and privilege to attend the meeting with the local school administrators to share the Task Force’s desire to have naloxone placed in each school in Oneida County,” McNamara said.

According to Overdose Detection & Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) data, there have
been 66 reported overdoses in Oneida County involving individuals 18 years old and younger
since 2019.

While the total number of overdoses among that age group did not increase in
2022, the number of overdoses involving a suspected opioid — such as fentanyl or a
prescription opioids — rose dramatically to 43% from 15% in 2019.

In just Oneida County, the first overdose death of an adolescent in 2022 was due to fentanyl and methamphetamine, making rapid access to life-saving naloxone all the more critical.

“Ensuring that Naloxone is available in as many places throughout our entire community,
including our schools, will definitely save lives – which is our number one priority,” Maciol said.

Since the Opioid Task Force meeting, the Oneida County Opioid Task Force said other school districts have expressed interest in making naloxone available in their facilities.

“Oneida-Herkimer-Madison (OHM) and Madison-Oneida (MO) BOCES are appreciative of the
attention and support that Oneida County continues to provide in addressing the opioid
epidemic,” said OHM District Superintendent Patricia N. Kilburn Ed.D. and MO Deputy
Superintendent Lisa Decker. “To assist in this endeavor, we have offered to facilitate naloxone
programs for interested component school districts in order to make sure that the only effective
first aid for opioid overdose is available when it is needed. Having naloxone available in our
local schools and individuals trained in how to administer it, is incredibly important and can
certainly save lives. In partnership with our component school districts, we are currently
exploring ways to make this naloxone program part of a larger strategy aimed at the early
prevention of opioid misuse and overdose.”

The Opioid Task Force says they will continue discussions with all school districts in Oneida County, their boards of education and the BOCES that represent them, in order to ensure naloxone training and emergency cabinets or kits are in place to respond to any potential overdose in a school setting.

The task force also says significant efforts will be made to identify evidence-based prevention strategies that can be implemented to help stop students from adopting risky behaviors related to substance use that can lead to addiction and other harm.