COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – This fall, more school nurses across South Carolina will have an opioid overdose-reversal drug on hand and will be able to administer the medication.

The move is being hailed by recovery centers and nonprofit organizations as a potentially life-saving measure that could make all the difference in critical situations.

The law, which became effective in mid-May, expands the range of life-saving medications that school nurses can possess and administer.

As part of this expansion, school nurses in South Carolina can now carry naloxone, also known as Narcan, an essential tool for combating opioid overdoses. The legislation further extends the authority to trained school staff, enabling them to administer Narcan to anyone suspected of experiencing an overdose.

Michael McLain, community engagement director at The Phoenix Center, said the law removes a barrier. Previously, only first responders, like school resource officers, were authorized to carry and use Narcan in South Carolina schools.

This new law, according to McLain, “is another tool in the nurse’s toolbox,” likening it to a spare tire that one hopes never to use but is grateful to have in a crisis.

By extending access to Narcan beyond first responders, the legislation effectively removes barriers to timely intervention and enhances preparedness within school premises, McLain said.

State health officials have reported an increase in drug overdoses, including fatalities, in recent years.

The latest data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) revealed 10 reported fatal overdoses among South Carolinians aged 0-17 in 2021. An increase from seven in 2020 and four in 2019.

Nanci Steadman Shipman, executive director of the nonprofit organization WakeUp Carolina, expressed her support for this new law as a proactive step by the state and school districts.

Steadman Shipman said she sees it as a way to communicate that every life is valued and that the safety of every individual within the community matters.

Steadman Shipman also highlighted the importance of education in conjunction with this law.

“We start becoming aware,” she said. “We become educated, and then what our fears and the stigma we may have thought start dissipating.”

Steadman Shipman also emphasized that this, combined with the state’s good Samaritan law will encourage people to take action.