Story by Kayla White (News Writer)
Tennessee County health officials have been teaching children as young as six to reverse overdoses. 600 children in Tennessee have received Narcan training in their after school programs for the past three years. Some of the children have given out seventy doses of Narcan at community events.
Narcan or Naloxone is a narcotic that can treat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation. The narcotic can come in the form of nasal spray, which makes it easier for children to give the simple dosage of the drug, with the instruction of “open, insert, squirt.” Despite the positive impacts of the Narcan, Tennessee health workers have received many oppositions from school boards and police officers saying that it is a waste of time and resources and is inappropriate for children. The request to teach harm reduction training in class has been rejected where Tennessee drug prevention educators added that the distribution of Narcan to students or parents on school grounds has also been rejected.
The coalition’s director Reece speaks on the subject saying “Lots of people say children don’t need to think about these things, but I’d rather a kid should go through the trauma of giving the Narcan then see their parent die.” Nurse Barnett works with first and second graders, showing them pictures of what opioids look like and explaining that when someone takes too much they can fall asleep and stop breathing. She also hands out the Narcan nasal spray to each child to practice pushing the plunger.
There have been many accounts of finding drugs in the Elizabethton Public Library and seems to be the hot spot for the opioid crisis. The library staff, who were trained to administer Narcan six years ago, claimed that the most popular spot for dropping off the drugs was in the James Patterson books. They also discovered drugs stashed in the bathrooms and inside DVD cases. Some people have offered the librarians strips of Suboxone (a narcotic to treat addiction) to pay overdue book fees. Despite the drug deals that occur at the Elizabethton Library, they have been holding Narcan lessons since 2016 which they added to their parenting classes and it’s youth babysitting seminars. Ashlee Williams, the children’s librarian who often teaches these lessons, said that despite the drug deals happening in their community “if we didn’t do the training, it would be a disservice to the kids themselves.”
Even though drug use is on a spree in their community, the parents still hope that the Narcan classes are not so hypercritical when it comes to addiction. One of the child’s mothers, Kelly Kitchens, explained the importance of learning that drugs are bad and to avoid them, but to not be judgemental and to remember to still love the people that do.