LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Unified School District will provide all of its schools with drugs that can reverse opioid overdoses after at least seven teenagers in recent weeks overdosed on pills possibly laced with fentanyl, including including a 15-year-old girl who died on the high school campus.
“We have an urgent crisis on our hands,” district head Alberto Carvalho said at a press conference on Thursday.
Carvalho said doses of naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, will be delivered to all kindergarten through 12th grade schools in the next few weeks – about 1,400 schools in total. The regional health department will provide the medicine free of charge.
The nation’s second-largest school district will also begin an education campaign that includes parent outreach and peer-to-peer counseling to warn students about the dangers of fentanyl.
Police said at least seven teenagers have overdosed in the past month after taking pills that likely contained fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. The drug is often mixed into illicit pills that look like prescription painkillers or other medications.
The latest overdose happened Saturday, and police are investigating whether the pills were linked to the fatal overdose of Melanie Ramos on Sept. 13 in a restroom at Bernstein High School in Hollywood. The school was open for soccer and volleyball games that night, officials said.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michelle Moore told the city’s Police Commission on Tuesday that she and a classmate bought a pill containing fentanyl from another youth, mistaking it for the prescription pain reliever Percocet, then took the drug on campus and passed out.
Earlier in the day, paramedics responded to separate calls for possible overdoses of two teenagers in the Lexington Park area, less than half a mile (0.8 kilometers) from Bernstein High School and a cluster of other schools. It is believed that the teenagers were in school.
Police two guys were detained last week, ages 15 and 16, in connection with the death of Ramos and the sale of other drugs in the area. The younger boy was detained on suspicion of manslaughter, the police said.
However, Moore said the teenagers were “just pawns used by adults and drug-trafficking organizations” and authorities are trying to find the supplier.