The story is the stuff of legends: someone suffers a cardiac arrest during a basketball game. Thanks to the nearby AED and CPR, the player’s life is saved.
Except this time it’s more than legend. The year was 2017. The survivor played on a Battle Ground community basketball team at Chief Umtuch Middle School. And that crucial AED? It was financed in part by the Battle Ground Education Foundation (BGEF).
Fast forward to 2023 and the national opioid crisis.
When the BGEF Board heard the school district needed funding to install naloxone response boxes in its schools, the decision was a no-brainer. The foundation promptly wrote checks totaling almost $20,000, to install the boxes in all of Battle Ground Public Schools’ high schools, middle schools, and primary schools, as well as to supply units of the overdose-reversal medication for on-site security officers.
“We are passionate about Battle Ground students,” Ken Root, BGEF board vice-president, said. “We’re here to see these kids to the graduation finish line by helping with whatever they need, from school supplies to emergency preparedness.”
Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, works by attaching to opioid receptors in the body to quickly reverse the opioid’s effects, such as by restoring breathing. Because naloxone specifically targets opioids in the system, the medication has no effect on people without opioids in their system, making it an ideal emergency treatment when an overdose is suspected.
Thanks to the BGEF grant, the final naloxone boxes are in the process of being installed. Security officers have been trained and are already carrying the medication.
Mike Kesler, the safety and security supervisor for BGPS, said preparedness is the key.
“It’s mind blowing how opioids have taken off. Right now, it’s fentanyl, which is so dangerous because it looks like candy,” Kesler said. “We haven’t seen cases here in Battle Ground yet, but — I hate saying this — it’s not a matter of if, but when, so we want to stay on top of things.”
Kesler said opioid overdose preparedness is just the latest way BGPS has worked to stay ahead of the curve.
“Kids used to steal alcohol from local merchants. They’d drink right off school property and come back to school intoxicated, so we worked with local law enforcement leaders, and with merchants like Safeway and Albertsons, to put the alcohol under lock and key,” he said. “As a result, cases have gone down.”
The City of Battle Ground implemented its own Narcan policy in 2018.
“When someone is overdosing, there’s only a few minutes to get that opioid reversed and bring them back to life,” Battle Ground Police Chief Mike Fort said. “The more Narcan we can get out there, especially in the hands of those with training, is a good thing. It’s as important as installing AEDs in every gym, in every public building, where at any given moment there could be a heart condition or an overdose.”
Dustin Waliezer, EMS officer for Fire District 3, said the fire department has seen the numbers creep up. Emergency calls involving drug overdoses have increased 25% since 2016.
Scott Sorenson serves as fire chief for Fire District 3.
“In everything we do, if we save one person, we’ve been successful,” Sorenson said. “Getting ahead of this is important and it’s so good that schools are being supported in this way.”
Waliezer said proactive measures like making naloxone readily available, thus “preventing the fire from happening in the first place,” is the best case scenario.
“You’ll see a sign on an AED that says, on this date, this AED saved a life,” Waliezer said. “Eventually you’ll see that on the naloxone boxes, too. ‘This Narcan saved somebody’s life.’”
Root said the funding, installation, training and education surrounding the naloxone is yet another example of how the Battle Ground community and school district come together on behalf of its students.
“From the schools to the fire department, from the police to the community, everybody is involved in this,” Root said. “This is our community. These kids are our future and they are our passion.”
To learn more about the Battle Ground Education Foundation and how you can help support students and schools, visit bgef.org.