LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new law in Arkansas addressing the overdose crisis is now sparking the push for change on a national level.
Act 811, signed by Governor Sarah Sanders in May, requires Nalaxone or Narcan kits in public high schools and colleges. The idea is to provide campuses with life-saving resources in the case of a student overdosing on campus.
The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Tara Shephard (D-Little Rock) said the idea then climbed steps to the U.S. Capitol building.
U.S. Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Georgia) recently filed legislation mirroring Arkansas’s law.
“His office reached out and said, ‘Hey, Arkansas is leading the nation as it relates to this type of legislation addressing overdoses in our nation’s schools,’” Shephard said.
While he and Shephard could be seen as an unlikely duo, they met a few days ago in Washington, D.C. to continue their push on this issue they have in common.
“By Congressman Carter being a Republican and I, of course, am a Democrat, we are showing that drug addiction is not a partisan issue,” Shephard said.
The current state law, and potential federal law, focus on public schools and colleges, though in Little Rock, one private school principal told our team this is a mission they also prioritize.
“When you are in charge of other people’s children, you absolutely want to have every precaution at hand,” Catholic High School Principal Matt Dempsey said.
Dempsey said CHS has Narcan on hand, and staff trained to use it. The Narcan was donated a few years ago from a local family.
Additionally, he said the school has a mental health specialist on campus full-time. They also have programs focused on teaching kids about the dangers of drug use, as part of a preventative measure.
While Dempsey said there has not been a case of an overdose on campus yet, his staff is aware of the pressing issue on not only our country, but our state.
“Schools are a place where people come and bring the world’s problems to your doorstep,” Dempsey said.
According to a 2023 report from QuoteWizard.com, over 107,000 people died of an overdose in the U.S. over the last 12 months. The study said that opioids accounted for nearly 70 percent of those fatalities.
The study reported that there were 621 deaths of that type in Arkansas over the past 12 months, which is a 9% increase.
While visiting the nation’s capital city, Shephard said she also met national leaders including Vice President, Attorney General and Speaker of the House.
She said that she made sure to tell them about Carter’s bill, and the fact that it originated in Arkansas.
“By working together, we can show the nation that Arkansas does and can, in fact, lead,” Shephard said.