ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - For years, a Chanhassen mother has fought to have opioid overdose reversal medication required in Minnesota schools. This summer, it will finally happen.
"I had no idea that naloxone even existed when our son died," said Colleen Ronnei.
Ronnei's son, Luke, was 20 when he died from an overdose seven years ago. His struggle with substance use first began in high school. He was prescribed opioids when he got his wisdom teeth out. Eventually, he became addicted to heroin.
Through her non-profit Change the Outcome, Ronnei now makes it her mission to make sure naloxone, also known as Narcan, is widely available as possible, especially in schools.
"If you are in active addiction, your addiction doesn't stop during the school day," Ronnei explained.
Naloxone is a life-saving medicine that can reverse an overdose from opioids — including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications — when given in time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says naloxone is easy to use and small to carry. There are two forms of naloxone that anyone can use without medical training or authorization: prefilled nasal spray and injectable.
Ronnei told her story to state lawmakers about five years ago and now her hard work has paid off.
Starting in July, every public and charter school building in Minnesota will be required to have two doses of nasal naloxone on site. The new law also requires the commissioner of health to identify resources, including at least one training video, to help schools implement emergency response plans for opioid overdoses and make the resources available for schools.
Ronnei believes the new law will save lives, but it's not just about being able to reverse overdoses. She hopes that when educators see naloxone in their schools, they'll ask, ‘Why do we need it?’ and that will create awareness.
"The more people that carry it, the more likely we are to be able to prevent someone else from losing a child. It is the worst possible thing to lose a child. Every person who overdoses is somebody's child, whether they're 40 or 14," she said.
Federal officials encourage bystanders to intervene when they see someone overdosing. Nearly 50,000 people died from an opioid-involved overdose in 2019, according to the CDC.
Ronnei said believes students aren't the only ones who could benefit from having naxolone in schools.
"It's parents of kids. It's people who are in the building. Unfortunately, it could be educators. People do a really good job of hiding this disease," she said.
She would like to see schools choose to buy even more than two doses and spread them throughout the building for a quicker emergency response.
"A person who's overdosing, if rescue breathing isn't being performed and there's no naloxone available, they start to incur brain damage," Ronnei said.
State lawmakers passed a whole host of other drug-related changes, including marijuana legalization and increased penalties for selling and possessing fentanyl. The state will also require on-duty police to carry two doses of naloxone and be trained on using it starting in August.