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Durango students turn tragic loss of friend into possible landmark new law

Let’s begin with a bit of good news.

On Thursday, the House passed HB24-1003, which allows students to carry naloxone and fentanyl test strips at school and during school events. The story behind HB23-1003 is worth sharing, as it shows how young people in Colorado are aware of the threat that fentanyl poses to their friends, and that they are looking out for each other by getting naloxone, learning to use it, and carrying it. What they achieve in Colorado could have nationwide impact.

High school students in Durango inspired the legislation. Their work began in 2021, after a classmate died of an overdose caused by fentanyl. Students felt they had to act to prevent another tragedy, and they began by pushing their school district to allow students to carry naloxone (aka Narcan or Kloxxado).

“This is something students are interested in. They recognize the usefulness. They recognize the necessity, and they want to help be part of a solution, because it’s something that directly impacts us,” said Ilias Stritikus, a recent Durango High School graduate who helped lead the effort.

Overcoming opposition—and making a national impact
While the Durango students saw the need for naloxone, they first had to convince the Durango school board to allow it. While some school districts allowed students to carry naloxone, Durango did not. Four Corners Public Radio followed the story as students organized and worked to persuade school administrators and then the school board. They succeeded in Durango last March, and on Feb. 29, their work to make sure all students in Colorado could carry naloxone took a big step forward as the bill they inspired cleared the House.

If passed, the bill could set a precedent. Experts interviewed by KFF Health News and CNN said Colorado appears to be the first state that would have statewide regulations that enable students to carry naloxone during the school day and at school events. That article also does a great job describing Gavinn McKinney, the student who died, and how his classmates turned grief into action.

Moving forward
The bill now moves to the Senate. We will continue to track it.

The bill has had a smooth journey through the House. Earlier this month, the bill passed the House Health and Human Services Committee unanimously, and this week the during the floor debate, the bill was strengthened with amendments that allow schools to provide naloxone to students (provided they pass a training first) and clarifies that students or parents who administer naloxone are protected from civil liability or criminal prosecution.

A story from Colorado Newsline has more about HB24-1003 and takes a look at how school districts are using the naloxone bulk purchase fund to obtain naloxone.