Corina Pfeil, a Kenmore parent, has spent the past three years to get the law changed to allow naloxone (better known as Narcan or Evzio) in Washington high schools to help prevent on-campus opioid overdose. Photo courtesy of Governor Tom Wolf (flickr)

Corina Pfeil, a Kenmore parent, has spent the past three years to get the law changed to allow naloxone (better known as Narcan or Evzio) in Washington high schools to help prevent on-campus opioid overdose. Photo courtesy of Governor Tom Wolf (flickr)

Kenmore mom gets Narcan in Washington schools

Corina Pfeil has spent the past three years to make Narcan accessible to students who overdose at school.

Melissa Crew nearly lost her daughter to a heroin overdose.

It was almost four years ago. Her daughter, Gia, began using heroin at the age of 17.

“She came down from upstairs and said she wasn’t feeling good. She had stomach cramps and was moaning. I asked her, ‘Did you use today?’ and she said, ‘No, mom, I didn’t, I didn’t.’ And then I saw red and blue lines on her face,” Crew said. “I called 911 but I knew they couldn’t get there in time so I put her in the car and drove to meet them.”

Once Crew — who was in Woodinville at the time but now lives in Kirkland — met up with the paramedics, her daughter was dead. She was revived with Narcan.

An opioid antagonist

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan or Evzio, is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.

It is an opioid antagonist — meaning it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. The medication can be injected into the skin, but is most commonly used in its nasal spray form. It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioids.

There is a four-minute time period to address an opioid overdose.

“I know lots of stories of people who weren’t able to make it,” Crew said. “Those stories could have changed if Narcan could be in schools.”

‘I was shook inside’

Corina Pfeil, a Kenmore parent, has dedicated the past three years to do just that — get Narcan in schools.

While on a new-student tour of Inglemoor High School in 2016, Pfeil said the principal at the time said a student was found with heroin in one of the school’s gender neutral bathrooms a previous year.

“I was shocked that heroin was here,” she said. Heroin is scary…I was shook inside.”

According to the 2018 Healthy Youth Survey, seven percent of 10th and 12th graders reported misusing prescription drugs. Three percent reported having used heroin.

“These percentages mean that in 2018, about 2,500 Washington State 12th graders had tried heroin at least once in their lifetime and even more (about 3,500) use painkillers to get high in any given month,” according to the 2018 Healthy Youth Survey.

“Everybody talks about the opioid crisis but they think it only applies to people who are homeless or criminals,” Crew said.

Crew said she feels frustrated by the lack of knowledge there is around opioid use.

“It can affect anyone. People look at me like I shouldn’t have a kid on heroin because we don’t fit their ideas of what an addict’s family looks like,” Crew said. “It shouldn’t even be a question — of course we should have Narcan in schools.”

Crew said her family is blessed.

“We got to have a happy ending. Just think, so many other moms could have that same happy ending,” she said. “It gives them a second chance at life. Narcan can keep these kids alive enough to get them help.”

Preparing schools

Through this revelation, Pfeil was curious to learn how many students use opiates and if schools were prepared to address an overdose onsite.

Washington state does not specifically track opioid overdoses that occur at public schools, and the laws around Narcan in schools have been restricted until now.

The company that produces Narcan, Adapt Pharma, has offered free doses of the opioid-reversal medication to high schools and colleges nationwide. However, for the past several years, the laws around Narcan use in Washington schools required written permission from a parent, as well as a doctor’s prescription, to give a student a dose.

“The law stopped at nurses,” Pfeil said. “You know, some schools don’t even have full-time nurses.”

Thus began Pfeil’s journey to create her citizen action grassroots bill, known as HB 1039. This bill was signed under Gov. Jay Inslee’s larger opioid treatment bill in May.

HB 1039 concerns opioid overdose medication at K-12 schools and higher education institutions. The passing of the bill ensures high schools in districts with more than 2,000 students will be required to obtain and store Narcan. The bill will go into effect at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

From bill to fulfilled promise

Pfeil hit several roadblocks throughout her journey to have HB 1039 passed, one of which included having the bill time out.

“I was almost in tears, I thought it was over,” she said. “There were so many minefields. I had to navigate around them and teach myself how to do everything.”

Through the support of friends, families, the community and local leaders, she said she knew she had to keep going. To continue her motivation, Pfeil would revisit a childhood educational video.

“I kept coming back to the ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ video of ‘I’m Just a Bill,’” she said with a laugh. “It’s supposed to be something that everyone should be able to do. While the process is a bit harder than the song depicts, it is basically how a bill gets passed. If other people could do it, I knew I could do it.”

Now that the bill is passed, Pfeil said she feels like she has fulfilled the promise she made three years ago.

“I made a promise to follow this through and nothing was going to stop me,” she said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how a student was found in one of the school’s bathrooms.

More in News

King County jail lost water 16 times since 2018

The building has been plagued with water failures stemming from Aquatherm pipes.

Burke Gilman Trail repair at Wayne Golf Course through July 26

Trail users should expect traffic control and occasional short delays as during the construction period.

CNBC ranks UW Bothell No. 2 on list of public colleges that ‘pay off the most’

CNBC Make It has ranked UW Bothell No. 2 on list of colleges that provide the greatest return on investment.

Low Income Housing Institute’s 57-unit August Wilson Place apartments in downtown Bellevue includes affordable housing units for households at 30, 50 and 60 percent of the area median income. Photo courtesy of Low Income Housing Institute
Economic growth continues for King County

Warning signs on horizon as housing and rent prices cool down compared to previous years.

Bothell’s fire station renovation project approved by state

City has received state approval for an alternative method to renovate two fire stations.

King County Correctional Facility is located at 500 5th Ave., Seattle. File photo
King County jail’s leaky pipes have national implications

Lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court alleges Aquatherm has been selling faulty pipes.

Bothell High School is set to intake many more students with the new boundary adjustments. Madeline Coats/staff photo
Student growth projections will alter Northshore School District boundaries

Upcoming boundary adjustments for students in Northshore School District for the upcoming school year.

File photo
New measles case had possible public exposure in Kenmore

A Seattle Children’s Hospital nurse is the latest diagnosed bringing this year’s case count up to 11 residents and two non-resident in King County.

VoteWA is a $9.5 million program that came online last May and is meant to unify all 39 county voting systems in the state into a single entity. Courtesy image
WA’s new voting system concerns county elections officials

VoteWA has run into some problems in recent months as the Aug. 6 primary election draws closer.

Most Read