‘Have that safety net’: Mother of student who died of overdose shares thoughts on expanded Narcan access

CMS is weighing the idea of expanding access to Naloxone, better known as Narcan, in schools.
Olivia Moloney, a freshman at Hough High School, passed away at just 14 years old due to a fentanyl overdose.
Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 7:06 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2023 at 6:18 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The mother of a Hough High School student who lost her life to a fentanyl overdose is continuing to speak out as the school district weighs the idea of expanding access to the opioid-reversing drug Naloxone, better known as Narcan.

Through social media and interviews with WBTV, Tamara Ellestad has spoken about losing her daughter, Olivia Moloney, who was just 14 years old.

The pain of loss still weighs heavy as families across the country prepare for the holidays.

CMS is weighing the idea of expanding access to Naloxone, better known as Narcan, in schools.

“Olivia loved getting together with the family so holidays are hard to get through,” Ellestad said.

School system leaders with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are considering changing the policy to allow Naloxone in schools. Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein have said they are in favor of the idea. Ellestad agrees.

“Absolutely,” she said when asked about the idea. “I think they should put it into the schools and have that safety net.”

However, she said she questions what kind of training and education will be provided to school staffers who will be using the drug.

“How and what kind of coaching are teachers and administration staff being given to identify if a kid is starting to overdose?” she asked. “Can they administer it? Can they administer it safely?”

Ellestad said she also wonders what kind of underlying message may be sent once Naloxone is made available.

“Are we sending the message to children that now school is a safe place to use drugs because they have an out in the event that something is to happen to them?” she questioned.

If the school board elects to train teachers and staff on how to administer the reversing drug, the health department would be in charge of training and supplying schools. Naloxone is already in most CMS schools and resource officers are trained and equipped with it.

As for CMS’s proposal, the district and county health department are discussing what a potential expanded rollout would look like, including which school staff members would be trained and how many canisters of Naloxone each school would get.

Board of Education member Stephanie Sneed said she expects the measure to be approved unanimously.

“We know that community issues become school issues,” Sneed said. “My understanding is that there’s an opportunity for the county to provide Narcan and we should absolutely take advantage of that because we know that overdoses, particularly with fentanyl is a community issue.”

According to CMPD, fentanyl overdoses are up 20 percent this year compared to last year.

If Naloxone is given to someone experiencing an overdose, it can save their life. If they are not experiencing an overdose, Naloxone will not hurt them.

Related: ‘We should absolutely take advantage’: CMS leaders weigh expanded access to Narcan in schools

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