HyattsvilleYACMeeting 02082024 JD
The Hyattsville Youth Advisory Council
Photo Credit: Jess Daninhirsch

The Hyattsville Youth Advisory Council faced a dilemma during its Feb. 8 meeting regarding programs that teach students how to use the lifesaving drug Narcan, or naloxone, in potential drug overdoses. 

The council, which consists of students from Northwestern High School, is planning on testifying at the upcoming Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) board meeting on Feb. 22. Students will propose a program that would allow Northwestern students to carry Narcan at school, as well as devote a segment of their health classes to learning how to use it. 

However, after the meeting in the Hyattsville Municipal Building on that Thursday in early February, the students’ message became a bit less clear as members of the audience brought up potential challenges, as well as strategies for implementing the program. 

School board member Pamela Boozer-Strother (District 3), whose district includes Hyattsville, posed a hypothetical situation, prompting the youth council to reconsider its tactics and clarify their thought process.

“If everyone knows how to use Narcan, and you think Narcan is in a bunch of kids’ backpacks, then you don’t have to worry about overdosing because someone’s going to save you,” Boozer-Strother suggested. “There are a lot of folks who think that way.”

Angel Guzman, the council’s temporary chair, said that it comes down to a matter of trust. The students of the youth advisory council want to encourage their peers to be the type of people who would jump in to save a life. They also want their education to continue emphasizing the dangers of illegal drug use.

Maryland saw a 1.4% decrease in fatal overdoses between October 2022 and September 2023. However, there was a 10.5% increase in the total number of overdoses from 2022 to 2023 in Prince George’s County. The issue is relevant for students in the long run — both at Northwestern and at other schools across the county and Maryland, but the council is focused on their short-term goals, starting with implementing a Narcan training program.

City Councilmember and liaison Joanne Waszczak (Ward 1) attended the monthly meeting and encouraged the students to think deeply before deciding on their final message for the school board.

“This is the crux of the problem,” Waszczak said. “Are high school students developmentally ready to learn what Narcan is and how to use it or not?” The first health class in Northwestern’s curriculum focuses on skills and behaviors that help students make intelligent decisions, so the city councilmember asked if implementing a training program into the second health class is a natural next step.

The youth advisory councilmembers said they believe that the students are ready. 

Waszczak suggested a plan of action for the students prior to the Feb. 22 meeting. The council could start with a simple set of talking points, and each student would have their own take on it to personalize the issue. They may include personal stories about encounters with drug abuse or convey their points with statistics. A young audience member who said they have seen their friends deal with an overdose said this was a good idea. 

The students are still planning to testify individually at the Feb. 22 PGCPS board meeting, using the tactics established in the Feb. 8 council meeting.

Ronald Lewis, the city’s Children and Youth Programs coordinator, has been preparing the students for the district school board meeting since November.

“Between now and the 22nd, they will hopefully get their talking points all together so that they will have a concise and clear message to share with the board,” Lewis said.

The students are not having another public meeting until after the Feb. 22 school board meeting.