With an unused needle, School District 67 director of facilities Doug Gorcak demonstrates how his staff dispose of the increasing number of needles found on school grounds. Mark Brett/Western News

Schools taking preventative measures in opioid crisis

School districts around the province are proactively acquiring naloxone kits as part of their emergency preparedness.

In the Okanagan Skaha School District, Superintendent Wendy Hyer said school administrators got training in the kits, which are used to counteract opioid overdoses, last year.

“It was just something that we, our schools, our secondary school administrators felt they wanted to do to be safe,” said Hyer, noting the decision was made in consultation with the Interior Health Authority.

Hyer said there haven’t been any issues at local schools but given the straightforward training, it was prudent to be prepared during the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

According to a B.C. Coroner’s report, in an eight-month span this year, from January through August, there were 823 deaths related to fentanyl in the province. It’s a 151 per cent increase over the same period in 2016.

There have only been a few school-age children overdoses in the province, reports Interior Heath and none were on school grounds.

“You have first aid kits, so given what is going on, why wouldn’t this be part of your first aid kit,” said Hyer, adding that the district has seen a decline in substance abuse issues in the schools.

“We really work to educate more so than anything else. We have Pathways Addiction Centre that does some proactive work. We have our school counsellors looking at harm reduction and certainly, Interior Health has done some work around harm reduction,” said Hyer. “I don’t think substance abuse with hard drugs is an issue for us. It’s more your teenage exploration, dabbling with marijuana issues you tend to deal with.”

Revelstoke Secondary School, in School District 19, is one of the latest schools in the province to acquire the naloxone kits, receiving two of them at the end of September.

Related: Revelstoke Secondary School receives Naloxone kits

With a focus on student safety and well-being, principal Greg Kenyon said that getting the kits was an obvious decision, despite the school being low-risk for drug overdoses.

“It’s just another thing we do and have,” said Kenyon. “It’s like we’re trained for responding to anaphylaxis and we’re trained now to respond to Naloxone and administering that.”

The Vernon School District (SD22) has had naloxone kits available in schools for just over a year in all high schools and alternate schools.

Like Okanagan Skaha, the Vernon School District is focusing on education through Preventure, a school-based preventative drug and alcohol program, aiming to reduce drug and alcohol use in high-risk teenagers.

“The starting point is prevention, then intervention,” said Doug Rogers, SD22 district substance abuse prevention counsellor.

Related: Kits available at Central Okanagan schools

— With files from Parker Crook and Marissa Tiel/Black Press.

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