Naloxone kits are being adopted as part of an emergency overdose strategy in some B.C. schools, but so far, not here in Chilliwack.
This is partly at the urging of a motion passed by the BC School Trustees Association, which is urging the Ministry of Education to mandate all B.C. high schools to adopt an “incident of overdose strategy.” Some districts have already adopted these strategies, and in some cases that includes keeping a naloxone kit on hand.
However, in Chilliwack, the school district is focusing on education surrounding overdoses. Superintendent Evelyn Novak said they held an Understanding Addictions Forum, which included components on fentanyl and naloxone. That was organized by the Local Health Action Team, and the message was on engaging all youth to be prepared.
“What people found most compelling was the youth panel who were not substance users, but youth who had witnessed overdoses,” she says.
She adds that when the medical health officer for the Fraser Valley presented statistics related to the rate of overdose and deaths for various regions, Chilliwack had a much lower rate than communities like Abbotsford and Maple Ridge.
“This may have resulted in a larger push to have some action in those high schools,” she says.
A motion submitted by SD42 (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows) during the BCSTA’s AGM in March, notes that the “Provincial Health Officer reassures educators that the 10-18 [age] population comprise a very small subset of fatal overdoses, and there have been no deaths in youth under age 15 and no deaths in a B.C. school to date.
There have been 12 deaths in youth ages 10-18, however, as of December 2016.
“This is approximately 1% of total overdose deaths among a population that spend time in our schools,” SD42 states in its rationale for the motion. “We know that the Provincial Health Officer issued a public health emergency on April 14, 2016 due to a significant increase in drug related overdoses and deaths in BC. We also know that the population experiencing drug-related overdoses and deaths is not confined to high risk groups and has showed up in casual and experimental use.”
The Provincial Health Officer has recommended schools adopt strategies, but has not mandated them to do so.
“Currently high schools in B.C. have health and safety protocols that include diabetes, anaphylaxis, physical restraint and seclusion as well as practice drills in the event of earthquake, fire and lockdown. An overdose response strategy would add to this tool kit as a first aid measure,” the motion said.
At the time of the AGM, six of B.C.’s 60 school districts had adopted strategies that include naloxone, and six more were considering one.
Naloxone kits are distributed to drug users and loved ones of drug users for free in Fraser Health.