How high schools in the Interior are doing their part to combat the fentanyl crisis | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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How high schools in the Interior are doing their part to combat the fentanyl crisis

November 23, 2016 - 10:54 AM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - The fentanyl crisis has taken its toll on B.C. and deaths from fentanyl overdoses have hit close to home for many in the Thompson-Okanagan.

Provincial medical health officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared a public health emergency in April, after a surge in illicit drug overdose deaths. Kendall has recommended high schools have access to naloxone kits and school districts in the region are starting to follow his advice

Naloxone comes in an injectible form, used when someone is suffering from a suspected opioid overdose. If naloxone is administered successfully, it can buy the affected person some time before emergency responders arrive.

Supt. Stephen McNiven the Nicola-Similkameen School District, which covers Merritt and Princeton, says he is hoping his high schools will be equipped with the kits by next week.

"With this information and the recommendation by Dr. Perry Kendall, we thought it would be prudent to have something available if an emergency would happen," McNiven says.

Some staff will be trained to administer the potentially life-saving drug, McNiven says, adding it's a preventative measure, not a reactive measure.

"I’m not aware of any issues (in the area) specific to fentanyl or overdosing," he says. "We definitely consider it the worst case scenario and don’t want to see us having to use it. But we also want to be in a position to... help students if that were to happen."

McNiven says not all staff will be trained, but each high school will have at least one administrator and one teacher who can administer the naloxone shot.

Director of student support services Trish Smillie with the Kamloops-Thompson School District says they are talking about introducing naloxone kits at their high schools.

Smillie says the plan is still in it's early stages and the district is going to communicate with parents and the school board. She says they have "lots of people to consult with and work with," and hopes to have naloxone available in the high schools by the end of the school year at the latest.

Vernon School District Supt. Joe Rogers says they aren't quite at the commitment level yet, but he has been speaking with the Interior Health Authority about the possibility of have naloxone kits at high schools.

"Anything will help if there are any issues with kids and drug use," Rogers says. "We’ve not had any issues around fentanyl use that we’re aware of, during school time or school events, but if we have some kits it would certainly be preventative if there was an issue."

McNiven says he hopes his students Merritt and Princeton never find themselves in a situation where naloxone is needed, but says it's better to be prepared.

"I hope we never have to use it, that it’s only for an emergency situation," he says.

McNiven's goal is to educate staff and students about the risks of drug and alcohol use.

"Will it open up the conversation? I think it will help for sure, but we want to make sure we’re educating alongside this work," he says.

Get caught up on fentanyl crisis here.

Find past stories on naloxone here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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