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How are local school districts handling the opioid crisis?

(iStock Photo)

Vancouver School Board says it is strengthening its drug education in the classroom, in light of the opioid crisis

Coquitlam School District says staff have been working to train teachers to have conversations about drugs with students

Surrey School District says there is lots of messaging from the community, Fraser Health about drug use

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Education around how to navigate BC’s opioid crisis is creeping into the classroom.

“We’re strengthening our classroom drug education work, our school assemblies, even our parent workers. Right across our stream of staff, we have made this more of a priority issue, have learned more ourselves and are communicating and sharing information,” says Art Steinmann, the Vancouver School Board‘s Manager of Substance Use & Health Promotion.

That process actually started last year and districts across the Lower Mainland are taking a similar approach.

“It comes up in a variety of ways,” explains Coquitlam School District Assistant Superintendent Robert Zambrano.

“It comes up in current events. It comes up with intentionality when we are talking about the drug curriculum. Our job over the past year has actually been to identify aspects of the curriculum and find the appropriate resources and give some teachers the training required to have those conversations on a regular basis.”

But there is more than a strict “Don’t do drugs” message.

“There is all sorts of messaging from the community and from Fraser Health as well of how to do drugs safely. That includes, if you are going to use drugs that you have somebody with you, make sure that you’re not doing huge amounts or mixing with other types of drugs, all those kinds of messaging pieces that keep kids safe if they do chose to do drugs,” says the Surrey School District‘s Rob Rai.

“We’re ensuring that we’re partnering with Fraser Health, with the city and the RCMP to make that sure we’re having a consistent amount of messaging throughout our community in terms of if you are going to use drugs, how to do it safely. If you need to get off drugs, where can you go for help.”

Steinmann agrees. He says there is a second aspect to the opioid education, and one that is relevant to everyone.

“There is a broader public health education piece here. Anybody, whether they never use a drug in their life, it could be at a family wedding, at a party, could see someone slumped over. So we want to make sure as many people as possible including students are educated about ‘what is an overdose, what does it look like and what would I do if I came across one?'”

When it comes to naloxone in schools, the life-saving kits haven’t been added to most districts.

Surrey has discussed the move but says that there’s no evidence that they’re necessary right now though that could change. The VSB has added them to a few alternative school and one adult education centre.