As the fentanyl crisis continues to take lives, most recently leading to five deaths in a single day in Abbotsford, Langley schools have been deemed a ‘low risk’ for a drug overdose to occur.
But Langley school trustee Shelly Coburn still wants an update from staff about what the district is doing about fentanyl and overdose awareness.
She worries that students aren’t being properly educated about the dangers that can be involved in helping someone who’s overdosing.
“Kids who see a friend overdosing may go in and help them but might end up overdosing themselves,” Coburn said.
She added that the previous provincial government “waited too long to deal with the fentanyl crisis and and, in my opinion, failed.”
Langley School District has purchased one naloxone kit and doesn’t plan on purchasing any more, said district spokesperson Ken Hoff.
“The Langley School District does have a couple of staff members who have completed the naloxone training and there is a purchased kit but, as outlined below, there is no plan to purchase more kits or complete more training at this time,” explained Hoff.
“The Langley School District takes its lead from the Ministry of Health and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Perry Kendall. Dr. Kendall has indicated on a number of occasions that schools are not ‘at-risk’ locations for overdose and that ‘normal precautions’ are what are required to address the needs of schools in areas that are well-serviced by emergency responders.”
Early this year school districts, including Langley, were asked to complete a provincial government risk assessment regarding naloxone use. The risk level for the Langley district was ‘low’ and, as this was a health issue, the district deferred to the recommendations of the Ministry of Health.
When the risk is ‘low’, naloxone kits are not considered necessary, as contacting emergency services would be the preferred response in a well-serviced area such as Langley, said Hoff.
But Langley Superintendent of Schools Gord Stewart stressed that while the risk of overdose in schools is considered low, that doesn’t mean that overdoses and deaths aren’t happening among Langley’s young people.
“I don’t know of any overdoses that have happened on a Langley school site. They are happening outside of schools,” he said at the last board of education meeting.
In fact, at Walnut Grove Secondary alone, at least two alumni have died of drug overdoses. A video made by students at that school showed what this fentanyl crisis has done to the families and friends left behind. The video was showed at a student-wide assembly at WGSS during drug awareness month.
The hope was that the video would be showed at other schools but it hasn’t so far.
The five people who died in Abbotsford in a single day, four died alone in their homes.
Education around substance abuse and the dangers of fentanyl are part of the school curriculum, said Hoff.
“Information about substance abuse is woven into the provincial curriculum and access to accurate information and education for students around fentanyl and other substances is readily available,” said Hoff. DPAC has championed parent education in regards to fentanyl.
“I think this is timely and prudent,” said trustee David Tod in response to Coburn’s request. “Sometimes we are uncomfortable to talk about this but we should always take the lens of what can we do to protect our children so we need to talk about it.”
Trustee Rosemary Wallace, whose children are grown, said she thinks the public isn’t educated enough about just how severe the crisis is.
“I attended the City neighborhood meeting at H.D. Stafford and I asked the fire chief about how much they are called to overdoses,” she said. “He said the amount of overdoses has skyrocketed.”
“Our kids go to parties and it takes just one pill with fentanyl in it. It’s scary,” she said.