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Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows high school students may get overdose training

Youth have been claimed by the opioid epidemic
As the opioid crisis continues, School District 42 is looking at teaching students how to help a victim of overdose. (BCEHS photo illustration)

There have been 126 B.C. children and youth die of drug overdoses over a five-year span, and six of those were from Maple Ridge.

There has been a call for more students to be trained to deal with an overdose, and it has been heard by School District 42.

Updated data from the BC Coroners Service from 2019-2023 reflects the deadly risks posed by the toxic-drug supply in the province.

A total of 28 youth deaths – with victims under 19 years of age – were attributed to unregulated drug toxicity in 2023 alone – just over one per cent of the total 2,551 lives lost to toxic drugs last year.

Drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death for this age group, annually claiming the lives of 25 people under the age of 19 each year between 2019 and 2023.

“It’s a tragedy that six local families have had to deal with,” said Doug Sabourin, executive director of Alouette Addictions.

The townships with the greatest number of victims in this demographic are Vancouver (15), Greater Victoria (14), Kamloops (8), and then Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, Nanaimo and Surrey each report 6 victims.

Sabourin asserts youth can be given some protection by ensuring they have access to naloxone kits – a medicine that can reverse an opioid overdose. And, he said they should be taught how to administer the drug, as they are in some school districts across North America.

“It’s like teaching kids CPR,” he said.

The ACT Foundation, a charity that trains people in how to perform CPR and administer naloxone, have called for this training to be mandatory in B.C. high schools.

It may be happening soon.

Naloxone kits have been available at all secondary schools in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows since 2017, and administrators are trained in their use, noted Irena Pochop, spokesperson for the school district.

“Over the coming weeks, our secondary schools will be hosting a presentation by NaloxHome, which is a youth-run, youth-founded, non-profit organization that provides peer-to-peer information sessions about B.C.’s overdose crisis, the poisoned drug supply, and Naloxone training,” said Pochop.

The first presentation was scheduled for May 29 at Maple Ridge secondary.

If there is sufficient student interest, the district will support schools in pursuing optional, follow-up Naloxone training for students, she added.

The district will also host a free virtual session of the NaloxHome presentation for parents and guardians, with more details shared as it becomes available.

More facts about teen overdoses:

• Toxicology testing detected fentanyl or a fentanyl analogue in 83 per cent of overdose deaths among youth.

• Young people between 17 and 18 years accounted for 60 per cent of these deaths.

• Just over half of those killed were females – in contrast to the general population where about eight in every 10 lives lost is male.

• Of the 126 children and youth who died from unregulated drug toxicity, 85 had a mental-health diagnosis, or had displayed evidence of one.

• Two-thirds (83 victims) were currently receiving, or had received, services offered through the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

READ ALSO: Ottawa rejects Toronto’s request to decriminalize drug possession

Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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