A school board trustee is hoping the province will establish future guidelines for both substance education and opioid overdose response in schools across B.C.
Trustee Kim Dumore put forward a motion to be submitted to the B.C. School Trustees Association, (BCSTA), upcoming annual general meeting, for that organization to request the province create a task force made up of specialists from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction, Ministry of Education and Child Care, Provincial Health, First Nations Education Steering Committee, Métis Nation BC, and representatives from all education stakeholders, including those with lived experience.
“I am thrilled to say that our board was unanimous in the vote on this motion. In fact, I also took it to the BCSTA Fraser Valley Branch meeting and received unanimous support vote there as well,” said school board vice chair Kim Dumore.
In 2016, Dumore explained, the Ministry of Education introduced a redesigned curriculum where substance education was moved into the physical and health education curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 10, which focused on physical literacy, healthy and active living, social and community health, and mental well-being.
However, she said, there is minimal provincial guidance and training available.
“Substance use can’t be a standalone lesson but must instead be woven throughout the curriculum,” noted Dumore, explaining that students should be taught how to be able to assess factors that influence healthy choices, determine strategies for preventing personal harm, and identify strategies for managing problems related to mental well-being and substance use.
Dumore explained that in today’s context of substance use and the opioid crisis, educators are requesting additional supports so that they can deliver the education students need to keep themselves safe and healthy.
In her motion, Dumore cited the latest B.C. Coroner’s report that showed there have been 1,827 deaths from January to October this year due to illicit drug toxicity – 28 of these deaths were people under the age of 19.
“I want to ensure all staff teaching substance education in the province feel supported in implementing the curriculum,” she said.
Dumore also hopes the province will fund an opioid overdose response guideline to be implemented in all school districts across B.C.
“The response would be how we as a system respond to an occurrence (of an opioid overdose) in our school setting,” she explained, noting that an opioid overdose is a toxicity due to excessive consumption of opioids.
“This is an opportunity to look at what we currently have in place, ask critical questions, and provide resources and financial support to the crisis that does not seem to be going away anytime soon. This joint task force would have the power to create change and the opportunity to save lives,” said Dumore.
Dumore is hoping to see her motion come to fruition before the end of her term as a trustee, even though she acknowledges it is a big job that will require difficult conversations.
The opioid crisis was declared in April 2016, and since then more than 11,171 people have lost their lives – parents, children, grandparents, and friends.
“We should start working upstream to ensure our students do not continue to be a part of these statistics,” said Dumore.
The BCSTA annual general meeting is to be held in April.
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