Pubdate: Mon, 13 Mar 2017
Source: Standard Freeholder (Cornwall, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Cornwall Standard Freeholder
Author: Sabrina Bedford
Page: A1


UCDSB has been blitzing schools with Fentanyl awareness campaign

BROCKVILLE - As the region's police and health officials grapple with
a growing opioid problem, the public school board is also
brainstorming ways to keep its students safe from a drug that's
becoming prevalent.

In response to fentanyl alerts issued by local public health agencies
this year, the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) has deployed
staff members to meet with school support teams to look at how to best
reduce drug and substance use.

"We've done a bit of a blitz over the last few weeks," said
superintendent David Coombs. "This is incredibly serious, and the
consequences are deadly."

The board is joining the fight against opioid overdoses after drugs
containing illicit fentanyl were found in Leeds and Grenville
recently. The tri-counties' health unit has warned the substance is
being mixed with other street drugs such as cocaine, crystal meth,
heroin and sometimes even marijuana. The drug has also been reported
present within the Eastern Ontario Health Unit's communities.

"It's never been more dangerous in history to be a recreational drug
user at this time," said Coombs.

"It's certainly something we're responding to very quickly, and
something we're encouraging our schools to be very proactive on."

Fentanyl - a synthetic opioid prescribed to treat severe pain - is
approximately 40 times more potent than heroin, and there's been a
surge in overdoses and deaths associated with its use throughout the
province recently as it's being mixed in as a filler in some
manufactured drugs.

"The risks to health now are extremely high - so we're concerned,"
said Dr. Alison Inglis, the chief psychologist with the board.

In response, schools in the UCDSB have been partnering with the
regional health units to ensure that students, parents and staff
members are fully aware of the dangers of opioids and the rising risks
associated with recreational or non-prescription drug use.

"In Eastern Ontario, we have some troublesome drug and alcohol use
rates that are higher than the provincial average," said Inglis.

"Alcohol, cannabis and tobacco use are higher in the eastern part of
the province."

The board has taken action against the crisis in several areas, Coombs
said, including sending home discussion sheets for parents, teachers
and students, holding awareness assemblies and arranging training
sessions for staff members.

"There are some of our schools - TR Leger would be one of those - that
do have some really vulnerable-sector kids. Our administration has
been proactive in going to those schools and providing training," he

All secondary schools will soon be equipped with Naloxone kits, a drug
that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and the training to
administer them.

Coombs said the fentanyl crisis is a different issue for schools and
communities, in that there is a much greater risk of overdose than
from traditional recreation drugs. Because of this, every student is
now being exposed to programming, interventions, strategies, and
opportunities that promote health, he added.

Schools have been posting fentanyl alerts on their websites and
Facebook pages, holding special assemblies and perhaps most
effectively, incorporated the awareness into classroom activities.
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