Pubdate: Thu, 01 Jun 2017
Source: Metro (Vancouver, CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Author: David P. Ball
Page: 4


Experts discuss how educators can curb risks

Feeling connected is critical to avoiding problem substance use. Cindy

As New Westminster School District students continue to grapple with a
tragedy that took the life of one of its 16-year-old students this
week, and nearly killed another, experts have said their overdoses are
a "call to action" for all schools.

Both teens overdosed on an "unknown" substance they wrongly believed
was the party drug MDMA, local police said.

In Vancouver, several schools and teachers have been issued overdose
reversal kits and training, Metro has learned. Several districts'
substance use counsellors are raising awareness of fentanyl overdoses,
and some teens even trained on overdose symptoms and first aid.

Increasingly, teenagers trying recreational drugs are witnessing
first-hand the devastating impact of the ongoing public health
emergency. But with most substance use happening off school grounds,
what can educators do to combat the crisis?

"It is urgent," explained Art Steinmann, the Vancouver School Board's
manager of substance use health promotion. "Of course, fentanyl is
odourless, colourless and tasteless - one can't know if it's mixed
into something. It's just so much more potentially impactful."

In the past, he said, when educators or school counsellors learned one
of their students wanted to experiment with cocaine for instance,
there was likely time to act and engage with the student

"Of course we were concerned," he said. "But we didn't expect that
they would risk dying from a single exposure. Whereas today we really
don't know."

Steinmann also manages the VSB's School Age Children and Youth (SACY)
initiative, a partnership between the Board and Vancouver Coastal
Health. It has seven "youth engagement" staff in secondary schools
working directly with youth, plus four family support workers.

It also runs a teen engagement program that builds up older students'
capacity to offer leadership and mentorship to students in Grades 7 to
9 - a proven effective strategy for adult-leery teens-at-risk.

But some changes are still needed in many schools on a policy and
cultural level.

"If a kid comes to school high, it seems to be that's an opportunity
for some conversation and involvement, not a punitive kind of
response," said Cindy Andrew, Helping Schools Program consultant at
the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research of B.C.
"That doesn't mean there aren't consequences, but chances are the kid
… would benefit from some nurturing of relationships. Feeling
connected is critical to avoiding problem substance use."
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