Pubdate: Sun, 12 Nov 2017
Source: Morning Star, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Morning Star
Author: Parker Crook


The Vernon School District is taking a proactive approach to battling
the opioid crisis.

Rather than waiting for drug problems to develop, school counsellors,
backed by the district, are tackling potential problems before they
materialize through a new program.

Preventure, a school-based preventative drug and alcohol program, aims
to reduce drug and alcohol use in high-risk teenagers.

"The starting point is prevention, then intervention," said Doug
Rogers, district substance abuse prevention counsellor.

The Canadian-developed program screens Grade 8 students for four
personality traits that are considered at risk: sensation-seeking,
impulsiveness, anxiety sensitivity and hopelessness, as research
indicates that up to 90 per cent of at risk youth can be identified
from these traits.

And, as these traits are prevalent in youth at a young age, it allows
counsellors to reach at risk students earlier.

"This doesn't start in high school, it starts much earlier than that,"
Rogers said. "Let's deal with it now."

Adolescents that are brought into the program attend two 90-minute
workshops focused on educating and motivating youths to understand how
their personality traits impact emotional and behavioural actions.

"A trait isn't a weakness," Rogers said. "It's who you

To demonstrate the potential of Preventure, director of instruction in
student support services Truman Spring, alongside University of
British Columbia Okanagan psychology professor Marvin Krank and lead
for child and youth mental health and substance use of Interior Health
Authority David Smith have invited minister of mental health and
addictions Judy Darcy to see the program in action, as the Vernon
School District is one of the first to implement the program.

"We are one of the few districts in Canada that are actually doing
that," Spring said of the screening process. "Our most at risk, those
are the kids we really try to target. The key thing in the school
district is prevention."

Research has shown that benefits of the Preventure workshops last for
up to two years.

"It's research based. It's evidence based," Spring said. "We need to
have programming in place to help the kids move forward."

School staff is trained on Preventure procedures, with counsellors
conducting the screenings.

Preventure is the Vernon School District's frontline to battling the
opioid crisis, however, it is not their only defence.

In all district high schools and alternate schools, naloxone kits are
available should the need for their use arise.

"We're probably much more aggressive and active than other school
districts," Spring said. "As the opioid crisis is taking everybody by
storm, I think we're at the front end for putting this together."

Rogers and Spring began discussing the possibility of having naloxone
when the opioid crisis was coined, and have had kits available in
schools for just over a year.

"We had some push back initially, but it's always better to be
prepared," Rogers said.

Naloxone - an antidote that can reverse an opioid overdose
temporarily, is available to anyone without a prescription in B.C. for
emergency use, and is not harmful to youths.

Part of the need for the antidote in schools, Rogers said, stems from
the prevalence of fentanyl.

"Eighty per cent of drugs in the Lower Mainland have fentanyl in
them," Rogers said. "We're not insulated from that."

The district foot the bill for introducing the kits, and hold regular
training seminars with school administrators and first aid.

"Everybody said the same thing-it makes sense," Rogers

Naloxone kits are now recommended by officials to be available in all
high schools across the province.

With the same purpose of prevention and preparation, the North
Okanagan-Shuswap School District is looking at having naloxone
available in select schools.

"An assessment is being done at each school to determine what schools,
sites and student population may be at risk," said Alice Hucul, North
Okanagan-Shuswap School District communications officer. "If it is
determined to be at risk, the school district will follow up with
training to staff on how to use the naloxone kits."

Risk assessments are currently underway in the North Okanagan-Shuswap
district, and a trained first aid professional will provide necessary
training, with the district hoping to have everything in place by
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