Split over naloxone

By Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor

Wayne Baker, superintendent of education for the Grand Erie District School Board, calls it a no-brainer to have naloxone kits in all the board's schools.

When Grand Erie officials decided to put the opioid antidote kits into its secondary schools last year, it was ahead of most boards in the province. Some of them, including the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, are following suit.

This school year, Grand Erie also put naloxone kits into all of its elementary schools.

"It's pretty clear that these opioid overdoses are happening everywhere and anywhere," said Baker.

"Our hope is that we never have to use (the kit) but, in reality, someone will."

Staff at the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board have decided not to install naloxone kits in their schools.

Both boards have been involved with a round-table on fentanyl and the Fentanyl Can Kill education campaign initiated by Brantford Police Chief Geoff Nelson earlier this year. The round-table includes representatives of numerous local agencies including St. Leonard's Community Services and the Brant County Health Unit.

Local paramedics, police, firefighters and those in health care and social services are also involved in the campaign which has included community forums and the launch of a website .

A Canadian Institute for Health Information report released earlier this year put Brantford at the top of the provincial list for emergency room visits due to opioid overdoses.

For every 100,000 people, the city's census metropolitan area, which includes Brant County and part of Six Nations, there are 98.9 opioid visits to the emergency room. The next highest area in Ontario is St. Catharines-Niagara with 72.5 visits.

Baker said principals and vice principals at all Grand Erie schools, along with staff who have first aid training, have been trained to use the naloxone kits, which include two doses of nasal spray and a disposable mask.

While Baker said he is unaware of the kits being used at any Grand Erie schools, he knows of students who have overdosed in the community.

Baker said that, while the use of fentanyl is less intentional among elementary school-aged students, it can be cut into other drugs, including marijuana.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate narcotic, a prescription drug used primarily for cancer patients in severe pain. It is 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine. Heroin, cocaine, oxycodone and other drugs can be cut with fentanyl, in powder, liquid or pill form.

The decision not to put naloxone kits in its schools was made by staff at the Catholic board early in the school year.

"We take medical emergency response procedure direction directly from public health officials," Chris Roehrig, director of education, said in an e-mail. "If this public health issue poses significant risk to students while in our schools, we would take the appropriate measures, including calling 911.

"As well, we continuously consult with Ontario School Board Insurance Exchange, our school resource officers and public health nurses. Local support for issue awareness includes our commitment to the Fentanyl Can Kill education campaign."

Baker said that the public school board's procedure in an emergency is to first call 911 and then treat the person. Having a naloxone kit "holds the person until the professionals get there."

"It should put a lot of minds at ease," he said. "And possibly save some lives."

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