Waterloo, Ont., school board to hold off on providing naloxone

A school board in southwestern Ontario has decided not to follow the example of other boards that are stocking up on naloxone kits to deal with a growing opioid crisis, opting instead to focus on anti-drug education.

Trustees with the Waterloo Region District School Board voted this week to defer a motion to introduce the medication until September.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has equipped all its high schools with kits that include two doses of naloxone nasal spray, which temporarily reverses the effects of overdoses from opioids, and the Toronto District School Board says it too will provide the medication.

But Chairman Scott McMillan says the Waterloo board will stick with the status quo: teaching kids about the dangers of taking drugs, and what to do in case of an overdose.

He says the trustees who voted to defer the decision felt that the board is already on the right track in its drug strategy.

McMillan says schools start teaching kids not to take drugs in the first or second grade, and as they get older they’re taught to call 911 in case of a suspected overdose.

“We’re hearing from public health that they want us to focus first and foremost on education and prevention,” he said. “And then at some point in the future, it might make sense for us to put naloxone kits in the schools.”

And students in the Waterloo region aren’t at a great risk of overdosing while in school, said board spokesman Nick Manning.

“Each region, each municipality is different. I don’t know the reason why Toronto has introduced naloxone kits for their secondary schools,” he said. ”What we’re doing is looking at the needs of our community here.”

“I have not heard of worrying drug use,” he added. “Young people who are likely to be taking drugs or opioids are tending to do that at their homes or in other locations.”

So the board is sticking with its current plan: education.

In addition to the drug messaging in the curriculum, Manning said the board has in recent months distributed information to parents and schools about the dangers of opioids.

But Cindy Watson, the trustee who introduced the motion, said that this isn’t an either-or discussion. The board can do both — recommend that the schools continue on as they have been, and provide naloxone kits and training on how to use them.

She said there’s a provincewide opioid crisis, and schools in her region need to be prepared.

Naloxone kits are akin to defibrillators, she said. Ideally, they’re never needed, but they’re there just in case.

“It could happen,” she said. “It may never happen, but which side do you want to err on?”

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