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After UVic student’s death, calls for mandatory CPR and naloxone training in B.C. high schools

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As 18-year-old Sidney McIntyre-Starko lay dying from a fentanyl overdose, several of her University of Victoria classmates watched helplessly, not recognizing what happened to her or how to perform CPR.

“It’s a tragic story,” said Sandra Clark, the executive director of the ACT Foundation, a charity that trains people in how to perform CPR and administer naloxone to reverse overdoses. “Our goal is to see every young person graduates from high school with the skills and knowledge to save a life.”

Thanks to the ACT Foundation, there are teachers at the majority of BC high schools who are trained in how to give CPR classes to students. But unlike Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, it’s not currently part of the curriculum in British Columbia.

“Unfortunately, where it’s not mandatory in the curriculum, we do see some teachers stop teaching it over time, or it falls away from schools over time,” said Clark.

In the wake of McIntyre-Starko’s death in January, the ACT Foundation not only wants the life-saving lessons to be mandatory in B.C. high schools, it wants the training to include overdose response.

“The students learn what are opioids, and how do opioid overdoses happen. They learn what is naloxone, and how does it work. And then they learn how to respond to a suspected opioid overdose,” said Clark.

B.C.’s Education Minster Rachna Singh says the province is ready to act.

“We are looking at ways to making CPR training and also naloxone training mandatory in our school system,” said Singh. “We know the benefits of it, how we can save lives, and we are looking at the next steps.”

The ACT Foundation would also like B.C. to begin widely offering nasal naloxone instead of injections.

“That’s what's available in Ontario and Quebec, so I think B.C. should be looking at those provinces and seeing how they are doing that,” said Clark. “Hopefully, we will see nasal naloxone available soon, because it’s very easy to administer for anyone.”

McIntyre-Starko’s parents created a website, sidneyshouldbehere.ca where they outline the details and timeline of the first-year science student’s death, which they say was preventable. They believe if young people were all trained in CPR, and nasal naloxone was nearby when Sidney overdosed, their daughter would be alive today.

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