As the fentanyl crisis continues to plague B.C., there are calls to stock the overdose-reversing drug naloxone in every high school in the province.
More than 2,300 lives have been lost to drug overdoses across B.C. since the start of 2015, and while no one has died on school property, there are still some school-aged children among the victims.
Last year, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall sent a letter to school superintendents recommending that naloxone kits be outfitted at any school whose administration suspects students are using drugs. But Maple Ridge school trustee Susan Carr believes the kits, which can be purchased over the counter for around $50, should be kept in every high school, if only as a precaution.
"How are [administrators] going to know what every kid is up to? There may be kids using that people don't know about," Carr told CTV News.
Naloxone is already stocked at several schools in Carr's district, and at others in Merrit, Victoria and Vancouver. But there are currently none at schools in Delta, where nine teenagers overdosed in a span of 20 minutes just before the start of the 2015 school year.
A spokesperson for the Delta School District said there are "well-trained first responders near our school sites" who would be called in the event of an overdose on school grounds.
According to Kendall's letter, eight youths between the ages of 15-18 died of overdoses in the first 10 months of 2016 alone. There have been other tragedies since, including the death of a 13-year-old girl from Port Coquitlam over the summer.
Because none of the overdoses have happened on school property, health officials have not designated schools a "high-risk environment." But Kendall did recommend schools with a high-risk population obtain a kit and ensure a staff member is trained to administer the naloxone.
In July, almost nine months after Kendall's letter, the B.C. government announced it was following up on the recommendations by releasing a Naloxone Risk Assessment Tool to help schools decide whether to stock the overdose-reversing drug.
In a statement provided to CTV News, the Ministry of Education said the tool provides guidance on how to order naloxone kits and how to access training to administer the drug.
"If school administrators know they have a high-risk population in their school, or are aware of students using illegal drugs on or near school grounds, public health officials recommend buying a naloxone kit for the school and ensuring a staff person knows how to use it," the statement reads.
Delta told CTV News it will be completing the risk assessment and taking "further measures" if necessary.
The government agency says education is the key to ensuring students are aware of the risks of potentially deadly drugs, adding that "concepts related to substance use are found in every grade of the Physical and Health Education curriculum from kindergarten through Grade 10."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Jon Woodward