Four delegates gave evidence for putting naloxone kits in Guelph’s public high schools during a meeting of the Upper Grand District School Board on Tuesday evening, passing a motion directing staff to prepare a drug and overdose protocol.
Naloxone is a counter agent that works to halt overdoses with little side affects. It’s described as a “bandaid”, a first response before paramedics arrive.
Adrienne Crowder, head of the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy, made the case with local and national numbers that high schools are not immune to the opioid crisis.
Trustees questioned the price of kits, which are valued at $120, and Crowder was forced to reiterate at least four times that that public health could provide kits for free through its partners.
One of the student trustees asked how many kits would be needed per capita in regards to student population in the schools. Crowder simply said that there should be one naloxone kit for every first aid kit.
Guelph General emergency services chief Dr. Ian Digby said as a delegate that he has seen the impacts of the opioid crisis become more prominent in recent years.
To the roundtable of trustees the doctor touted the naloxone kits as a one-size-fits-all solution for opioid overdoses, explaining that the many opioid drugs are treatable via nasal or injection methods.
Hannah Derue, an assistant at a downtown methadone clinic, told the the story of a young patient who lost his life to a fentanyl-related overdose, an opioid that could be treated with naloxone.
Derue cited a 2015 study that found 37 per cent of 7 to grade 12 students said they would be able to easily access prescription pain relievers, saying that it pointed to a trend in schools.
“I’m here to tell you that it is your moral and legal obligation to act now,” she told the trustees, adding later that “blind denial of the statistical realities that youth face will only harm your children and students.”
Coun. James Gordon was announced as a last-minute addition to the delegates list. The councillor explained he has been carrying a naloxone kit for around a year now, in the hope he’ll never have to use it.
Saying that in Guelph “we like to be leaders”, Gordon said that the “opioid crisis is real so its time to get real” and that it’s “unrealistic to expect that high school students would not be vulnerable to this”.
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He concluded his delegation encouraging trustees to “pass a motion and save a life, it’s that simple”.
However, it turned out that it was not as simple for the board to just pass a motion to get naloxone into schools.
Co-chair Linda Busuttil explained that they were in the middle of a process to develop their first drug policy.
Later in the meeting, UGDSB staff presented a Naloxone Report to trustees, which detailed information from various sources regarding Naloxone and opioid use, and included information from consultations with local police services, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy, Dufferin Family Transition Place, Sanguen Health Centre and more.
Trustees received the staff report as information.
Following the staff presentation, trustees approved a motion directing staff to prepare a Drug and Alcohol Overdose Protocol, and that staff include a recommendation on the implementation of naloxone in schools in the Drug and Alcohol Overdose Protocol and report to the Board before December 2019.
So delegates and trustees will have to wait until December for there to be an approval from the board.
Independent of the naloxone discussion, trustee for Wards 1 and 5 Mark Bailey brought up that he is working to bring together a proposal around an emergency climate program.
Coun. Leanne Piper attempted to pass a motion declaring a climate emergency earlier this year, but an amendment from Coun. Dan Gibson altered the original motion so that Council ended up instead “acknowledging a climate crisis”, to some backlash.
Jade Biglow detailed her experience with saving a man’s life in front of the Sleeman Centre downtown to The Post in May, saying that she was able to temporarily reverse an overdose in time for emergency services to arrive with her naloxone kit.
Were trustees on board?
Putting naloxone in schools was an initiative spearheaded in a lot of ways by Wards 2, 3 and 4 trustee Mike Foley, who was active in supporting the delegations and thanked them for their attendance after the meeting.
There were at least two other trustees that indicated that they were on board when a motion comes forward to put the kits in schools. Trustees Jolly Bedi and Mark Bailey will be both behind the initiative.
It was unclear where the others sit on the issue and The Post has reached out for comment from each member of the board as well as the Wellington Catholic District School Board in regards to what similar efforts, if any, they are making.
One question that was repeatedly asked by several trustees was around the cost. Crowder had to insist several times that the kits would be free to the schools through partner organizations such as Arch Guelph and, in fact, was actually free to pick up by any citizen from a local pharmacy.