Naloxone kits are now available at Avon Maitland District School Board secondary schools, through an initiative run by Huron Perth Public Health's (HPPH) sexual health and harm reduction team.
Public health nurse Michelle Carter, who is part of that team, told StratfordToday that HPPH discussed the idea with public school board representatives before the program started in January. It was determined there was a need in the community for teens to have further access to naloxone, she said.
As explained on the HPPH website, naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and allow time for medical help to arrive. Naloxone has been available in the community at HPPH and other locations, which can be found on a map at this link.
It is part of HPPH's mandate to provide naloxone and ensure it is available in the community, Carter said.
Carter said HPPH have always kept a close eye on substance-related trends in the community, and that is part of emergency planning and making sure communities are safe.
HPPH’s Collaborative Relationships for Extended Services (CRES) agreement was amended with the AMDSB to allow public health nurses to dispense naloxone to students when there is an identified need, according to a report in the latest HPPH board agenda.
Naloxone kits will be available to students at Stratford District SS, Listowel District SS, FE Madill SS, and Goderich DCI upon request and an identified need, the board report said. That could include a student who uses substances or has a friend or family member who uses substances.
One to two kits can be provided to the student free of charge. Public health nurses will provide training on how to use nasal spray naloxone, as well as safe storage, how to recognize an overdose, and where to access naloxone kits in the community.
The program is not being run in the Catholic school board.
Carter said students could have relationships with public health nurses that work in schools, which may ease any anxiety they have about asking for naloxone.
"Not all teens have the confidence to go into a pharmacy or know what to say. This is another access point and they may have a relationship with a nurse."
The team's presence also provides an important awareness and education aspect, she added.
The board report stated that secondary schools without a sexual health clinic will also receive promotional materials to increase awareness of where to access naloxone. Team members are also collaborating with the public school board's communications manager and the school board to enhance the awareness of the new initiative.
According to available data on overdoses and deaths involving opioids and/or stimulants from January 2016 to June 2023 in Canada, there were 40,642 apparent opioid toxicity deaths. Some 84 per cent of accidental apparent opioid toxicity deaths from January until June of last year involved fentanyl.
Over that same time period, information from eight provinces and territories shows that 98 per cent of apparent stimulant toxicity deaths were accidental.