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Overdose prevention, response committee strengthening protections for students

July 10, 2024 at 2:02 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

B.C.’s Post-Secondary Overdose Prevention and Response Steering Committee has identified early actions to help students stay safe and reduce the risk and harms related to toxic-drug poisonings on campuses.

The steering committee is tasked with reviewing existing policies, identifying gaps and recommending best practices in overdose prevention and response at all of B.C.’s public post-secondary institutions.

The steering committee was formed in late May 2024 after being convened by Lisa Beare, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. The steering committee is developing overdose prevention and response actions for public post-secondary schools to be in place and implemented on campuses across B.C. for the fall 2024 semester.

The steering committee is co-chaired by the assistant deputy minister of post-secondary education and future skills and the provost and vice-president academic from the University of the Fraser Valley. The committee includes representatives from post-secondary institutions, the First Nations Education Steering Committee, the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, the First Nations Health Authority, and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.

As the steering committee continues its work toward safer campuses for all post-secondary students, several actions have been identified that post-secondary institutions can start implementing immediately.

Providing clarity on contacting emergency services: 911 must be contacted immediately, with no hesitation, when there is a medical emergency. Suspected overdoses and drug poisonings are serious medical events in which time is of the essence. Emergency medical services also have an important role in ensuring aftercare for people who have experienced an overdose. All institutions should ensure that it is made clear to students to call 911 first, and campus security second in the event of an emergency. To support institutions, additional guidelines will be developed to further ensure effective and timely assistance in medical emergencies.

Expanding awareness of toxic drug alerts: The BC Centre for Disease Control, in partnership with the regional health authorities and community partners, provide free, real-time text messaging services for anyone to receive toxic-drug alerts or share information about toxic drugs in their community through: https://towardtheheart.com/. The service is anonymous, and people can receive other relevant information via text message, like where to find naloxone or how to get drugs checked. All public post-secondary institutions will sign up for these services and share the information with students, staff and faculty.

Enhancing consistent access to naloxone: Naloxone is a medication that can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids. Institutions will ensure naloxone is readily available and accessible on campuses throughout B.C. To support institutions, the steering committee is developing naloxone distribution guidelines that incorporate principles and best practices on the distribution and accessibility of naloxone on campus and in student housing. The Province is further supporting institutions by ordering the nasal naloxone that will be distributed to the 25 public post-secondary institutions.  

Naloxone is available without a prescription and free of charge to people in B.C. at 2,282 locations throughout B.C. through the BC Centre for Disease Control’s Take Home Naloxone program.

Overdose prevention awareness: To support overdose-prevention work on campus, the steering committee is developing an awareness campaign that highlights when and how to use nasal and injectable naloxone, as well as information on harm-reduction and treatment services. This will include targeted communication for key groups, including post-secondary students in student housing and trades programs, as well as underserved and vulnerable populations. This awareness campaign will be rolled out during the fall 2024 semester.

In addition, the steering committee is examining additional actions to improve overdose prevention and response. This includes training guidelines for campus security personnel, communication guidelines for institutions during a medical emergency, and developing best practices for communication protocols on notifying next of kin or emergency contacts and supporting staff affected by responding to overdoses.

The steering committee will continue to meet over the summer to carry out this work and will continue to establish a provincewide response that will be put into practice at all of B.C.’s public post-secondary institutions in time for the fall semester.

Learn More:

To find out more about where naloxone is available in B.C., visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/overdose/naloxone-kit

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