Death of 18-year-old UVic student from fentanyl prompts B.C. government to act

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The story of an 18-year-old University of Victoria student, Sidney McIntyre-Starko, who died in January of fentanyl poisoning, has prompted the provincial government to announce changes.

McIntyre-Starko died after she and her friend collapsed in a dorm room.

In an open letter published last week, her mother, who has been an emergency physician for 25 years, said her daughter’s death was preventable.

“Witnesses heard Sidney and another student collapse and did exactly what they were told to do for emergencies at the University of Victoria. They called campus security immediately,” the letter stated.

“Campus security never contacted 911. The only person on campus to contact 911 was an impaired student who had difficulty following simple instructions. Campus security showed up in about 3 1/2 minutes, with enough time to save our daughter.”

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However, Caroline McIntyre wrote that the security officers did not administer naloxone until nine minutes after they arrived and started CPR almost 12 minutes after they arrived.

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“Sidney was an organ donor five days later,” she wrote.

“Naloxone, when administered quickly, reverses the effect of an opioid overdose. Simple CPR will keep the person alive while waiting for the naloxone to work or waiting for help to arrive.”

The friend who was with McIntyre-Starko survived.

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In the letter, Caroline said that along with a coroner’s inquest into her daughter’s death, CPR and Naloxone training should be mandatory in the high school curriculum, easy-to-use nasal naloxone should be widely available for free in the province, and nasal naloxone kits should be widely and easily accessible in schools and campuses in B.C.

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In a statement Monday, Jennifer Whiteside, the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said that McIntyre-Starko’s death has impacted many people and the government is listening to the calls for change.

Last week, Premier David Eby announced there will be a coroner’s inquest into what happened.

“In the meantime, the post-secondary Minister will be meeting with universities and colleges this week to talk about what actions can be taken to keep students safe on campus — and taking steps to unify actions across campuses,” Whiteside said in a statement.

“We are in discussions to purchase nasal naloxone in larger quantities, which is easier to administer, and we are working on adding CPR training as a mandatory lesson in high schools.”

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