B.C. education minister says drug education already part of school curriculum

Calls for drug conversations in classroom
WATCH: Abbotsford's chief of police is calling for a new approach to tackle the opioid crisis following the overdose deaths of five people in his city last Friday. Tanya Beja has more.

On the heels of a spike in fatal overdoses in Abbotsford, B.C.’s education minister says he hears a call from the city’s police chief’s call for increased drug education for students

“[I hear] the police chief’s points, and I hear it from parents, and educators, and kids, that drug education is something that has to be constant throughout a child’s school years,” said Rob Fleming.

READ MORE: Abbotsford police chief calls for drug education in school curriculum

Fleming said issues around substance use is part of the curriculum for kids, starting in kindergarten, but each school chooses how they go about it.

Schools who have identified a concern also have access to naloxone kits and training for teachers, he said.

“These kits are not expensive. The training is provided so it can be effectively administered in the unlikely but tragic circumstances that could arise,” Fleming said.

WATCH: Shocking new numbers on drug overdose deaths in B.C.

Shocking new numbers on drug overdose deaths in B.C.
Shocking new numbers on drug overdose deaths in B.C.

Fleming says resources are in place if schools or districts think more or different assistance is needed.

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On Monday, Abbotsford police chief Bob Rich called on the province to include drug education in the school curriculum focusing on kids from Grades 4 through 12.

Current education curriculum

In an email, the ministry of education said concepts related to substance use are found in every grade of the physical and health education curriculum.

The ministry says kindergarten to Grade 4 cover concepts such as the different types of substances such as medications and poisons, their effects and strategies for preventing personal harm.

READ MORE: Fentanyl test strips won’t be widely available any time soon: Minister

Grades 5 to 10 cover concepts such as psychoactive substances, risk management, physical and emotional aspects of their use.

The email says Grades 11 and 12 are “still in development as part of the entire redesigned curriculum.”

“The ministry added a cross-curricular instructional sample regarding addictive drugs to the B.C. curriculum website earlier this year,” read the email from the ministry.

WATCH: Recovering from a fentanyl overdose

Recovering from a fentanyl overdose
Recovering from a fentanyl overdose

The ministry says it’s also working to ensure schools and education partners have access to current resources on overdose prevention and education.

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Improvements taking longer than anticipated

Meanwhile, B.C. Premier John Horgan says it’s taking longer than anticipated to make any sort of improvement in the province’s opioid crisis.

“It’s just not acceptable to the public. It’s just not acceptable to me and I think all British Columbians want us to get this wrestled to the ground.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s overdose crisis is taking its toll on paramedics

Horgan said part of the issue is that the problem is so acute.

He also said the federal government is not providing sufficient resources.

“Every time I get the chance I’m pushing, but ultimately, the decisions have to be in concert and in my opinion they’re not moving fast enough.”

WATCH: International Overdose Awareness Day brings troubling numbers

International Overdose Awareness Day brings troubling numbers
International Overdose Awareness Day brings troubling numbers

Still, Horgan said the province has – in conjunction with the feds – opened more safe injection sites and more replacement therapy is available.

Last week five people in Abbotsford died within a few hours.

READ MORE: 5 overdose deaths in Abbotsford in less than 10 hours

The latest numbers showed more people died by August this year than in all of last year.

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~With files from Simon Little