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Maple Ridge to host drug forum amid mounting calls for more education

WATCH: 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.

Maple Ridge is hosting a second drug forum Wednesday night, as the death toll in the province’s overdose crisis continues to mount.

Maple Ridge School Trustee Susan Carr, who organized the event, says it is needed as people just aren’t getting the message.

“More and more people are dying alone in private residences,” said Carr.

Despite statistics showing the crisis is not just a Downtown Eastside problem, Carr said officials still aren’t getting through to people who don’t fit the stereotype of an active drug user.

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

She said recreational users who are everyday people with “normal” lives and jobs, are particularly at risk.

“The twist it’s taken has now permeated into mainstream folks’ lives,” she said.

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“We need to get the message to these people that you can’t trust the drugs that you bought [are] not contaminated.”

Carr is also calling on the province to implement drug-specific education programs.

“We need to get into schools from as early as Grade 4. This has become a society shift, this need to use drugs in all ages,” she said.

“It would be great if every high school in the province had a drug and alcohol counselor in it.”

The Ministry of Education says education around substance abuse is taught from Grades 4 to 10 as part of the Physical and Health Education curriculum, but how the material is implemented is up to each school.

Grades 5 to 10 cover concepts such as psychoactive substances, risk management and the physical and emotional aspects of drug use, while grades 11 and 12 are “still in development as part of the entire redesigned curriculum,” the ministry said.

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

The first forum, held October last year, saw 500 people attend.

Following five overdose deaths in just 10 hours last week in Abbotsford, that city’s police chief also called for drug education starting at the elementary school level.

The forum begins at 7 p.m. at Thomas Haney Secondary School at 23000 116th Avenue in Maple Ridge.