Canada Schools aren't immune to fentanyl crisis, police say

00:41  06 october  2017
00:41  06 october  2017 Source:   Edmonton Journal

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Schools aren ' t immune to fentanyl crisis , police say . Edmonton police Const. Brandon Myhre keeps a photo of a smiling young man in a graduation gown on his desk at Mother Margaret Mary High School , where …

Const. Cherie Jerebic said it’s difficult to say how many school -age kids have died from fentanyl poisoning, but many students and police school resource officers (SROs) know someone who has overdosed.

Edmonton police Const. Brandon Myhre keeps a photo of a smiling young man in a graduation gown on his desk at Mother Margaret Mary High School, where he’s the resource officer. 

A recent graduate from the small Catholic school in southwest Edmonton, the young man in the photo died after a fentanyl overdose last year. 

“It cuts deep for a lot of these kids still,” Myhre said recently. “We just can’t have this happen any more. It’s got to stop.”  

On Oct. 10, school resource officers and families will share stories about Edmonton students and recent grads lost to fentanyl overdoses — two years into a push to educate students about the deadly drug. The talk at Mother Margaret Mary will be webcast and then made available to as many as 29,000 other students in Edmonton’s Catholic and public school districts after the event. 

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Const. Cherie Jerebic said it’s difficult to say how many school-age kids have died from fentanyl poisoning, but many students and police school resource officers (SROs) know someone who has overdosed. 

“Some students that may see this (presentation) may actually know these families,” Jerebic said. “We’ll have people in place like school counsellors to ensure everybody who hears the presentation have supports in place, should it be someone they know.”  

Fentanyl is an opioid pain medication hundreds of times more potent than morphine. Alberta Health Services estimates 198 people died of fentanyl overdoses in Edmonton between the start of 2016 and mid-2017. 

Austin O’Brien High School, another Edmonton Catholic school, was the first in the city to launch a fentanyl awareness program in 2015, Jerebic said. SROs currently offer fentanyl education in 21 high schools and about a dozen junior highs in Edmonton.

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The Oct. 10 presentation will be the first time families have shared their stories in a school setting, Jerebic said. SROs had reached out to about five families who had lost a loved one, but not all had confirmed they would attend as of Friday. 

“We’re trying to get it close to home,” she said. “This isn’t somewhere in the States, this isn’t just Vancouver, this is actually happening here, in Alberta. Specifically, we’re bringing it home to what’s happening in Edmonton. So hopefully we get the message out that this can be anybody.”

Myhre, who is in his second year at the school, said students have grown more aware of fentanyl’s dangers, but still have misconceptions.

“They actually think that people are going out and buying pills of fentanyl and overdosing or getting poisoning from that,” he said. In fact, a variety of drugs can be laced with the opioid, leading to accidental overdoses. “When they hear that, they’re quite surprised.”  

Mother Margaret Mary principal Heather Kaup said she hopes the fentanyl awareness program connects students and SROs.  

“We really hope that it’s the catalyst to create those connections to keep our kids clean, and save as many as we can,” she said. 

“The goal isn’t to scare kids straight — scaring isn’t part of it,” Jerebic added. “What it is is to give education, to give facts.” 

jwakefield@postmedia.com

Editors note: this story has been updated to reflect how the webcast will be shared with students. An earlier version contained incorrect information. 

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