'We have a problem:' Catholic school board launches proactive opioid strategy
The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board has launched a "proactive" strategy aimed at taking on opioid abuse and educating parents and students about the dangerous drugs.
"We have a problem. We need to talk," said Director of Education Paul Picard, at a media event at St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School to announce the plan.
"Unless we confront this problem head on we run the risk of seeing serious and potentially lethal consequences for our students."
The board has created a special section of its website devoted to informing students, staff and parents about opioid use.
On the page, people will find useful information on the drugs, the risks associated with abuse and how to identify the signs of an overdose.
"Drugs are in every high school in our community," said Picard. "They're in every high school across the country and the severity of the issue continues to increase."
Drug Suspensions Up
St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School Principal Amy Facchineri said that the plan is to educate students about the dangers of opioid use all year long.
"There are drugs in this school, there are drugs in every school, it's not unique to us," said Facchineri, who added the number of drug related suspensions has increased at her school.
"That's due to the fact that we are actively engaged in this issue," said Facchineri. "This is something that our administrative team is actively pursuing in order to ensure the safety of our students."
Members of area law enforcement and emergency services were also on hand to share their expertise.
"The problem is not going to go away by burying our heads in the sand," said Det. Al Gibson from the LaSalle Police Service.
"We need to stop living in a bubble where we think that this could never happen to our children," said Dana Tonus, with the board's parent advisory council.
"Our kids are living in a different world than when we grew up," she explained. "We can't stand by and hope that this doesn't impact our loved ones."
Every student at St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School will be sent home with a memo for parents describing the risks of opioids.
There will also be phone calls home and public information sessions for parents.
Next week staff will have a meeting after school to go over the strategy and there will be two assemblies for students led by two former Villanova students who are recovering from opioid addictions.
Facchineri said it's important to start opioid messaging early because students are becomming exposed to them in high-school.
"I think what you'll hear from people in their 20s who are currently in crisis is that this most likely started in high school," said Facchineri. "I think that there's a really scary assumption that if this is medication that I can access at home because it's in the medicine cabinet at home than it must be okay and it must be safe."