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All 25 B.C. universities, colleges will have nasal naloxone this fall: minister

New provincial committee requires schools to adopt overdose-prevention actions in response to the preventable overdose death of a UVic student.
University of Victoria student Sidney McIntyre-Starko died in January after she was poisoned by fentanyl in a dorm. SUBMITTED

The province will provide all 25 B.C. universities and colleges with easy-to-use nasal naloxone this fall, and is requiring schools to make the kits “readily available and accessible” to students to help prevent drug poisonings and overdoses.

The move is among several directives issued Wednesday by the province’s overdose prevention steering committee, which was set up in May in response to the January death of University of Victoria student Sidney McIntyre-Starko, who did not receive life-saving care after she was poisoned by fentanyl in a dorm.

The committee is developing guidelines for how universities and colleges should distribute the overdose-reversing drug naloxone in school buildings as classes begin this September, the Post-Secondary Ministry said in a statement.

The province will purchase nasal-spray naloxone for campuses, rather than the harder-to-use injection naloxone that is made available to the public through pharmacies.

The committee identified other student safety measures expected to be on campuses for the fall 2024 semester, including:

• Students will be instructed to call 911 first, and campus security second, in an emergency. At many schools, including UVic, students on campus received mixed messages on who to call.

• A new awareness campaign will highlight how to use naloxone, as well as information on harm-reduction and treatment.

• Schools will be required to sign up for alerts, issued by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, whenever toxic drugs cause overdoses in their community. These alerts, along with other information, such as where to find naloxone and how to get drugs tested, must be provided to students.

When McIntyre-Starko collapsed in a UVic dorm in January, there was no naloxone available in the building. Student witnesses called for help immediately, but she didn’t receive naloxone for 13 minutes or chest compressions for 15 minutes.

The 18-year-old died despite first-aid-trained campus security officers arriving promptly with naloxone and a 911 call-taker talking on the phone with another student.

Post-secondary Minister Lisa Beare was not available Wednesday for an interview.

UVic president Kevin Hall pledged his school will work with the province to implement all recommendations “in the interest of student wellness and safety on campus,” adding many of them are “aligned with the actions our university is taking in preparation for return to campus this fall.”

UVic promised in June to make changes on its campus, which include the installation of 89 naloxone boxes in dorms and other buildings, training residence staff in how to use them, and alerting all 3,000 new students this fall about where the naloxone is located and providing harm-reduction information in their orientation handbooks.

The steering committee will continue to work this summer on a province-wide plan to improve protection for students during the toxic drug crisis, which has become the leading cause of death for B.C. children and youth.

The group will examine other policies, including medical training for campus security, how schools communicate information during a medical emergency, and when to notify next of kin after a serious incident.

In McIntyre-Starko’s case, UVic did not contact her family the night she collapsed to say she had been taken to hospital in critical condition. And several senior students who worked in dorms say they were forbidden by the school to warn first-year students about McIntyre-Starko’s overdose.

The steering committee includes representatives from post-secondary schools, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the provincial health officer’s office, First Nations and government ministries.

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