UCDSB, CDSBEO, EOHU, CPS address youth drug use

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By Nick Seebruch
UCDSB, CDSBEO, EOHU, CPS address youth drug use
CPS Cst. Dan Cloutier addresses a virtual town hall about drug use in the youth population on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

CORNWALL, Ontario – The Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB), Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO), Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) and Cornwall Police Service (CPS) addressed drug use in schools in a joint virtual town hall on Thursday night, May 27.

During the town hall Nick Hutt of the EOHU gave an overview of the instances of overdoses in the region in general, and substance abuse in youth specifically.

According to Hutt, there were 17 overdose related deaths in the EOHU region in 2019. In 2020, that number jumped to 28, and Hutt said that so far 2021 was already seeing high numbers of overdoses.

“I have it under good authority the month of May was especially not good,” said Hutt. “A lot of these are not related to youth. Generally we’re talking about an age range from 20 to 45. So that is very positive from that perspective.”

“A lot of this is being driven in and around the City of Cornwall and is related to a drug we’ve come to know as purple fentanyl or “purp,”” he added.

In terms of general substance use in youth, the EOHU conducted a survey of school age students and found that of the respondents, 45 per cent had at least one drink of alcohol in their lives, 16 per cent had used tobacco or a vape product, and 16 per cent had tried cannabis. Less than 10 per cent of respondents said that they had abused substances in their lives.

“When I come back from a long weekend, I check the calls for service, and I am shocked to see the number of overdoses,” said CPS Cst. Dan Cloutier.

“Your life is fragile, so take care of it. Respect yourself and protect your future,” was Cloutier’s message to youth.

Mark Barnes, pharmacist with Respect Rx Pharmacy, located on Sydney St. in Cornwall, said that everyone should assume that an illicit drug could be cut with the opioid fentanyl or the even more powerful carfentanyl, which he explained was 10,000 times more powerful that heroin.

Barnes encouraged anyone who used opioids or knew someone who did to get a Narcan nasal spray kit. Narcan can negate the effects of an opioid dose for a time, and stabilize a person who is overdosing until paramedics can arrive. Barnes explained that Narcan was available for free at most pharmacies.

The EOHU had some advice for parents to help ensure that their children do not fall into the trap of using dangerous street drugs including having dinner together, keeping open lines of communication, and setting the right example.

For schools, Chad Brownlee of the UCDSB and Michelle Neville of the CDSBEO said that both school boards had a range of supports for students including counselors at school who can provide support for students who are struggling, and Narcan kits at all schools.

“For the parents listening tonight, I’m not saying every kid is doing it, but drugs are out there,” said Cst. Cloutier.

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