Drug overdose prevention program aimed at empowering high school students

The death of a student at Elmira District Secondary School two years ago has resulted in a proactive approach to drug overdose prevention.

Lessons give students the tools and confidence to step in

Crystal meth is considered to be one of the most addictive street drugs. ((CBC))

For the past two years, students at Elmira District Secondary School have been learning how to identify and react to a drug overdose, because they never want another student to die the way Austin Padaric did in 2013.

On Monday, EDSS principal Paul Morgan told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris there were a lot of questions and emotions following Padaric's death.

"Everyone is shocked, everyone is troubled, everyone is wondering why this particular person, and it's hard to imagine, hard to believe," he said.

Padaric, 17, died in hospital on April 12, 2013, after he snorted crushed up morphine pills at a house party on April 5, 2013. Quin Kurtz, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, was sentenced last week to two years less a day in jail and three years of probation.

Community agencies rallied with support

Morgan said the school board offered support to students and staff after Padaric's death. As well, a number of community agencies called the school asking what they could do to help.

"I was able, after a couple of weeks, to pull together all the volunteers who had offered support and we began brainstorming, not knowing what it would look like," he said.

It soon became evident there was a common theme focused on how to prevent this from happening and how to keep students safe. Morgan said if they were going to achieve this, they had to "equip" the students.

Among those wanting to help was Christine Padaric, Austin's mother. She said last week that instead of focusing on anger following her son's death, she wanted to help prevent overdose deaths.

"There's a lot of energy that can go into anger and resentment and I've chosen to take that and to funnel it more in a positive direction. There's a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of educating the public, especially teens, about drug use and what to do in an overdose situation," Padaric said.

Program focuses on two things

Ultimately, a program was developed that focused on two main two main things: What are the symptoms of a drug overdose and what should you do if you see those symptoms?

Morgan said the program is taught to Grade 9 and 12 students as part of the health curriculum when they learn first aid and CPR. By the end of this year, all students at Elmira District Secondary School will have experienced the 70 minute session.

Positive feedback

Morgan said an evaluation is conducted every time they do the program, but it's tough to measure if it's working.  

"I think what's important is we've equipped them so they feel confident enough to take a step," Morgan said.

He said they have received "incredibly positive" feed-back from the students.

"There have been a couple of rumours that students have been able to intervene and make an emergency call, so that's great," he said.

Morgan said so far, no formal plans are in place to take the project to other area schools.


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