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Blog: Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

Fighting the Opioid Issue

By Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Earlier in the year I identified 10 significant issues which would impact the education sector, and promised that I would expand a little more on each of them over the course of the rest of the year.  I started with inclusive education, and have decided to tackle another key issue on the list: the opioid crisis. Last year, Police Chief Bob Rich penned a paper outlining the significant and pressing nature of the opioid issue in BC and in our community in particular. He noted that “the only way to ensure that someone doesn’t die from an overdose is to ensure they don’t ingest or inject drugs” in the first place. In other words, prevention and education is the best hope for us to keep people safe. 

The Police Chief took a little criticism for his position, not because people disagreed with the importance of prevention, but I think perhaps because some felt that the education system is already doing a good job of prevention. I don’t disagree with the critics, but I agree more with the Chief Rich on this one. First of all, let me suggest that it is perhaps a little presumptuous of us to assume that prevention rests only with schools. Parents have a more significant role in educating their children about living healthy drug free lifestyles than do teachers. Secondly, while I would agree that we have done a pretty good job of drug prevention over the years, I would also argue that much more is needed from our sector in the face of the current opioid crisis. It is evident that the volume and sophistication of illicit drugs over the last decade has outstripped the nature of our prevention efforts. Without a doubt, the drug “manufacturers” have notched their game up in the last few years. Can we say the same thing about our prevention efforts? Have we notched our game up to match the intensity of the problem before us? I don’t think so. At least not yet.

Chief Rich outlined some of the features of a more sophisticated system of prevention, and you will note that it is not just about the school system, but rather about our collective responsibility. He outlined seven key features of a prevention program: a long-term vision, strong governance, comprehensive planning, cross-government cooperation, targeted approaches, strategies for intervention, and ongoing program evaluation. Sounds more sophisticated that what we are doing now, don’t you think?

While it is important that we have strong systems for intervention, rehabilitation and enforcement in our communities, we all know that 90% of our success rests with systematic prevention and education. We have a responsibility to educate the next generation of students in a manner that matches the societal context in which they will grow up. Their very lives will depend on it.

By Kevin Godden
Kevin Godden
Kevin Godden

By Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.