Dan Kenkel, principal of Valemount Secondary School, is seen holding a naloxone kit. Naloxone is a medication reversing the effects of an overdose from opioids. Kits have been distributed to schools within SD57 incase of a suspected fentanyl overdose. / EVAN MATTHEWS


Fentanyl is here in the valley, and in proactive fashion Valemount Secondary School is joining forces with local healthcare professionals and law enforcement to educate its students.

Valemount RCMP confirmed a Fentanyl overdose within the detachment’s jurisdiction, and the overdosed-individual was treated locally and managed to recover.

Fentanyl has been an epidemic sweeping much of the lower mainland, as well as many other major Canadian centres, and Principal of Valemount Secondary School, Dan Kenkel, says though there has only been one confirmed overdose — it’s time for rural communities like Valemount to get ahead of the issue.

“We know the Fentanyl wave is coming,” says Kenkel, who pointed to the last drug wave in which Hinton was hit hard with Crystal Meth use, and Barriere too, as documented in the 2005 Fifth Estate documentary: Dark Crystal.

“By chance, with some good policing and positive community factors, we managed to avoid Crystal Meth (in Valemount),” he says.

The Yellowhead Highway is a main route for drug traffickers, as demonstrated in Dark Crystal, and Kenkel says location alone could make Valemount vulnerable.

While Kenkel says he’s thankful for the great police work and positive community factors that helped Valemount avoid the last Crystal Meth wave, part of it is luck of the draw.

“That’s how things can happen,” says Kenkel.

“One key dealer in the wrong place, a negative factor involving RCMP, or a negative community factor… One thing could cause the tipping point and create a drug epidemic,” he says.

Fentanyl started popping up in 2015 but became a true crisis 2016, as there were roughly 800 overdose deaths reported in the province by year’s end.

The school is bringing in B.C. Emergency Health Services’, RCMP, a public health official and a first responder from the lower mainland, all to speak with the community about fentanyl use.

“We want to put on a school event and a community event,” says Kenkel. “We want to tell the stories and inform the public.

“We want to get ahead of it with education, safe practices and harm reduction strategies, and awareness for parents — what to look for,” he says.

Fentanyl is a man-made synthetic opioid, which means the drug is made in a lab, but engages the same receptors in the brain as other significant painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine and heroine.

But Fentanyl is far more powerful — 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin or morphine — meaning ingesting even a small amount can result in death.

“One key dealer in the wrong place, a negative factor involving RCMP, or a negative community factor… One thing could cause the tipping point and create a drug epidemic,” – Dan Kenkel, principal of Valemount Secondary School

The problem with fentanyl is many people are recreationally ingesting drugs like ecstasy, MDMA, cocaine, heroine or oxycodone, all of which have the potential to be laced with fentanyl with the user albeit unknowing.

Dosage is an issue, as most dealers do not have access to a lab in order to cut their original product with fentanyl, meaning users have no way of knowing how much fentanyl they’re ingesting.

Though contrary to some rumours, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) told CBC marijuana has not yet been linked to fentanyl.

“I can’t speak for other police departments and I can’t say that fentanyl has not, is not or could not be placed in marijuana, but I can tell you the VPD has not seized marijuana that has been tested and shown to be laced with fentanyl,” Constable Brian Montague said in November.

Both the school and community events will be held on Feb. 6.