Dryden High School staff and administration attempt to ‘move forward’ in dealing with drug and alcohol problem
In February, Dryden community leaders had already gathered to tackle the growing drug problem in the Dryden community. Sean Monteith, the director of education of the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board (KPDSB), has also joined the efforts to address the increasing drug concerns surrounding Dryden High School.
Sean Monteith, joined by board members and high school administration, spoke to the city council and said the drug problem at Dryden High School is pervasive across the student population, and is not limited to one demographic. According to Monteith, although drug and alcohol issues are not a new problem for any high school, the seriousness and pervasiveness of this particular drug problem at Dryden High School had caught the board members off guard.
“Our job is to get kids to graduate, see a future for themselves, and contribute back to northwestern Ontario communities and our economy. We can’t be dealing with a chronic drug issue in our schools. I can’t do it on my own, our staff are not trained as drug addiction councillors, we need a full community effort here. We need all of the support that we can get,” said Monteith.
In an interview with CBC News, Richard Hodgkinson, the principal of Dryden High School said he and the staff plan to continue their work to address the existing drug-use problem in the school.
“We’ve noticed through our data, and our suspension rate, that we’re dealing more and more with substances, including alcohol and drugs, at Dryden High School,” said Hodgkinson. “We want to make sure that we’re not going to hide from challenges, we’re going to face challenges… We’re wanting to take actions to help rectify that and make Dryden High School a safe learning environment,” he added.
So far, only alcohol and marijuana have been found in the school. However, according to Hodgkinson, there are existing concerns regarding other drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamines, due to their overall prevalence in Dryden.
According to Hodgkinson, “Any schools are a microcosm of the surrounding area and the community they’re in… So as certain things increase or decrease within the Dryden area … Dryden High School is affected by that, as well.”
The Dryden Police Service is currently collaborating with approximately 20 Dryden community partners, including the KPDSB, to implement a Community Well-Being Plan aimed to address more of the community issues such as mental health crisis concerns, food insecurity, addictions, poverty, housing, and homelessness. According to inspector Ann Tkachyk, the plan is the ‘ultimate crime prevention tool.’
According to the Dryden Police Service, the Drug Enforcement Unit witnessed a significant increase in call volume related to methamphetamine use and seizures in 2017, with over $4,500 worth of street drugs seized by police, compared to only $600 in 2016. Moreover, in 2017, all Dryden Police Service officers were trained to use Naloxone, and Naloxone, the opiate antagonist used to counter opiate-based drug overdoses, such as methadone, fentanyl, and hydromorphone. Currently, all officers carry the potentially life-saving drug.
Moreover, the Dryden Area Committee of Safety and Well-Being, is developing a plan which includes the creation of a youth centre and a youth hub in Dryden. Hodgkinson said the hub would include mental health and addiction support services. In the meantime, Dryden High School students are offered mental health and addictions counselling, as well as support for Indigenous students and their families.