The Windsor Essex County District School Board has unveiled a new drug strategy.

The board-wide strategy will address the issues around the use of opioids and other drugs among students.

Outgoing Director of Education Paul Picard revealed details of the strategy at St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School on Monday.

“We have a problem and we need to talk” said Picard, who was joined by representatives from LaSalle police, the Windsor-Essex Community Opioid Strategy Leadership Committee and representatives from the student council and parent council.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says the rate of opioid use locally is nearly 19 per cent higher than the provincial average. It also reports 37 people in Windsor-Essex died last year due to overdoses from the powerful drug.

Villanova Principal Amy Facchineri believes it is important to talk about the problem.

“I don't think there's an option to bury our heads in the sand,” says Facchineri. “We're not looking to catch our students with drugs on them. We're looking to support our students.”

“It’s not specific to this school” says Constable Al Gibson of LaSalle Police. “It's a problem that exists in every community, a problem that exists in every school. We're just trying to do our pro-active part here to inform our kids as to the dangers of opioids.”

Villanova student Lydia Manchurek supports the campaign.

“Very happy to know there is going to be a change made just about drugs in general within the communities because education is the first step. People need to know how dangerous these things really are” says Manchurek.

The board has a dedicated page on its website dealing with opioid use, and is going to share that information with the community. There are four information sessions for students. The school will also hold a session for parents on Nov. 30 to have an open discussion.

Nicole Dupuis, the Director of Health Promotion with the health unit, applauds the school board's decision to be pro-active.

“School's need to be talking about it,” says Dupuis. “They can't be afraid to talk about addiction and can't be afraid to show kids what drugs are but what it means to become addicted and what it can do to your family.”