B.C. minister seeks updates from UVic on concerns raised after on-campus overdose

CHEK
UVic file photo.

B.C.’s minister in charge of post-secondary education has penned a letter to the University of Victoria’s board chair, seeking updates on concerns raised by the parents of a student who overdosed in an on-campus dorm.

On May 23, Minister Lisa Beare met with Caroline McIntyre and Ken Starko, the parents of Sidney McIntyre-Starko, who overdosed on fentanyl in a UVic dorm in January and died days later at the age of 18.

B.C. Premier David Eby, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside and deputy ministers also attended the meeting, which saw McIntyre and Starko present “a significant amount of information, including their communications with (UVic), and identified a number of actions to prevent a similar tragedy in the future,” wrote Beare in the June 13 letter to Paul Ramsey.

Speaking with CHEK News, McIntyre-Starko’s parents said their daughter’s death was preventable, and they called the medical response to her overdose a failure.

The website “Sidney Should Be Here” states, “The systems designed to protect her allowed her to die.” It includes a timeline of the events leading to her death.

READ ALSO: Family of 18-year-old who overdosed in UVic dorm says naloxone needs to be more available on B.C. campuses

In her letter to UVic, Beare says McIntyre and Starko brought forward four additional items, including a review of a single-address structure on campus to ensure each building has its own unique address to speed up emergency response.

She says the parents also heard direction was given by UVic to campus leaders to not discuss overdoses that happen in student dorms.

“Dr. McIntyre and Mr. Starko advise this direction was in direct contradiction to their request that other students be notified of their daughter’s overdose in an effort to prevent harm to other students,” said Beare.

According to the minister, the parents presented evidence that UVic’s website advertised that some security staff are trained paramedics. 

“It is my understanding this erroneous reference has been removed,” said Beare. “Please ensure a search is done to confirm the veracity of all other security team training credentials that are posted or displayed online and on-campus…”

UVic is also planning to do its own internal review, according to Beare, who requests McIntyre and Starko be included in the process.

“…particularly with respect to information gathering,” she said.

“They have committed to sitting with members of the university committee to allow them to listen to the 911 call with the embedded timestamps. They have committed to sharing with the committee their communications with (UVic) officials and the documents that they have gathered related to Sidney McIntyre-Starko’s death.”

Beare is asking Ramsey to provide her with updates on each of the items mentioned above.

She also wants UVic’s president, Kevin Hall, to give McIntyre and Starko regular updates on the actions the university is taking to address these items.

READ MORE: B.C. promises more nasal naloxone, training on post-secondary campuses after UVic student overdose death

Before the May 23 meeting, Beare met with public post-secondary presidents on May 21, which led to the establishment of an Overdose Prevention and Response Steering Committee.

The minister says the group includes UVic representation and will address several of McIntyre and Starko’s suggestions, like developing guidelines for all public post-secondary institutions on the distribution and location of naloxone and training requirements for campus security personnel.

“We agreed to work collaboratively to roll out post-secondary overdose prevention actions to be in place in campuses across B.C. for the fall 2024 semester,” said Beare in a previous interview.

“This work will include distribution and standards for training for naloxone, including nasal naloxone.”

‘Taking further action’: Hall

Hall tells CHEK News in a statement that UVic has started implementing changes to make campus safer.

“…and, while we will be taking further action over the coming weeks, we will in the first instance communicate these initiatives to the family and government directly. Their input will be instrumental in this process,” said Hall.

He says Starko-McIntyre’s death was tragic and has left the UVic community distraught.

“Out of every tragedy, there are lessons to be learned and specific areas of improvement to be acted on, some of which are reflected in correspondence from both the family and the provincial government,” added Hall.

The BC Coroners Service says in the eight years since the public-health emergency was declared, 14,582 people in the province have died from toxic drugs. That includes the 763 deaths in the first four months of this year, according to data released in early June.

Ethan Morneau

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