TRURO – Local youth are ecstatic programming that has changed their lives for the better can be offered to more people thanks to substantial federal funding.
In the spring, the federal government announced it was providing $16.1 million to support more than 30 drug prevention projects in Canada. The Colchester East Hants Health Authority’s mental health and addiction services was allocated $374,000 and is now starting a new program, and enhancing others through the Strengthening Youth and Families Project, which aims to prevent illicit drug use among at-risk youth.
“It’s beyond amazing. It should’ve been done a long time ago,” said a 17-year-old Onslow resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, when she heard about the funding.
The teenager, who admits to having post-traumatic stress disorder, high anxiety and is recovering from addictions,
participates in an ongoing program called High Stakes, which is one of the initiatives being funded.
High Stakes is a summer camp for ages 13 to 18. It works with youth to resist illicit drugs and find healthy alternatives to substance use.
“I wouldn’t have had the chance” to grow and heal “if this wasn’t available,” she said.
Another anonymous teenager, an 18-year-old female from Hilden, is entering the same program for the third time. This time, she will be a leader.
She feels the funding means the government “values the programs” which have changed lives for the better, including her own.
“School was a stressful time … you have to decide what to do with your life and … there’s family issues and members who have addictions,” the teenager said, adding High Stakes helped her “to not be as quick to judge
and to deal with issues … I realized I can step away and focus.”
The other programs available are Families Together: A Parenting Journey (for families with children ages 12 to 18 to develop skills for parents and children), which is new; Strengthening Families for the Future (reduces risk factors and enhances protection in the family); and Challenge Accepted (a school-based prevention program to build resistance and refusal skills to avoid drug use.)
Robert Graham, mental health and addiction services program leader, said the funding will make a huge difference.
“It could lead to fewer ER crisis, fewer appointments and fewer reasons to call community services which would lead to that service not being as (burdened),” Graham told the Truro Daily News.
He added the programs will “create stronger families” as well as strengthen community agency networking.
Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Scott Armstrong, who made the official funding announcement update on Monday, said the money is well spent.
“Drug abuse takes place everywhere; we have issues throughout Colchester as well … as a former educator I’ve seen kids fall through the cracks,” Armstrong said, adding an “organized structure” for preventative programming is a key to success.
The health authority also contributed in-kind support worth more than $253,000. The programs will continue for a three-year period, with ongoing evaluation.