Youth Support Program – an Overview

The Youth Support Program of Lunenburg and Queens Counties (Nova Scotia) is a substance misuse treatment service for adolescents between the ages of 13 and 19.

It began in 1986 with four persons who were referrals to adult treatment services as a result of being apprehended in a police action. Very quickly, it became apparent that there was a need for services for the adolescent population and a pilot program was begun at Parkview Education Centre in Bridgewater.

The primary aim of the program is to provide treatment services at a location both natural and assessable, hence a school - based service.

Early in the history of Youth Support, it became clear that young persons involved in substance misuse found it easier to discuss their situation with someone their own age and a peer counselor training project was begun. It provides peer support for those in early recovery and, combined with professional counseling, the client is directed toward a pattern of living without mood – altering substances.

At present, Youth Support is available in thirteen junior and senior high schools in Lunenburg and Queens Counties. The service has grown steadily and in the 1998/99 school years, 230 persons were involved, supported by two full - time and one part – time staff persons.

Youth Support as it now exists, provides the following services:

        Weekly counseling sessions in school, provided by professional counselors who function as an extension of the guidance service.

        Weekly support meetings – one held in a central location in Bridgewater and in schools where the numbers warrant them.

        Peer counseling sessions take place generally on an ad hoc basis and in locations most natural to the adolescent. Trained peer counselors conduct these.

        The peer counselors present public education programs to school and community groups. Since the presenters have credibility for ‘having been there, this is not only a powerful educational tool, it also serves as a powerful treatment tool for those involved.

        Training for peer counsellors consist of one-day programs in spring and fall, which deal with basic counseling skills, boundaries for involvement and preparation for public speaking engagements where peer counsellors present their personal stories.

        Recreation programs are provided to enable the participants to have a good time without resorting to mood altering substances. These activities range from supervised beach parties, to running an organic farm.

        Treatment Orientation Programs provide the young person with an opportunity to understand the treatment process and their place in it.

        Constructive community involvement is encouraged for all young persons in the Youth Support Program. This participation ranges from raising funds for recreation, to an annual awards ceremony. These activities serve to integrate the participants into the community at large.

        Inpatient detoxification services are provided at the Lunenburg Detox Unit at Fishermen’s Memorial Hospital. These services provide the young person with a safe place to break the cycle of use, since most adolescents do not require detoxification in the sense it is provided for adults. Most young clients do not have a long history of substance misuse and physical withdrawal is generally mild.

        A Parent Support Group provides parents of adolescents misusing substances with an opportunity to share their concerns and solutions. The group meets weekly in Lunenburg.

        A Children of Alcoholics (COA) group meets once a week in Bridgewater.

        A ‘Kid’s Group’ (ages three through twelve) meets once every two weeks in Lunenburg.

        The services provided are directed toward young persons actively misusing mood-altering substances. However, those affected by another person harmfully involved with mood-altering substances are provided with a full range of services.

The Youth Support Program provides a treatment plan, which is specifically designed, for the individual and success is measured based upon this plan.

Since the programs inception in 1986, more than 1300 young persons have been served. Unfortunately, the service is not available to elementary school students, where there is an urgent need.

Referrals to Youth Support can come from any source and requests for service should be directed to Western Region Drug Dependency Program in Lunenburg (902) 634-8801, ext. 3222. In the school system, referrals are best made though the school guidance service.

The Foundation for Youth Support of Lunenburg and Queens Counties was incorporated under the laws of Nova Scotia in 1990. It is a not-for-profit foundation, which provides resources for the Youth Support Program. It provides funds for travel to weekly meetings and events, recreational activities, for those in special need, and promotes the aims and objectives of the Youth Support Program.

More information on the Foundation may be obtained by contacting the Chairperson – Mr. Terry Goodwin at (902) 634-3991