Vancouver Island students create program for children affected by opioid epidemic

University students on Vancouver Island have launch a program to address the trauma experienced by children affected by the opioid epidemic.

'Shine' supports children aged 9 to 12 who have been exposed to trauma of drug use and overdose deaths

Emma Gillis (left), Teri Derksen, centre, and Abby Lise, right, want to help children affected by the opioid crisis. (Vancouver Island University)

University students on Vancouver Island have launched a program to address the trauma experienced by younger children affected by the opioid epidemic.

Many children aged 9 to 12 witness the fallout from deaths due to substance abuse in their households, according to Abby Lise and Emma Gillis, who are students in the Child and Youth Care program at Vancouver Island University.

The program called Shine is now running out of Nanaimo with two children signed up to participate.

"My main goal would be to gain a better understanding of what this opioid crisis has meant for various populations within the community," said Gillis.

She consulted with community groups in the Nanaimo area to form the concept for this project.

Representatives from Island Health, Haven Society, and Aboriginal Child and Youth Mental Health Victoria have all provided feedback and highlighted the 9-12 age group as a population in need of support.

Building trust

Lise said they're looking to build relationships with the children involved through group activities that allow them to talk about trauma.

"When they're witnessing a traumatic experience with a family member or someone of an older age, they're losing that bond with their family and they're unable to build a trusting relationship," Lise said.

"It's always a hard time when a family member is distant from their child.

"I'm hoping to give them the tools that they would need to get through a traumatic experience, either on their own or with a hand from a trusted adult."

Program professor Teri Derksen said the project is part of the students' practicum, and hopes it will continue and develop in the future.

With files from Alex Migdal