4 N.B. communities to pilot youth addiction project based on Icelandic model
The N.B. government is committed to providing $255,000 towards the project each year for the next five years
The New Brunswick government is launching a project with an Icelandic research consultancy in an effort to reduce substance use in youth.
The project, done in collaboration with Planet Youth, will implement that group's Icelandic Prevention Model, which is credited with lowering substance use in Iceland over the last 20 years, according to a Government of New Brunswick news release.
"We know substance use can be a leading contributor to poor health, poor health outcomes and continues to negatively impact our youth here in the province of New Brunswick," said Health Minister Bruce Fitch at a news conference in Saint John Tuesday.
He said one of the five pillars of the provincial health plan is regarding addictions and mental health.
The Planet Youth Guidance Program will be helping to adapt the prevention model in four areas: Saint John, Woodstock, Kent County and the Acadian Peninsula.
The program focuses on things like family, peer groups, extracurricular activities and school well being in order to mitigate addiction risk factors and build healthier environments, the release said.
Fitch said the government is committed to providing $255,000 toward the project each year for the next five years.
Pall Rikhardsson, CEO of Planet Youth, said the Icelandic model is all about preventing problems before they actually occur.
He said it works by putting the focus on the community instead of individual youths.
"It's not their responsibility to solve this, it's our responsibility as adults to do that," said Rikhardsson. "It doesn't replace treatment, it complements treatment with the prevention approach."
Rikhardsson said in the 90s, Iceland had a big problem with underage drinking and substance use, but he said telling them to behave or not drink was not working. So they adjusted their approach and focused on peer groups and leisure activities. Now, comparing Iceland to other countries, it has one of the lowest consumption rates of alcohol and substances, he said.
Some of the preventative measures Rikhardsson mentioned that worked in Iceland included time spent with parents and leisure activities, like poetry or drama. He said incorporating initiatives like these is not expensive and instead, it's more about empowering the community to change their practices.
He said a big part of the project is spreading the word to stakeholders, parents and schools about early onset substance use in their communities.
Rikhardsson said the rest of this year will be used to plan New Brunswick's approach and then next year will be used for data collection and analyzing the information about substance use in the communities. Then, he said, the government, stakeholders and Planet Youth experts will use the data to decide the best course of action.
"You will not be implementing the same things as in Iceland. So, it's not the initiatives themselves, because what works in Iceland doesn't necessarily work in New Brunswick," he said. "But you will be adapting and implementing the process and the principle on which the Atlantic prevention model is based, and making it your own."
He said the Department of Health will be spearheading the project in New Brunswick, but that Planet Youth will deliver training and workshops to enable the department to deliver the program.
He said while Iceland has certain rules like a 10 p.m. curfew for children, these rules are not necessarily what is needed for New Brunswick.
He said Project Youth is in 16 different countries and all of the programs are different. The challenge for New Brunswick, Rikhardsson said, will be analyzing the data and finding what works best for the selected communities.
With files from Graham Thompson