St. Joe’s in Hamilton launches new substance abuse prevention program for young adults


Published February 23, 2021 at 9:34 pm


St. Joe’s Hamilton announced a pilot program Tuesday (Feb. 13) aimed to provide early help to those struggling with alcohol and drug use.

Launching this spring, the Young Adult Substance Use Program (YA-SUP) is expected to help prevent future substance abuse for more than 600 youth and young adults aged 17-25 with “evidence-based treatment.”

In 2020 alone, the health service says more than 625 youth and young adults sought care in St. Joseph’s Psychiatric Emergency Services for overdoses and other substance use concerns.

That number is projected to increase this year based on the overall increase in substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. Joe’s says what’s even more alarming is that, despite the risks associated with substance use, many young people may see it as a lifestyle choice and an expression of their adulthood, meaning they’re less likely to seek help.

“It’s very concerning,” says Holly Raymond, Clinical Director, General Psychiatry and Addiction Services at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

“Youth arrive at our emergency room after a frightening substance use episode, a physical attack or an arrest related to their substance-induced state, but once they’ve received initial treatment and are on the mend, they start missing follow-up appointments or drop out of their community-based treatment program. So, as a care team, we started asking why.”

St. Joe’s says it consulted with national and international data in developing the Young Adult Substance Use Program.

According to the media release, the program will feature:

  • Young-adult-centred care in a safe(r) space that cares for the whole person.
  • A sensitive approach to the complex life changes youth may be facing, including adult relationships, changes in living arrangements, and growing independence.
  • A multi-disciplinary team with expertise in social work, community support, nursing, addiction psychology, psychiatry and clinical research.
  • Personalized virtual or in-person touchpoints with care providers, which can be done using a laptop or smartphone for accessibility, or in-person if privacy at home is hard to find.
  • A combination of one-on-one and group-based support during a 12-week program.
  • Measurement-based care that uses a patient’s profile and progress to provide a personalized approach to treatment.
  • Education and help for loved ones since many times youth are referred for treatment either by their school, friends or family members.

The Young Adult Substance Use Program was made possible thanks to donations to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation, including a leadership gift of $600,000 from the Marta & Owen Boris Foundation.

St. Joe’s Hospital and the Peter Boris Research Centre for Addictions Research are also contributing funds and resources to make the pilot program possible.


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