Positive results for Vernon substance misuse deterrence initiative

Appeal made to adopt Preventure program across Interior Health region

A Vernon child and adolescent psychiatrist is encouraging Interior Health to help expand delivery of a substance misuse prevention program to teenagers across the health region.

Dr. David Smith said the program developed by a University of Montreal research team led by Patricia Conrad, called Preventure, has shown positive results in reducing teenage substance misuse in trails carried out in Canada, Netherlands, United Kingdom and the U.S.

Here in the Okanagan, Preventure was adopted at three high schools in Vernon three years ago and has since been included in all five local high schools based on initial positive feedback.

Among other benefits, school counsellors who facilitate Preventure have been able to identify and start building relationships with youth who may be at risk for various mental health and behavioural challenges which are often the gatekeepers to a pathway of drug and alcohol abuse.

“It has not been without a lot of heavylifting and effort as schools are already very busy and by adopting this program those challenges were being added on to, but we continue to see impressive outcomes,” Smith said.

Vernon saw a reduction across the board in alcohol, tobacco and cannabis misuse compared to schools not exposed to the program initially. Preventure research has shown about a 40 per cent decrease among participating students

RELATED: Vernon proactive in drug misuse prevention

He said from a financial perspective, research has shown for every $1 invested in the deliver of Preventure, it generate $15 in social program cost savings down the road.

“It is comparable to inoculating our youth from substance misuse in a way that other programs have been unable to match for positive results,” Smith said.

He said that was encouraging given that the Southern Interior is second only to the Northern Interior in B.C. for youth substance misuse, ahead of both the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

From a national perspective, Canada registers among the highest cannabis and prescription opiate misuse among youth, he added.

“I am not trying to sound catastrophic or use scare tactics, but on the other hand you have to be realistic about the extent of the substance misuse among our youth. You can’t’ fix the problem if you don’t acknowledge it,” Smith said.

Smith and others helped introduce the program three years ago to Grade 8 students in three Vernon high schools, that grade chosen because it is an age when teenagers show a high proclivity for engaging in substance misuse.

All Grade 8 students are screened though a question and answer survey for four personality traits commonly associated with 90 per cent of teenage substance abusers—sensation-seeking, impulsiveness, anxiety sensitivity and hopelessness.

Students exposed by the screening to those personality traits are then anonymously invited to participate in the Preventure workshops, which entail two group sessions of 90 minutes each delivered by trained facilitators in the schools, both teachers and counsellors, typically one week apart.

Smith described the process of moving upstream to engage students before they get into substance misuse issues, taking a proactive viewpoint of helping students learn about their own personality characteristics and how they can serve as a positive influence to find success in life.

RELATED: Survey of Grade 6 to 12 students revealing about drug use

“The workshops help participants to learn personality-specific coping strategies and behaviours. The substance misuse aspect is actually a small part of the program presentation,” Smith said.

He called the upstream approach a quantum leap forward in the evolution of substance misuse prevention programs, saying other predecessors such as the Just Say No campaign launched by Nancy Reagan and Scared Straight were well meaning but not ultimately effective particularly in reaching high risk children.

“Where (Preventure) is significantly different is it goes back to the basics, identifying the traits of those at potential risk to substance misuse and help those individuals before it becomes a problem,” Smith said.

IH board chair Doug Cochrane called teenage substance misuse “an extraordinary important social problem” while other board directors questioned how the provincial ministries of education and health could work together to be more effective in developing the infrastructure of funding and resources to deliver these programs rather than working in isolation of one another.

Smith said there are indications that process is improving while complementing Interior Health in taking a collaborative approach to find ways with other partners and government agencies to reverse the substance misuse statistics within the health region.

He suggested the training burden for high school teachers and counsellors to take the three-day Preventure facilitator training workshop and followup three hours of supervised practice running student group sessions could also involve public health staff, university graduate students or Grade 12 students to help keep the program resource sustainable.



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Lake Country still investigating cause for water main break

Over 2,500 residences and businesses in Lake Country and Kelowna remain under boil water notice

Housing provided for women and children fleeing violence in Penticton

Announcement on Friday is part of a provincewide initiative to construct additional housing.

Kelowna RCMP raid home on Lawson Avenue

RCMP, Emergency Response Team execute search warrant, one man arrested

Friend of accused Kelowna murderer takes the stand

Elrich Dyck’s testimony continued Friday with details from the night Chris Ausman was killed

Developer breaks ground on downtown Kelowna rental housing project

Apartments at 726 Clement Ave. are projected to cost $1,300 per month or $1,780 per month

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Sit-in on Saturday will protest move to curb loitering in Penticton’s downtown

Nanaimo Square Sit-In is taking place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Crews respond to smoke at Penticton thrift store

The rooftop A/C unit began filling the building with smoke, prompting them to evacuate

People’s Party of Canada leader talks B.C. trade to Penticton supporters

Maxime Bernier, head of the new federal political party, spoke at Time Winery on Friday

Princeton RCMP recover stolen homework and save the grade

It’s a slightly better excuse than “the dog ate my homework.” Earlier… Continue reading

New Summerland distillery has received recognition

Alchemist Distiller won audience choice award at recent competition

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

Vancouver woman sexually assaulted after man follows her home; suspect at large

Police are looking for an Asian man in his 40s after the incident on Vancouver’s east side.

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

Most Read