West Nipissing considering new drug prevention program

West Nipissing council could be bringing the Icelandic Prevention Model to the municipality. The program is designed to decrease substance use among youth. The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit would oversee the program, and the municipality would contribute $5,000 per year for five years to support the prevention model.

The Icelandic Prevention Model, also known as Planet Youth, focuses on changing the youth’s environment so they are less likely to try and abuse drugs in the first place. For example, researchers in Iceland noticed that students involved with sports and other activities were less likely to turn to substances, so the government worked with various community and education groups to boost participation and create more programs to attract youth.

The model envisions society at large as the patient, Planet Youth explains on its website, and “youth outcomes are a direct reflection of the environments they live and grow in.”

Another cornerstone of the model is to encourage connections between children and their families, peers, schools, and communities. Essentially, the idea is to have society as a whole move to reduce those factors that draw kids to drugs, with great emphasis on community engagement.

This holistic approach takes time. Icelanders have been implementing the program now for over 20 years. The prevention model started to form in 1997, the results of which have “created a better environment for the youth in Iceland.”

Collecting data is key to the program, mostly through anonymous surveys. With these details, program administrators can customize aspects of the prevention models to address certain issues. West Nipissing council will further discuss the program at an upcoming meeting, to decide whether or not to enter into the partnership with the health unit.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,