Lanark County drug strategy committee talks Icelandic approach to curb substance abuse

Kevin Clouthier, executive director for Open Doors for Lanark Children and Youth
Posted on: February 12, 2018

Brian Turner 

On Friday, Feb. 9, the collected municipal drug strategy committees of Lanark County held their 28th annual networking day where they discuss the latest trends and solutions in the field of mental health and addictions.

Hosted at the Beckwith Municipal Hall by Beckwith Reeve Richard Kidd, the 60 in attendance were members or staff of mental health and addiction services, local health units, community committee volunteers, local police service, elected municipal leaders, social service providers, medical professionals, and by Skype, a doctor from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

The main topic of the day was the Icelandic model used to curb substance abuse, referring to that island nation’s 20 year journey from the worst youth substance abuse rates in Europe to, now, the lowest.

An energetic and comprehensive presentation was given by Kevin Clouthier, executive director for Open Doors for Lanark Children and Youth, and Carleton Place Drug Strategy volunteer Brenda MacDonald-Rowe.

This model is now in use in 40 countries around the globe. The Icelandic approach was from the ground up and involved almost all aspects of family and community life. Access to youth recreational and skills-development resources was drastically increased, parental and life skill training was offered and encouraged, communication between schools and families skyrocketed, families were urged to complete written contracts to increase the number of hours spent together daily. Youth curfews were instituted and monitored by volunteer parents and law enforcement officials, tobacco and alcohol minimum ages were raised.

Consistent, thorough and annual surveys helped to fine tune asset deployments when and where required. Much more can be learned at

The gathered participants voiced strong support for the application of this model to our own region to combat an established life-risking acceptances of harmful controlled and illegal substances among varied demographic segments.

Local family practitioner Dr. Janice Gray provided some startling statistics and evidence revealing the validity of this concern in our communities. From 2012 to 2017, for example, she reported that local emergency room visits for drug related medical needs (often life-threatening) doubled to 460 annually.

She also noted that recently five individuals in our small county tested positive for carfentanil (carfentanyl), an animal sedative 100 more powerful than its increasingly popular and equally lethal cousin fentanyl.

Members of the public who wish to learn more or contribute ideas and energy are asked to search out their own community’s drug strategy committee through municipal websites or contacts.

These half-day sessions are held regularly and allow community stakeholders to learn of new risks, initiatives and their results.