Lanark County is the first Canadian community to embark on a relatively new yet substantially successful approach to dealing with substance use among youth; Planet Youth. It was just 2 years ago that a small group of Carleton Place residents who regularly met at St. James church came across the news of a seemingly revolutionary approach to stemming youth substance abuse in Iceland. That model was based on gathering data from the source itself; the nation’s young people and then providing accurate and regular reports to local leaders who were dedicated to providing more protective factors and reducing risks. Over a span of less than twenty years, the small Atlantic country went from having the worst record in the European Union for alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco use among teens to boasting the lowest rates. Our St James church group immediately recognized the similarities between Iceland’s problems and those of Lanark County. They approached the Carleton Place Drug Strategy Committee with their findings and the ball started rolling.
Now, after some great collaboration with local school boards, health units and partners, mental health and addiction experts, United Way East Ontario, and local volunteers, Planet Youth Lanark County will hold its official launch event on Monday January 20 at the Zion Memorial Church at 37 Franklin Street in Carleton Place at 7:00 pm. Both school boards have signed on and are ready to go with the first step; administering a detailed survey to grade 10 students later this winter. The raw data from this polling will be processed by Icelandic Center for Social Research and Analysis (ICSRA) and their reports will be quickly delivered to individual communities and schools within the county. The ICSRA has been doing this work for over 30 countries around the globe with extremely positive results. The key is letting each jurisdiction develop their own solutions combined with regular and repeated surveys to provide accurate feedback on how their plans are meeting their needs or where adjustments are required.
The steering committee for Planet Youth Lanark County is also holding a workshop for community leaders and stakeholders who will receive these reports to assist them in working with their districts to develop plans and actions where needed.
If you have any interest at all in improving the lives of our youth, you are urged to come out to the January 20th session at Carleton Place’s Zion Memorial church where a significant portion of the meeting will be set aside for public questions and answers.
You can learn more by visiting planetyouthlanark.ca.