Youth and Substance Use: Getting Help Early at Foundry

October 23, 2019. Article by: Government of BC

Many people experiment with using substances early in life – in fact, youth ages 15-24 use unregulated substances more than any other age group in Canada.

Whether they experiment with substance for social reasons or as a way of coping with challenges, providing youth with information around substance use and on how to reduce harms can empower them to make safer decisions. Education can also help young people who could be showing signs of substance use challenges.

Education, Prevention and Early Intervention

Jennifer Buckley is a substance use nurse at Foundry, a one-stop-shop for youth mental health and substance use services with eight centres in B.C. and three in development.

Much of Jennifer’s work focuses on providing youth with education, prevention and early intervention services. This means she does everything from delivering naloxone training and explaining the benefits of harm reduction, to helping youth affected by substance use develop new skills, understand the affects of substance use and manage their health and well-being.

Jennifer highlights that Foundry’s welcoming and judgement-free setting makes it easier to have these important conversations.

“One thing I’ve found around working with youth substance use is that the clients often feel like they’re going to get in trouble,” she says.   

Right from the start, I approach things by telling a client that no matter what brings them in, everything is alright. Foundry looks at substance use through an education and harm reduction lens, and I’m not here to judge them. I want to meet them where they’re at.

Opportunities for Change

While many of Jennifer’s clients are young people thinking about experimenting with substances recreationally, she also works with youth experiencing more severe substances use challenges, including opioid use disorder. To support these clients, Foundry also provides a full range of treatment options, including Opioid Agonist Treatment, in the organization’s unique youth-friendly environment.   

Jennifer highlights that young clients who experience substance use disorders often have similar pathways to substance use as the adults she has worked with –using substances as a way of coping with pain or trauma.

Jennifer sees an opportunity to make positive impacts by treating substance use issues before they become major challenges.

At Foundry, I don’t see as many clients with severe substance dependence issues as at an adult substance use clinic, where all my work involves dealing with existing substance use disorders. So, I think there is a huge opportunity to take more preventative measures to redirect that pathway.

A System for Everyone

Foundry gives youth access to essential care and support, no matter how serious their substance use challenges are. But Jennifer and her colleagues’ work doesn’t end there; Foundry also offers services for parents and caregivers, including family counsellors, support groups and referrals to mental health professionals.

Foundry represents a change in direction in substance use care – from a system that works with one individual when their challenges are most severe, to one that stops small problems from getting bigger and helps everyone who could be affected.

“There’s so much to offer here,” Jennifer concludes. “Just walking in the door would be great for anybody.”

Are you, or do you know a young person, who is experiencing substance use challenges?

Learn more about how to support children and youth: