Webinar Recap: Effective peer programming on substance use for the transition years

On March 7th 2016, Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) and HC Link hosted a webinar titled “Effective peer programming on substance use for the transitional years”. Peer education is defined as “the teaching or sharing of health information, values and behaviours between individuals with shared characteristics”.

To my knowledge, PAD has the longest standing peer education programs (in the area of substance use) in all of Canada! The numbers don’t lie: over the past 30 years, PAD’s peer education programs have reached 3000 classes, trained 10,000 peer educators, and had approximately 90,000 youth involved overall. Having done a backgrounder on peer education effectiveness before the webinar, I was excited to hear the diverse, real life experiences from our webinar presenters.

Suzanne Witt-Foley (Consultant, PAD/HC Link) and Patricia Scott-Jeoffroy (Consultant, PAD/HC Link) opened the webinar by noting that it’s important for educators to focus on ‘health literacy’, and that PAD’s Challenges, Beliefs and Changes (CBC) program has information that is balanced, accurate and promotes skills practice. Patricia did an overview of PAD’s peer education programs, recognizing that the Masonic Lodge of Ontario has provided almost 30 years of support to these programs.

Next up was a panel presentation from diverse voices that have been involved in the CBC program. Both Allison Haldenby (Guidance Counsellor, East Elgin Secondary School) and Jacky Allan (Public Health Nurse, Elgin-St. Thomas Public Health Department) emphasized the importance of a collaborative approach to coordinating a peer education in schools, and discussed how they worked with school nurses, public health units, elementary schools, high schools, and students to organize, promote and deliver the CBC program.

As a Youth Addictions Counsellor at the Canadian Mental Health Association of Muskoka Parry Sound, Brittany Cober provided an interesting mental health perspective. Brittany mentioned that she often notices the youth in peer education programs form an “automatic bond with each other” in a way that they don’t with adults, and this is what makes peer education programs so successful. Brittany was speaking anecdotally from her own personal experience, but I couldn’t help but think how similar her experience was to the research on peer education effectiveness. For example, a 2009 study on peer education found that “peer educators were…seen as very credible by the majority of the participants…with the experimental group significantly more likely to find the peer educator more credible than the control group”.

The most interesting part of this webinar was that the audience was able to hear from two students who participated in the CBC program for three years: Jack Gaudette and Kennedie Close from East Elgin Secondary. Jack shared a powerful story about how he was “pushed around” in elementary school and was worried about starting high school. However, high school wasn’t what he expected – in a good way! Being involved in the peer education program helped both Jack and Kennedie “fit in”, get involved, and have fun. Jack and Kennedie keep participating in the program each year because it’s “been a blast every year”, and I’m sure their enthusiasm motivates other students to join the program. Having helped develop PAD’s youth engagement model as part of our strategic plan, I was particularly happy to see that youth voices were represented in this webinar!

Overall, it was a great webinar that illustrated the importance of taking a collaborative, multi-sectoral approach to a preventative health intervention. With drug policy staying high on our new government’s policy agenda, I am sure PAD’s peer education programs will be even more important moving forward.

This blog was originally posted on the HC Link website

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Webinar March 7: Effective peer programming on substance use for the transition years

Peer ed Twitter poster


Providing transition-aged students with meaningful education on substance misuse continues to be a challenge. Currently, fewer students are smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and using marijuana at an early age. Nonetheless, the transition from elementary to high school is still a time where these substances are introduced to students, and students continue to perceive that alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana are fairly easy to obtain [OSDUHS, 2015]. Providing transition-aged students with meaningful education on substance misuse continues to be a challenge.

This webinar will provide information on an effective school-based program that provides realistic, relevant and reliable information to students – provided by other students. Using the experience of peer education programming from Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) we will hear from educational instructors,  a public health nurse, a mental health counselor and student peer educators on their involvement in this program. The presentation will focus on how and why a program that engages students where they are at – rather than where we would like them to be – is effective and engaging for both the peer educator and their transition-aged audience.

REGISTER for the webinar on Eventbrite here! 

Download Backgrounder: Evidence Bases for Effectiveness Peer-Led Interventions 

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Recap: SFPY Training in Hamilton (February 2016)

As part of a project funded through the Canada Ontario Agreement on French Language services, PAD and Health Nexus (both members of HC Link) did a training for the Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth (SFPY) program in French in Hamilton this week.

11 participants attended the training at the Hamilton-Niagara French Community Health Centre on February 8th, 2016. The brainstorming session at the end was particularly important, as participants did a community mapping exercise to identify the best places to recruit families for the SFPY program.

The SFPY program is a 9-week, evidence-based, skill-building program for families with teenagers aged 12-16 years old. It has been translated into French through the Canada Ontario Agreement on French Languages Services. To learn more about the SFPY program, click here.

Below are some photos from the training!

Group photo




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PAD Blog Post: Harnessing Sports as a way to Decrease Substance Abuse in Youth

Harnessing Sports as a way to Decrease Substance Abuse in Youth
By Chidinma Nwakalor
Co-op student, Parent Action on Drugs

Youth involvement in sports is often seen as an avenue for positive youth development. Interestingly, the age at which participation in sports is highest among teenagers is also the age at which most teenagers will begin experimenting with substances. This, coupled with the fact that sport participation in school decreases the tendency of illicit substance use in youth, indicates an opportunity to harness sports as a way to decrease substance use among teenagers in Canada.

A recent resource created by the Canadian Center for Substance Abuse (CCSA) suggests that youth participation in sport might be a useful way to prevent illicit drug use (eg. marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens and prescription pills) among youth. However, the report shows that the relationship between sports and substance use is variable. For example, in-school sport participation under the supervision of a coach was associated with decreased substance use overall, while in-school sport participation without a coach was associated with increased alcohol use but decreased use of marijuana and other illicit drugs such as cocaine. Furthermore, out-of-school sport participation was associated with an increased tendency to use marijuana among youth. These findings suggest that youth engagement in sports is best when it is within a school environment and under the supervision of a coach.

The review also recognized that youth who participated in sports were more likely to have better self-esteem, which is related to decreased use of alcohol and other substances among youth.  Carefully designed sport programs in schools may be a good way to promote the protective effects of self-esteem for substance use in youth populations. Increasing consciousness and knowledge about the interplay of participation in sports and substance use is important to ensure that the full benefits of sport participation are realized and that the risks are reduced to a minimum.

The full resources created by the Canadian Center for Substance Use and the primary references can be found at http://www.ccsa.ca/Resource%20Library/CCSA-Substance-Use-Sport-Youth-Surveys-Summary-2016-en.pdf

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Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth program – Now taking Toronto referrals

SFPY logo

The Strengthening Families for Parent’s and Youth program is starting in Toronto (Queen & Dufferin) on Tuesday February 9, 2015.

Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth is a 9 week skill-building program for families with teens 12 to 16 years old.  The program is aimed at building communication within the family and fostering teen resiliency.  In addition to the skill-building program and built into the structure of the nine weeks is that participating families will enjoy a family meal together at the beginning of each session.

Travel, child minding services and other incentives are also offered to participating families throughout the 9 weeks of program.

For more information or referrals, email SFPYtoronto@gmail.com or call 416-537-9346.

To learn more about the SFPY program, click here.

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PAD at the 2015 HC Link Conference – Highlights

On November 12 and 13, HC Link’s 2015 conference – Linking for Healthy Communities: Action for Change – brought together over 150 people from a variety of settings to learn and share experiences and ideas for building healthy, sustainable and resilient communities. The two-day event featured an amazing line-up of keynote speakers, panelists, workshop facilitators and story presenters that informed and inspired participants. The 2015 conference theme was creating Action for Change in communities.

PAD, being a member of HC Link, was one of the conference leads.

To see highlights of the HC Link Conference, click here.

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SFPY in French – Toronto cycle underway at La Passerelle

As part of a grant through the Canada Ontario Agreement on French Language Services (Ministry of Health and Long Term Care), PAD has been working with community partner La Passerelle to deliver SFPY in French to Francophone newcomers in Toronto. To learn more about PAD’s SFPY program, click here.

The first cohort is well underway, with over 22 participants!


The reviews are great already, with facilitators reporting that “Participants leave satisfied with the workshops and the environment/atmosphere of La Passerelle-I.D.E. Parents are discovering and learning more about their [youth], and their [youth’s] potential. At the dinner the teen participants share with their parents what they are learning through the activities…We even have testimony from a parent who says that know she has noticed that her kids behavior has change (they are more attentive), and that she herself has changed the way in which she engages with/communicates with her children.”


We can’t wait to share the final results of this project, and are looking forward to a second cohort with La Passerelle in 2016! To learn more about La Passerelle, click here.


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Posting for Board Member at Parent Action on Drugs

Board Member, Parent Action on Drugs (PAD)

Parent Action on Drugs is a registered charity with over thirty years’ experience in addressing concerns about alcohol and other drug use among youth in Ontario.  We provide innovative, evidence-based programs and resources for youth, families, professionals and community members concerning issues that impact substance use and youth.   For more information on Parent Action on Drugs, please see our website:www.parentactionondrugs.org.

The role of our Board of Directors is to provide governance to the organization, identify and monitor strategic priorities, set agency policies and determine innovative ways to promote, expand and support the fulfillment of our mission. PAD values the different perspectives, knowledge, skills and interests that each Director brings to the Board.

PAD is looking for dynamic individuals wishing to make a key contribution to a small organization that operates as a major player in youth substance misuse prevention throughout the province.

We are looking for Board Members with diverse backgrounds and experience.  Knowledge and experience in the area(s) of health promotion, education, youth services, human resources, accounting, fundraising and marketing are of particular interest. Previous experience with not-for profit organization management and/or Boards is also an asset.

Board Member responsibilities include:

  • Regularly attend board meetings and important related meetings.  Board meetings typically take place in North York at a location on the Yonge subway line and easily accessible by highway.
  • Make serious commitment to participate actively in committee work.
  • Volunteer for and willingly accept assignments and complete them thoroughly and on time.
  • Stay informed about the organizational operating environment, committee matters, prepare for meetings, and review and comment on minutes and Board documents.
  • Participate in fund raising for the organization and make a personal donation to the organization in an amount that is meaningful to you.


Desirable attributes and skills:

  • The ability to work on a team and participate in Board discussion
  • The ability to work alone i.e. to take on and complete work between meetings
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Knowledge of health promotion, adolescent development, addictions and prevention
  • Previous non-profit board experience preferred


Time commitment required:

  • This work is largely based on the individual’s initiative and commitment but is expected to be approximately 4 to 6 hours per month.


What we offer:

  • A chance to make a real impact with a small, overachieving charitable organization
  • An opportunity to use and/or grow professional skills


Recruitment process:

▪Please apply by email with Curriculum Vitae and letter of interest by November 1, 2015 to Diane Buhler, Executive Director, (pad@sympatico.ca), citing “Board Director Recruitment” in the subject line.  You may also contact Diane if you have any questions.

▪Candidates of interest will be invited to have an initial telephone interview with the Executive Director, followed by an additional interview with members of the Nominating Committee.

Application deadline is December 31, 2015.

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PAD Annual Report 2014-15

PAD’s 2014-2015 Annual Report is now published. Click here to view the full annual report. 

2014 – 15 has been a busy and effective year for Parent Action on Drugs.

In 2013 the PAD Board and staff developed a strategic plan outlining the key goals and strategic directions that are the focus of our current efforts and will continue to guide our work over the next four years. This past year has seen both the Staff and Board make excellent headway in developing the actions, identifying the deliverables and planning for the execution of priority areas of the plan.

This year we have also been fortunate in receiving major funding to help us expand and support the uptake of a key evidence-based program. It is with pride in our program development and commitment to our mandate of building youth resiliency that we build the capacity of over 15 partner organizations to deliver PAD’s Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth in English and in French across Ontario, from the east to the
northwest, and multiple places therein.

Our peer education programming has continued to grow, as we train more and more students as peer educators to support the challenge of transition from elementary to high school. This year we introduced a new curriculum – Get Ready – which focuses on preparing younger students, in the middle years, to understand the decisions they will encounter about alcohol and other drugs.

Our collaboration with our co-members in the HC Link consortium continues to bring added value to PAD in terms of the breadth of our health promotion outreach and to HC Link as we provide the lead for the communications and knowledge exchange areas.

During the year we have had strong acknowledgement of the high regard for our organization’s expertise in the area of substance misuse prevention and youth resiliency. Through our knowledgable staff, consultants and partners, we continue to expand and share our information and experience presenting webinars, writing blogs and bringing forward the latest studies on our social media accounts.

We would like to thank the wonderful, collaborating team of staff, consultants, Board members, volunteers and supporters who have shown such dedication to PAD’s mission and provided leadership, expertise, and commitment to help PAD improve the health and well-being of young people.


Nancy Bardecki (Board Chair) and Diane Buhler (Executive Director)

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Invitation to the 2015 PAD Annual General Meeting

PAD Logo no tag line

You are cordially invited to the

2015 Annual General Meeting of Parent Action on Drugs 

Monday, September 28th, 2015

6:30PM for light supper / 7:00PM Program
North York Civic Centre, Committee Room #3
5100 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario
M2N 5V7


Youth and Family Resiliency: A Cornerstone of the Peterborough Drug Strategy
by Kerri Kightley

Kerri Kightley is a community developer in Peterborough Ontario. After studying at Laurentian University in Sudbury Ontario, Kerri relocated to Toronto in 1998 where she helped develop the first 24hr drop-in and shelter program in Toronto. In 2002, Kerri began work in Peterborough, Ontario alongside an innovative team developing programs and building/renovating space for Y.E.S, the Youth Emergency Shelter. In 2008 as a response to the opiate crisis in Ontario, Kerri helped to build The Peterborough Drug Strategy, a collaborative initiative based on the four pillars of Prevention, Harm Reduction, Treatment and Enforcement striving to reduce the harms associated with substance use. As Strategy Manager, Kerri was instrumental in introducing PAD’s Peer Education and Strengthening Families Programs as part of the focus on youth and family resiliency. Recently, Kerri has taken the position of Regional Housing Coordinator for Fourcast, to work with service providers and the municipalities around Peterborough to build capacity for a regional Housing First Program.

Business Meeting to follow
Guests welcome

RSVP by September 21st, 2015: call 416-395-4970 or email pad@parentactionondrugs.org

Directions to the North York Civic Centre
North York Civic Centre is located at 5100 Yonge Street close to the North York Centre subway station on the Yonge line. Committee room 3 is on the lower level. Outdoor parking is available off of Beecroft Road or underground parking is available under the library.

North York Civic Centre


Download and print the invitation here. 

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