- Roxanne Turuba, MPH, Research Coordinator, Foundry, Vancouver, BC
- Anurada Amarasekera, Youth Research Assistant, Foundry, Vancouver, BC
- Amanda Howard, Youth Research Assistant, Foundry, Vancouver, BC
- Andrea Vukobrat, Project Support Coordinator, Foundry, Vancouver, BC
Background: Mental illness and substance use affects approximately 1 in 4 Canadian youth and young adults. Foundry centres provide services for youth (ages 12-24) and utilize a substance use integrated stepped care model (ISCM), involving a number of interdisciplinary professionals. While this model is evidence-informed, it has yet to be validated by youth. The Experience Project aims to inform this model by asking youth with lived/living experience what is important to them when accessing substance use services and asking peer support workers how they want to be integrated within the ISCM model. This information will be used to develop substance use curricula to train peer support workers and other service providers who support youth at Foundry and Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario (YWHO). Methods: The project applies community-based research methods to ensure that the voices of youth with lived/living experience are centered throughout the project. This is being achieved by a project advisory committee of 14 youth that is consulted bi-weekly, 3 youth research assistants and 2 youth peer evaluators to support with the project’s research and evaluation activities. A phenomenological qualitative study design was applied by conducting open-ended interviews with 30 youth (ages 12-24) with lived/living experience of substance use who live in British Columbia (Canada) and 30 peer support workers who support youth. The interviews are being analyzed by participant group using inductive thematic analysis and will be used to develop new substance use curricula. Results: Early findings from the thematic analysis suggests that youth do not feel worthy of substance use services and see them reserved for those in crisis and experience greater barriers such as homelessness, abuse, and harder drug use. This is exacerbated by the fact that there are not enough substance use services available, in addition to the stigma and discrimination youth may face when they finally seek help. Peer support workers describe the need for more standardized training. They emphasize the value of storytelling by youth and peer support workers, and opportunities to connect with peers and other service providers to help them feel more adept to support youth who use substances. Both youth and peer support workers stress the importance of applying a person-centred approach to care and the need for interprofessional care teams to address the social determinants of health that impact young people’s substance use. Conclusions: Youth experience many challenges engaging with substance use services as currently delivered. Peer support workers play an important role in providing person-centered services to youth and should be fully integrated into collaborative care models to be better positioned to support youth with multiple concerns. Incorporating youth perspectives in substance use curricula can also help peer support workers and other service providers meet youth where they are at.
- Identify best practices for engaging youth in research and curriculum development
- Define the needs and experiences of youth with lived/living experience of substance use and peer support workers who support youth
- Identify specific strategies for improving youth care experiences