On Monday, September 16th 2019, Lionel Carmant, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, announced that an investment fund would be implemented to deploy addiction counselors in all high schools in the province of Quebec.

A welcomed movement

This was a much-anticipated movement, and which undoubtedly translates into the urgency of the situation for young people dealing with addiction. Indeed, on Monday, September 16, Minister Carmant announced that $7.5 million would be invested in providing addiction counselors to Quebec high schools at least 18 hours a week. These counselors, who may be social workers or specialized educators, will have to play a role preventing drug use and identify any signs for potential substance use among young students.

Now an elected member under the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) banner, Lionel Carmant is a former neurologist and neuroscience researcher accustomed to the health issues of fellow citizens. He stated that these counselors would be responsible for “identifying all adolescents who are at risk of developing an addiction in order to offer them personalized support, refer them to the health system or send them to a therapy centre if needed.”

Mr. Carmant explained that this measure is not part of the fierce battle led by his government to pass Bill 2 aimed at making the legal age to purchase cannabis 21 years of age instead of 18. A flagship measure that, despite often being disparaged by those who advocate legalization, is welcomed by health professionals and organizations who work every day to help young people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, increasing the legal age to purchase and use cannabis will certainly not prevent young Quebecers from trying drugs, but it does send a strong message to the population that cannabis is a drug that has extremely harmful effects on the brain development.

A chance to reach troubled youth?

The propensity of young people using cannabis is particularly emphasized by community organizations that must deal daily with the devastation caused by this substance on their lives and future. The legalization of cannabis a year ago has made it possible, among other things, to shed light on the issue of taking care of such dependant individuals across the country.

In May, Guylaine Ouimette, President of the OTSTCFQ – Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec (Association for Social Workers and Family and Marriage Therapists of Quebec), sounded the alarm about the precariousness of social workers in the French-speaking province. At a press conference, Mrs. Ouimette pointed at the Legault government for the excessive workload of social workers, especially for youth protection: “In a context of work overload, labour shortage and budget cuts, we sometimes feel like cases are being handled to avoid providing services.”

In this respect, it seems that the CAQ government heard these words and reacted promptly. A measure that deserves to be commended, especially when we know that in 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) made it clear that access to social services and the early detection of problems among young people (violence, substance abuse, mental health) was a potent factor in the population’s overall health.

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