Recent questions about caring for young adults battling drug and alcohol addiction are changing mindsets about where these young people belong in social and health services. Portage considered this matter and has now extended its adolescent program in Eastern Quebec to cater to young adults aged 18 to 21 as of March 2021.

The New Face of Adolescence

According to the World Health Organization, adolescence is defined as the period ranging from ages 10 to 19: “Adolescence is a human growth and development period from childhood to adulthood, between the ages of 10 and 19.” Nevertheless, according to a study conducted by Australian scientists published in January 2018, adolescence is now prolonged to 24. Researchers have found that many environmental factors delay entry into adulthood: “Although many legal privileges begin at age 18, responsibilities related to adulthood usually come about later on.” Social changes are believed to be responsible for this late entry into adulthood. Completing education, marriage, or parenthood, which marks the end of adolescence, often comes much later than it used to. Young adults might therefore be less independent than their parents were at the same age, and would thus benefit from more support in making the transition to adulthood.

Could Youth Protection Be Extended to Age 21 in Quebec?

The Director of Youth Protection (DYP)’s role is to intervene and protect minors in domestic situations that could be endangering their security or development. As such, this organization processes over 100,000 reported cases a year in Quebec. As it stands now, adolescents under the Youth Protection Act cannot benefit from these services after their 18th birthday. An extensive study involving 1,000 young people from Quebec social services was conducted over two years to shed some light on the harmful realities of these services ceasing at 18 years old. Nearly 20 percent of participants, who had been out of a youth centre for a minimum of one year, stated that they had experienced homelessness for several days. Kevin, aged 20, was interviewed by La Presse, saying: “When I turned 18 it was like: we’re giving you one last meal and then, goodbye. All ties were severed with my counsellors. I didn’t have anyone to turn to for help. You’re not an adult when you’re 18 years old. I think that counsellors should assist us longer. Perhaps up to age 20 or 21?”.

l’Étude sur le devenir des jeunes placés (EDJeP)[1] (The study on the future of young people placed in centres) draws on the experience of the State of California and France, which already allow young adults to voluntarily benefit from this type of assistance until the age of 21. It outlines that not only do these young at-risk adults often end up on the streets, but that the state benefits from significant savings. Indeed, as per the study, such an approach would save the province nearly $100 million.

[1] http://edjep.ca/wp-content/uploads/EDJeP_Rapport_couts_benefices.pdf

But What About Addiction?

Drug and alcohol consumption among young Quebecers is extremely well documented by many statistical studies. Interestingly, in most of these studies, the term “young” refers to people aged 15-24. For instance, according to the Quebec Population Health Survey[1] conducted in 2016, 16.7 percent of the Quebec population had used drugs over the previous year, of which 15-24-year-olds represented a significant portion of nearly 40 percent. Therefore, these young people are more likely to develop substance abuse, which leads to a number of problems at that age, such as dropping out of school, problematic social behaviours, and even homelessness. In order to meet the addiction issues that exist among this at-risk population, a proper service needs to be offered.

Portage’s Cassidy Lake program in New Brunswick has already been catering to young adults between 18 and 21 for the last 20 plus years with very positive results. More recently, an internal committee looked into the possibility of adapting its Quebec adolescent programs to young adults. By analyzing its internal data and studying other rehabilitation services partners’ expertise, the organization noticed that young adults (aged 18-21) were virtually absent from its rehabilitation programs for adults (13.5 percent of the adult program at Lac Écho in Prévost). From there, a decision was made to have a program catering to these young adults be available in Saint-Malachie, Quebec. Several adjustments were made to the program to better assist young individuals in their transition into adulthood. Since March 2021, young people up to the age of 21 can now benefit from adapted support groups and receive the best care possible. Courses are also offered voluntarily to help transition smoothly into the job market post-treatment. This adapted program represents a significant step forward in Quebec when it comes to drug addiction rehabilitation services with extended assistance. This underrepresented group requires increased support in their transition from adolescence into adulthood.

[1] https://statistique.quebec.ca/en/enquetes/realisees/quebec-population-health-survey-qphs

Click on the links to learn more about Portage’s youth programs in OntarioQuebec, and New Brunswick. Addiction does not take a break, and neither do we. Our admissions offices remain open. Call today.

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