Expanded substance abuse program for African and Caribbean Canadian youth

Dr. Kwame McKenzie

The Ontario government is investing $2.9 million to enhance and expand the Substance Abuse Program for African and Caribbean Canadian Youth (SAPACCY) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and seven new satellite locations across Ontario, as part of the government’s commitment to invest $3.8 billion over 10 years to implement Roadmap to Wellness.

“This significant investment is critical in expanding the provision of culturally appropriate support systems and services geared towards promoting the wellbeing of African and Caribbean youth within the designated regions in Ontario. On behalf of all the partner organizations, TAIBU would like to acknowledge the support by the Ontario government in addressing the differential impact on the health and wellbeing experienced by Black youth in the province,” said Liben Gebremikael, Executive Director, TAIBU Community Health Centre.

The expanded program will protect our progress by improving access to culturally appropriate mental health and addictions care for African and Caribbean Canadian youth who are dealing with problem substance use and mental health concerns, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through Roadmap to Wellness, our government is delivering on our commitment to ensure all Ontarians have access to high-quality, easily accessible mental health and addictions support,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“Investing in programs such as the Substance Abuse Program for African and Caribbean Canadian Youth is one more way our government is continuing to expand and enhance culturally appropriate mental health and addictions services that are centred around the needs of individuals and their families.”

SAPACCY provides a wide range of culturally safe services and supports to African and Caribbean-origin youth, offering assessment, individual and group treatment, and counselling to assist

Liben Gebremikael

youth in reducing harm and making the best choices for themselves and their families on the path to recovery.

The program has been shown to improve health outcomes for youth, reduce stigma and barriers to care and increase early intervention and timely access to culturally safe services. The program serves Francophones, LGBTQQ2SI+, disconnected youth, and youth impacted by significant trauma including community violence.

This funding will help to enhance current program levels and expand services through the creation of new community satellite locations in Hamilton, Ottawa and Windsor. Additional satellite locations previously announced are in Etobicoke, Peel, Scarborough, and North York. It will also support the recruitment of counselors, therapists, case managers, outreach workers, and site coordinators, as appropriate.

“In a year unlike any other, we’ve seen an increased demand for high-quality mental health and addictions care that addresses the unique needs of Ontario’s most vulnerable youth,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This investment will help protect our progress in the fight against COVID-19 by ensuring SAPACCY clients have better access to culturally appropriate and safe services, in a setting where they are fully supported in their journey towards recovery.”

Accrding to Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Director of Health Equity, CAMH: “Black populations see better mental health as one of the most important issues in their communities. Getting access to care has long been a problem. This funding will allow CAMH to work alongside trusted community organizations to develop a network of culturally appropriate mental health services for Black youth. This is a first for Ontario and a first for Canada.”