A program that offers counseling and support to local high school students with addiction and substance abuse problems got a helping hand Thursday.
The Frank Cowan Foundation contributed $100,000 to Project s.t.e.p., a school-based education and prevention program, allowing them to expand their work.
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A community initiative supported by United Way Ottawa, Project s.t.e.p., has made a huge difference in the lives of young people, said Peggy Austen, senior director of community services at United Way Ottawa.
In addition to an education program that everyone is able to access, the program also offers addiction counseling that helps students with substance abuse problems, said Austen.
“It’s youth-friendly because it’s in schools,” said Austen. “They get the help they need right in school.”
The program also offers family support.
Although the program has only been running for several years, “we’re starting to see the difference,” Austen said. Eighty per cent of young people in the intervention program stayed in school, she said.
Substance abuse is a problem seen in all area high schools, Austen said.
An estimated 9,000 students in Ottawa have significant substance abuse issues to the point when they are seeing “significant adverse consequences,” where academics and family relationships suffer and youth may run into trouble with the law.
The goal is to get the program running in all 55 high schools in four school boards, said Austen.
At $4.7 million, the program is just under 80 per cent of its $6 million fundraising goal.