Working Group established to develop marketing campaign to address youth substance use and abuse
As a grieving parent who had just lost his 21-year-old son to an accidental overdose, Steve Borisenko felt lost when he tried to find information and assistance available for both youth using drugs and for parents who were looking for help for their children who were showing signs of using drugs.
An emotional conversation with St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik became the catalyst for a community partnership aimed at trying to promote youth overdose prevention and awareness, and a chance to try and help parents avoid the pain Steve experienced after losing Jacob in June of 2021.
“Steve couldn’t find the resources and services readily accessible during his time of need. Hearing his story, and seeing his commitment to action, it helped shape the foundation to create a youth-focused substance use working group,” said Mayor Sendzik. “The idea is about working together with partners in our community to develop multimedia strategies that reach young people and their families to provide easy to access and understand pathways to resources already available in our community.”
The working group began meeting last fall and started developing strategies and ways to work together to prevent more untimely, tragic deaths in the community as a result of the opioid epidemic, which has grown in scale since the start of the pandemic. The impact has been felt across Niagara – one of the hardest hit regions in the province – across all demographics and by far too many families. Partners include:
- The Niagara Resource Service for Youth (the RAFT)
- Pathstone Mental Health
- Community Addiction Services of Niagara (CASON)
- Steve Borisenko
- Brock University Students’ Union
- City of St. Catharines
- District School Board of Niagara
- Niagara Catholic District School Board
- Niagara College
- Niagara Regional Native Centre
- Niagara Health
- Niagara Region Public Health
- Niagara Regional Police
- Positive Living Niagara
- Step Niagara
- Youth Wellness Hub Ontario – Niagara Region
- Contact Niagara for Children’s and Developmental Services
“It is becoming increasingly visible across Niagara Region that our youth are quickly being swallowed up by addictions,” said Borisenko. “This working group is filled with people that care and want to see change. It is a brilliant step to help all our kids get back on track. I am so thankful to everyone involved for stepping up.”
Work is currently underway on a community engagement plan, including the development of a multi-faceted marketing campaign to provide education and information on resources available for both youth and parents as it relates to substance use in our community. The campaign, led by local creative firm Moonbase, will be developed with input by youth and parents – including those with lived experience of substance abuse – and to target digital audiences, as well as physical spaces that serve the community.
“While we are supporting people who are struggling and families who are grieving, we are also taking action by talking about substance use and abuse and putting a focus on youth and teenagers who have increasingly easy access to dangerous street drugs,” said Mayor Sendzik.