Many children and young people with addictions or substance use problems also experience other mental health challenges. This results in more complex care needs that require integrated services with a focus on harm reduction.

Why harm reduction matters

Harm reduction is about diminishing the physical, emotional, social and economic harms of addictions and problematic substance use for individuals, families and communities. It also emphasizes reducing stigma, to improve individual well-being and self-worth. Stigma often limits access to education and employment opportunities, housing, healthcare and other services, and contributes to poorer quality of care.

Harm reduction is an evidence-based, person-first approach that recognizes that some people may not want, be ready or be able to completely stop activities that may be harmful. The goal is to minimize health and social impacts associated with these behaviours.

Focusing on integrated care

Young Ontarians and their families have a growing need for coordinated mental health and substance use health services, but high-quality, integrated care can be hard to find and access. Our latest round of impact grants, offered in partnership with Mental Health Research Canada, funded two projects to advance mental health, substance use and addictions care for young people and their families in Ontario. Learn about our impact grants and the selected projects.

Cannabis Knowledge Exchange Hub

We’re part of the Champions’ Circle for the Cannabis Knowledge Exchange Hub. The Hub curates a collection of evidence-based resources on the non-medical use of cannabis and connects professionals in various sectors working to reduce harms associated with cannabis use. As champions, we help identify evidence needs and advise the team on issues relevant to the child and youth mental health sector.


Priorities in substance use and addictions services for young people in Ontario

In late 2021, substance use and addictions became one of our central focus areas to help the child and youth mental health and addictions (CYMHA) sector in Ontario in delivering evidence-based services and support.  Throughout the past year, we held a series of consultations with agency leaders, direct service providers, young people and families to get a good grasp on our sector’s priorities, strengths, challenges and needs related to substance use and addictions. This report synthesizes what we heard and shares how we'll support the knowledge and capacity-building needs of the sector. 

Read the report

Mental health impacts of screen use for children and young people during COVID-19

Excessive screen time can impact physical and mental health. Many children and young people were already exceeding guidelines and recommendations for screen use before the COVID-19 pandemic and research shows that screen time has only increased with physical distancing measures. This evidence summary compiles the latest research on the mental health impacts of screen use and highlights ways screen time can be managed to reduce negative effects.

Read the evidence summary

Clearing the air: Informing conversations about cannabis

Prior to the legalization of cannabis for non-medical use in 2018, we asked child and youth mental health and addictions service providers about their experiences and questions on how to address substance use. Those questions fed into the development of an evidence paper and a learning resource with Addictions Mental Health Ontario. These resources examine the links between mental health and substance use, particularly cannabis use among young people under the age of 25.