At its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, Kingston City Council will vote on funding for a new partnership between the City and Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC) to establish a new Planet Youth Program. According to a report circulating in advance of Tuesday’s meeting, Planet Youth programs aim to direct young people away from activities that negatively impact their “physical and mental health,” including substance abuse.
The program, which would be led by KCHC, seeks to create “healthy community environments” for local youth by “strengthening protective factors” and mitigating “risk factors,” with a key focus on the local school community. According to the report, KCHC has already received commitments from other agencies and organizations in the community, including local school boards, to implement Planet Youth.
Through a “data-driven model,” the Planet Youth program would also include a biennial survey, providing key insights on youth development among those aged 15 to 16 (Grade 10). According to staff, the program was developed from the “Icelandic Prevention Model,” which “demonstrated effectiveness in reducing substance use in Iceland for over 20 years.”
With a focus on steering young people away from substance abuse, Planet Youth programs often address a wide range of “determinants of health,” in order to have a positive impact on the community at large. Staff add, “Planet Youth treats society as ‘the patient’ and believes that building a community environment that delays the onset of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances for as long as possible is an effective approach to reducing the long-term health problems related to youth substance use.”
According to the report, a number of factors contributed to KCHC’s desire to launch a Planet Youth program in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington (KFL&A) region, notably the fact that the “percentage of vulnerable children” in the region is higher than the provincial average “and is trending upwards.” The staff report also notes that Kingston had the “largest increase in Canada” on a 2017 Violent Crime Severity Index published by Statistics Canada. (The most recent data on the 2022 Violent Crime Severity Index shows these numbers continue to rise.)
In terms of the rates of substance abuse among area youth, the report indicates there has been an increase in the past year in the number of consultations at the Street Health Centre “for youth using fentanyl and crystal meth.” Staff add the youngest consult was just 11 years old.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, members of Council are being asked to support the program in the form of a $30,000 contribution from the Working Fund Reserve. According to the report, the municipal contribution will allow KCHC to formally register as part of the Planet Youth model, “which provides a blueprint and guidance on steps to implement the program.”
In addition to funds sought from the City of Kingston, staff note the organization is also applying for a grant through the federal government’s “Youth Substance Use Prevention Program,” through the “Incubator and Capacity Building” stream, which has a deadline of January 15, 2024. According to the report, a funding commitment from the City would be referenced as part of KCHC’s grant application.
Councillors are also being asked to direct City staff to “actively engage” with the Planet Youth program “and support youth engagement in the program.”
The staff report will be presented to Council during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, at 7 p.m. inside Council Chambers. Full meeting agendas are available on the City of Kingston website. Meetings are open to the public and can be streamed live (or viewed after) on the Kingston City Council YouTube page.