Building on Strengths to Address Youth Substance Use

Death rates from a poisonous drug supply, legalized cannabis, adolescent binge drinking, and the propagation of vaping, are compelling grounds for building up a holistic school-based prevention system.

We know that substance use (SU) most often begins in the adolescent years, that school connectedness is a powerful protective factor, and that schools are appropriate settings for early identification and intervention. We also know that across BC there are many strengths to build on in supporting school-based efforts.

School counsellors play a key role yet also confront many expectations e.g. educating students about SU, supporting youth at different stages of using substances, assisting administrators in handling  SU related incidents, addressing parent/caregiver anxieties, bridging youth to appropriate SU treatment, and more.

Typically, school counsellors are assigned to a large number of students, receive limited training regarding SU, and grapple with countless time demands.

This workshop aims to support counsellors. The content will be shaped by a) key findings from a recent BC snapshot of education stakeholders regarding preventing and reducing SU harms, and understanding barriers and facilitators to effective responses, and, b) relevant SU topics that participants in the session identify (e.g. promoting student voice and critical thinking; parent/caregiver support; strengths-based school environments; supportive school/district policy and codes of conduct; handling SU incidents;; bridging students to external addiction services or whatever pressing matters they’d like to identify). Two or three topics, identified by participants, will be explored in more detail.


 Also a comprehensive framework for school-based SU prevention/health promotion systems will be introduced, accessing practical resources will be discussed and new BC efforts designed to better support school professionals (et al) in addressing substance use will be introduced.


The focus will be on relevant, doable strategies that support youth and families in preventing and reducing SU related harms.

Target Audience



10:00 AM - 1:45 PM

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  • Bunyaad Public Affairs INC.
    Art Steinmann

    Art Steinmann brings over 40 years of experience in substance use policy, education, program development, advocacy and health promotion work. Currently he is Senior Associate, Youth Substance Use Health Promotion, Bunyaad Public Affairs Inc.

    From 2005 – 2021 Art was the co-founder, co-developer and Manager of Substance Use Health Promotion and SACY (Supporting and Connecting Youth) for the Vancouver School Board (VSB).  SACY, a joint initiative of VSB and Vancouver Coastal Health, is a widely regarded, comprehensive health promotion approach that is active in Vancouver’s 18 secondary schools and many Alternative Programs.

    During 2000-2005 Art was an independent Addiction Prevention Consultant conducting and writing research and analysis (including needs assessment, policy papers, topical reports and special projects). Clients included: Vancouver Coastal Health, the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Fraser Health Authority, West Vancouver School District and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

    Prior to 2000, for 19 years Art was Executive Director of Alcohol-Drug Education Service, a provincial substance use prevention and advocacy agency and also co-directed the Pacific Institute on Addiction Studies, an annual conference for addictions workers and allied professionals.

    Art has served on numerous boards, task forces, committees and regional and provincial mental health and substance use coalitions and collaboratives. Art has presented to many government task forces, commissions and policy reviews.

    Art holds a BA, a BC Teacher’s Certificate, and has completed numerous addiction related courses and workshops as well as graduate studies in Theology and Counselling.

  • Bunyaad Public Affairs Inc
    Cindy Andrew

    Cindy Andrew is a former teacher who has worked in the health promoting schools’ field for over 28 years. She is a former program consultant with the Canadian Institute on Substance Use Research at UVic and also works Sooke School District in supporting their healthy schools related efforts.  Previous to these roles, Cindy worked with Education and Health partners across Canada in helping to further investments in school-centred efforts to promote the health and learning of all learners.  Cindy lives, learns, works and plays on the traditional territories of the Esquimalt Nation and Songhees Nation, on the west shore of  Victoria BC.