Our philosophy of care supports a harm reduction approach. Harm reduction is commonly defined as “any program or policy designed to reduce drug-related harm without requiring the cessation of drug use. Interventions may be targeted at the individual, the family, community or society.” Harm reduction is a controversial concept which has different implications depending on the sector and programming in which it is applied (e.g., drug policy, sexual health, live-in care, outpatient treatment, etc.).
A harm reduction approach is realistic, pragmatic and necessary, and reinforces our desire to help youth to not only reduce or eliminate their substance use, but facilitates healthier living via the reduction of harms that can accompany substance use and other risky behaviours (e.g., sharing of needles, unprotected sex, self-harm, operating a vehicle while under the influence, etc.).
For the DSYTC specifically, we adopt the position that harm reduction is pragmatic and effective when working with youth with addiction and related issues. Our harm reduction philosophy meaningfully captures the concept of relapse as a learning opportunity, rather than a rigid “abstinence-only” perspective which portrays relapse as a sign of failure and grounds for treatment discharge.
Within a harm reduction context, client safety is our top priority. Therefore, our live-in treatment facilities operate as 100% substance-free environments (including tobacco products).