Innovative youth substance use prevention pilot project launches in Saint John area

Saint John is one of four New Brunswick locations selected as pilot site for Planet Youth, a prevention model which focuses on building a positive environment around youth to decrease substance use

SAINT JOHN – Horizon Health Network (Horizon) is pleased to be part of a new collaborative, community-based youth substance use prevention pilot in the Saint John area. 

Saint John was one of four New Brunswick locations selected to pilot the Planet Youth Guidance Program, which applies the Icelandic Prevention Model – an evidence and community-based process which has been proven to lower substance use among youth in Iceland and has since been adapted in more than 16 countries.

In Saint John, the launch of Planet Youth – celebrated today at BCG Saint John – included the introduction of a new community action team, which brings together public and mental health workers, community intervention professionals, as well as partners from the school community, police, and the business community.

“We recognize that the wellbeing of young people is fundamental to the overall health of our communities, and we are thrilled to bring Planet Youth to the Saint John area,” said Dr. Kimberley Barker, Regional Medical Officer of Health in the Saint John area. “Since Planet Youth’s guidance program isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, we look forward to developing a tailored action plan to fit our area’s specific needs and circumstances, while learning from the successful projects implemented around the world.”

The provincial government is committing $255,000 per year to the Planet Youth New Brunswick pilot project over five years. Saint John, as well as Woodstock, Kent County and the Acadian Peninsula, were selected as pilot sites.

Access to addiction and mental health services is one of five action areas in the provincial health plan, Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action.

“We are pleased to see communities coming together for the Planet Youth NB pilot project to help our youth become more resilient and reach their full potential,” said Sherry Wilson, Minister responsible for Addiction and Mental Health Services. “This project is a long-term investment in the next generation of citizens, offering them a healthier future.”

Next steps in the rollout of Planet Youth in Saint John will include formulating an action plan to implement projects informed by area youth. The action team will work in collaboration with Planet Youth, an Icelandic research consultancy, and provide recommendations.

This prevention model focuses on building a positive environment around youth to mitigate risk factors, such as social isolation or stress, and strengthen protective factors by fostering access to family, school and extra-curricular activities, for example, which promote well-being.

“Horizon is thrilled to be part of this innovative initiative in the Saint John area – Planet Youth represents a remarkable collaboration among community partners who are all dedicated to the wellbeing of our youth,” said Renée Fournier, Regional Director of Addiction and Mental Health Services with Horizon Health Network in the Saint John area. “By embracing the Icelandic Prevention Model, we are not only joining a global effort but also customizing our approach to meet the unique needs of our region.”

In February 2023, a survey of 709 students in Grade 10 (age 15 and 16) was conducted in five Saint John area schools, as well as the Saint John Learning Exchange, to evaluate their wellbeing and lifestyle habits.

The following key observations were made as a result of this survey:

  • Only 34% of girls surveyed said that their mental health was good or very good
  • 31% of youth surveyed tried alcohol at the age of 13 or younger
  • 61% of youth respondents get less than 8 hours of sleep per night
  • 60% of girls surveyed spend an average of three hours or more per day on social media
  • Only 64% of youth surveyed responded feeling safe at school

In 2017, costs attributable to substance use in New Brunswick totaled more than $1 billion in the health care, social and justice systems, according to the Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms Working Group (2020).

Improving access to critical health care services, including addiction and mental health services, is a key priority in Horizon’s plan to ensure all patients and clients receive the quality care they need. This plan consists of three other priorities: improving recruitment and retention; improving the overall patient experience; and improving patient flow at our health care facilities. Further details about Horizon’s four priority areas are available at This initiative also supports the Government of New Brunswick’s provincial health plan, Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action.


For more information contact:

Kris McDavid

Media Relations