Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy

Rationale / Objectives

The use of substances such as alcohol, medication, tobacco, and other drugs is interwoven into the community. In particular, substance use often beginning during adolescence and can interfere with developmental changes. Therefore, it is important to work within the community to prevent substance abuse among youth. Primary prevention strategies were used to address the issue of substance use among youth in the Wellington - Guelph area of Ontario, Canada.

Project/Program Description & Major Achievements

The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) is a youth drug prevention initiative run by the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy (WGDS). The program is composed of the Strengthing Families for the Future program (SFF) and the Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth program (SFPY). The SFF is a 14-week program that is for parents with children aged 7-11 and the SFPY program is for patents with children aged 12-16. The families attend weekly sessions with facilitators and volunteers. Families share a meal together and then attend separate sessions and then collectively talk about what they learned. The program has been able to enhance communication and family relationships. This program has an amazing 90 percent retention rate.

Lessons Learned

The program focuses on open communication between the parent and the child as a primary prevention agent. By sharing a meal together, families have a chance to communicate and talk about the issues they are experiencing. This model of prevention has been well-researched and is used internationally. SFP also works with many local organizations to strengthen coordination. The Canadian Standards for Community-based Substance Abuse Prevention are used in this initiative.

People / Organizations Involved

Further Description

The WGDS focuses on the 4 pillars: Prevention, Harm Reduction, Treatment/Recovery, Community Safety. Prevention includes reducing individual harm by addressing risk, delaying the onset, reducing the incidence, and providing education about substance issues. Treatment includes offering peer-based support services, building capacity within multiple sectors, and advocating for supportive housing services. The harm reduction pillar advocates for reducing stigma, health equity, harm reduction approaches, and building relationship with substance consumers. Lastly, the community safety pillar focuses on encouraging working partnerships, supporting individuals with addiction challenges, and developing effective pathways to support community members.

Major Achievements

Strengthening Families Program (SFP) prevented:

  • 15% of youth from using marijuana
  • 7% from smoking tobacco
  • 11% from using other drugs


These metrics are unmatched by all other prevention programs except Project Northland for tobacco that had the same 7% preventive effect for tobacco prevention. The Strengthening Families Program was twice as effective as the next best prevention program, which was also a parenting program. 

For more information about the outcome metrics of this program consult SFPY: A community initiative to adapt an evidence-based model for implementation with families of at-risk youth report.