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New Drug Awareness Campaign for Vancouver Youth

Odd Squad Production Society has been a long-standing recipient of VPF grants – and most recently, they have turned our funding into critical awareness that shines a light on drug use and addiction, including the opioid crisis.

“This campaign will focus on what drugs are, how addiction works, why people use, including peer pressure, trauma, and family issues, plus how drugs work on the brain,” explains Odd Squad Executive Director Mark Steinkampf.

“Educating youth about the consequences of drug use is imperative if our society is to decrease opioid use and prevent opioid-related death. We need to create an environment where youth are aware of the dangers, know who to ask for help, and are taught how to develop strategies for a drug-free life.”

Starting in early April and for the following 13 weeks, Odd Squad will use different social media platforms to reach thousands of youth, parents, and educators.

There has never been a more critical time to turn attention and resources to curb this crisis. While this health emergency has been making headlines for years, let’s take a closer look at the statistics:

  • In 2016, the BC Coroner reported 993 illicit drug deaths.
  • Five years later, in 2021, that statistic tragically more than doubled to 2,306 deaths province-wide.
  • Last year wasn’t much better, with 2022 reporting 2,272 illicit drug-related deaths.
  • These grim figures equate to six daily British Columbian deaths for the last two years.
  • Reports also confirm that 94% of opioid overdose deaths happen by accident.
  • Young Canadians aged 15 to 24 are the fastest-growing population requiring hospital care from opioid overdoses.

Instead of using a professional voice-over actor, they will use youth to narrate each segment. There are even Indigenous modules that acknowledge how addiction is observed and handled slightly differently in Indigenous communities.

“Including an Indigenous voice was extremely important to us,” adds Steinkampf. “Culture and Indigenous customs mean so much to this community on their journey back to a healthy mind and healthy spirit, and we wanted to honour that in our content.”

This specially curated content, plus the rest of the campaign, includes several short videos ranging from 30 seconds to two minutes. The goal is to drive thought, provoke conversation, and motivate individuals to inquire about drug prevention programs.

It is also important to note that this drug education program is just the latest in a long and impactful list of services Odd Squad has provided youth in the Lower Mainland and across Canada over the last 25 years. When a handful of VPD officers launched Odd Squad in 1997, their goals then remained the same as they are now: to empower youth to make positive life choices regarding drug use and criminal behaviour. Odd Squad’s work developed in the Downtown Eastside after the officers saw first-hand the devastating consequences of substance abuse. Using a unique combination of in-house-produced documentary films, presentations, peer-to-peer workshops, and judo-based training, Odd Squad encourages positive goal-setting and healthy choices around risky behaviour. As a result, it helps youth stay “on track” by promoting a drug-free life that is long and happy.

“Statistically, the habits teens form and activities gravitate towards before 19 years of age will formulate who they become and how they behave as adults,” adds Steinkampf. “That is why this campaign is needed so urgently right now – perhaps more than any other time in Vancouver’s history.”

Check back in early July for a full re-cap on the impact and reach of Odd Squad Production’s Drug Awareness campaign.

The Vancouver Police Foundation supports programs and initiatives that fall under one of four pillars: Youth Programs, Mental Health & Addictions, Community Outreach & Engagement, and Technology & Special Equipment. You can help build a safer Vancouver by donating to the Vancouver Police Foundation.

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