Together, we can prevent addiction before it becomes a problem.

Who we are

project step is a community-wide initiative to ensure young people and their families have access to support, treatment, education, and prevention of problematic substance and technology use.

What we do

project step partners deliver addictions counselling, prevention education, and family support in every publicly funded high school and five community-based schools in Ottawa. The partnership also provides residential treatment at two centres – one in each official language.

The problem


The earlier a young person begins using substances, the higher the risk of addiction later in life.

The solution


77% of youth who access project step counselling in the community reduced their substance use.

The pandemic has been hard on kids and teens.

Young people have been disconnected from their mentors, teachers, role models and friends at a time when relationships are critical for their wellbeing and sense of self.

The result is declining mental health, increased substance use, and more time online.


of students used alcohol in the past year


of students report using prescription opioids


of students report gambling money in the past year


of students meet the criteria for a video gaming problem

If we stop the cycle of addiction before it begins, we set kids on track for a healthy life with stable employment, housing, and social connections.

Addressing problematic substance use early is key.

Prevention is hard to measure, but project step works.

74% of youth who access project step counselling in the community improved their connections to family, friends, and community, and reported improved mental health.

Addiction can alter the course of a person’s whole life. But together, we can keep young people on track to reach their full potential.

Because of project step…

Young people receive prevention education to understand the dangers of ongoing drug use

Youth have easy access to counselling at school and in community youth programs

Teachers and school staff learn to identify and address the risk factors for substance use

Parents receive care and resources to support their kids on the path to recovery


In 2021, the number of young people in Ottawa reporting poor or fair mental health has doubled since before the pandemic, and many young people are using drugs and alcohol to cope. Fortunately, project step promotes mental health and substance use health, and reduces harms related to substance use and addictions.


Donya got sober just before she became pregnant but staying off drugs was a challenge. Project step mental health and addictions counsellors at the Youville Centre for teen moms helped her find stability and support through her recovery, all while raising a healthy son. Donya went on to study at Carleton University, setting a course for a brighter future.

A group photo

Project step and other youth-serving organizations hosted a conversation with young people about mental health, substance use health, gambling, problematic technology use, wellness, and the types of help that exist in our communities. The following report was assembled to help service providers better support and work in partnership with local youth.


Since 2007,
with your support,
project step has helped:

14,760+ students access school-based counselling

183,334+ students receive education sessions

14,659+ parents receive support

Support project step and change the trajectory of a young person’s life – for the better.