The Substance Abuse Program for African-Canadian and Caribbean Youth (SAPACCY): An Innovative Program Serving the Mental Health Needs of African, Caribbean, and Black Youth


  • Amy Gajaria University of Toronto
  • Kevin Haynes Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; University of Toronto
  • Yolanda Kosic University of Toronto
  • Donna Alexander Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto



Mental Health, Youth, Substance Use Disorders, Racism, Cultural Safety, Black populations


Black youth experience disproportionately poor health outcomes throughout Ontario's healthcare system, including the mental health and addictions system. The Substance Abuse Program for African Canadian and Caribbean Youth (SAPACCY) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) seeks to address this disparity by providing clinical services to youth who identify as Black and/or as having African and/or Caribbean heritage, and their families, who are struggling with problematic substance use and/or mental health concerns. The clinical team works from an Afrocentric, culturally responsive lens to promote recovery and support Black youth in working through their mental health and addiction concerns. The program offers mental health and addictions counselling and psychotherapy, psychiatric consultation, psychoeducation, resource navigation, advocacy, and case management services to assist youth and their families/caregivers in reducing harm, moving toward recovery, and making healthy choices for themselves and their family. This paper will discuss SAPACCY’s approach to helping clients build resilience and resistance to anti-Black racism.


Author Biographies

Kevin Haynes, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; University of Toronto

Adjunct Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto

Social Worker, Child Youth and Family Services, University of Toronto 

Yolanda Kosic, University of Toronto

MSW Student, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto 

Donna Alexander, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto

Social Worker, Child Youth and Family Services, University of Toronto 


Adjei, P. B., & Minka, E. (2018). Black parents ask for a second look: Parenting under ‘White’ child protection rules in Canada. Children and Youth Services Review, (94), 511–524. DOI:

Alvarez, A. N., Liang, C. T. H., & Neville, H. A. (Eds). (2016). The cost of racism for people of color: Contextualizing experiences of discrimination. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association DOI:

Anderson, R. E., Jones, S., Anyiwo, N., McKenny, M., & Gaylord-Harden, N. (2018). What’s race got to do with it? Racial socialization’s contribution to Black adolescent coping. Journal of Research on Adolescence. Advance online publication. DOI:

Asante, M.K. (2003). Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change (2nd ed). African American Images.

Bridges, D., Davison, R.A., Soule Odegard, P., Maki, I.V., & Tomkowiak, J. (2011). Interprofessional collaboration: Three best practice models of interprofessional education. Medical Education Online, 16(1), 6035-10. DOI:

Brown, M. & Ford-Smith, H. (2015). Black Women and the legacies of survival and agency. [unpublished master’s project]. York University. Retrieved from:

Carter, R. T. (2007). Racism and psychological emotional injury: Recognizing and assessing race-based traumatic stress. Counseling Psychologist, 35,13-105. DOI:

Cheng, J. (2020, July 31). “Black people and other people of colour make up 83% of reported COVID-19 cases in Toronto.” CBC. Retrieved from

Cloitre, M., Courtois, C.A., Ford, J.D., Green, B.L., Alexander, P., Briere, J., Herman, J.L., Lanius, R., Stolbach, B.C., Spinazzola, J., Van der Kolk, B.A., Van der Hart, O. (2012). The ISTSS expert consensus treatment guidelines for Complex PTSD in adults. Retrieved from

Coates, T. (2012, September). “Fear of a Black President,” The Atlantic. Retrieved from president/309064

Codjoe, H. M. (2001). Fighting a “public enemy” of Black academic achievement: The persistence of racism and the schooling experiences of Black students in Canada. Race Ethnicity and Education, 4(4), 343–375. DOI:

Comas-Díaz, L., Hall, G. N., & Neville, H. A. (2019). Racial trauma: Theory, research, and healing: Introduction to the special issue. American Psychologist, 74(1), 1. DOI:

Fante-Coleman, T., Jackson-Best, F. (2020). Barriers and Facilitators to Accessing Mental Healthcare for Black children & Youth: A Scoping Review. Pathways to Care Project DOI:

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (original work published 1970). New York: Continuum.

Gajaria, A., Guzder, J., & Rasasingham, R. (2021). What's race got to do with it? A proposed framework to address racism's impacts on child and adolescent mental health in Canada. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry = Journal de l'Academie canadienne de psychiatrie de l'enfant et de l'adolescent, 30(2), 131–137.

Goldman, J. (2011). Canadian interprofessional health collaborative blog. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 25(4), 312. DOI:

Ginwright, S, (2018, May 31). The Future of Healing: Shifting from trauma informed care to healing centred engagement. ShawnGinwright.

Grills, C.T. (2006, April). African Centered Psychology: Strategies for psychological survival and wellness. Lecture slides retrieved from

Harrington, R. (2013). Stress, health & wellbeing. Thriving in the 21st Century. Wadsworth Publishing.

Helms, J., Nicolas, G., & Green, C. E. (2012). Racism and ethno violence as trauma: Enhancing professional and research training.Traumatology,18,6574. DOI:

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Quality of Health care in America. (2001; 2004). Crossing the quality chasm: A new health system for the 21st century. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press

James, C. (2010). Race & well-being: The lives, hopes, and activism of African Canadians. Fernwood Pub.

Jernigan, M. M., & Daniel, J. H. (2011). Racial trauma in the lives of Black children and adolescents: Challenges and clinical implications. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 4, 123–141. 19361521.2011.574678 DOI:

Jones, S.C. T, Anderson, R.E., Gaskin-Wasson, A.L., Sawyer, B.A, Applewhite, K., & Metzger, I.W. (2020). From "crib to coffin": Navigating coping from racism-related stress throughout the lifespan of Black Americans. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 90, 267-282. DOI:

Jones, S.C. T & Neblett, E.W. (2017). Future directions in research on racism-related stress and racial-ethnic protective factors for Black youth. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 46, 754-766. DOI:

Karenga, M. (1998). Kwanzaa: A celebration of family, community, and culture. University of Sankore Press.

Khenti, A. A. (2013). Homicide among young black men in Toronto: An unrecognized public health crisis? Canadian Journal of Public Health, 104(1), e12-4. DOI:

Masten, A. S., Best, K. M., & Garmezy, N. (1990). Resilience and development: Contributions from the study of children who overcome adversity. Development and Psychopathology, 2(4), 425-444. DOI:

Masten, A. S., & Obradović, J. (2006). Competence and resilience in development. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1094(1), 13-27. DOI:

O’Hara, A., Weber, Z., & Levine, K. (2016). Skills for Human Service Practice. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press.

One Vision, One Voice: Changing the Ontario child welfare system to better serve African Canadians. Practice framework: Part 1: Research report. (2016). Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. One-Voice-Part-1_digital_english2.pdf

Paradies, Y., Ben, J., Denson, N., Elias, A., Priest, N., Pieterse, A., ... & Gee, G. (2015). Racism as a determinant of health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS one, 10(9), e0138511. DOI:

Pecukonis, E., Doyle, O., & Bliss, D.L (2008). Reducing barriers to interprofessional training: Promoting interprofessional cultural competence. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 22(4), 417-428. DOI:

Price, J. H., & Khubchandani, J. (2019). The changing characteristics of African-American adolescent suicides, 2001–2017. Journal of Community Health, 44, 756 –763. DOI:

Rankin, J & Winsa, P (2012). “Known to Police”: Toronto police stop and document black and brown people far more often than whites.” The Toronto Star. Retrieved from

Regehr, C., & Glancy, G. (2014). Mental Health Social Work Practice in Canada (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.

Rosenberger, E., & Hayes, J. (2002). Therapist as subject: A review of the empirical countertransference literature. Journal of Counselling & Development, 80(3), 264-270. DOI:

Salole, A, & Abdulle, Z. (2015). "Quick to punish: An examination of the school to prison pipeline for marginalized youth." Canadian Review of Social Policy, 72/73: 124.

Sibrava, N. J., Bjornsson, A. S., Perez Benitez, A. C. I., Moitra, E.,Weisberg, R. B., & Keller, M. B. (2019). Posttraumatic stress disorder in African American and Latinx adults: Clinical course and the role of racial and ethnic discrimination. American Psychologist, 74,101– 116. DOI:

Simon-Aaron, C. (2008). The Atlantic slave trade. Empire, enlightenment, and the cult of the unthinking Negro. The Edwin Mellen Press.

Williams, D. R., Yan Yu, Jackson, J. S., & Anderson, N. B. (1997). Racial differences in physical and mental health: Socio-economic status, stress and discrimination. Journal of Health Psychology, 2(3), 335–351. DOI:




How to Cite

Gajaria, A., Haynes, K., Kosic, Y., & Alexander, D. (2021). The Substance Abuse Program for African-Canadian and Caribbean Youth (SAPACCY): An Innovative Program Serving the Mental Health Needs of African, Caribbean, and Black Youth. INYI Journal, 11(1).