Youth Health Advisory Council

The Youth Health Advisory Council (YHAC) works in partnership with the BC Centre on Substance Use Youth Health qualitative research team.

The YHAC is a group of approximately 10 young people with lived and living experience of substance use, mental health challenges, and homelessness and unstable housing. It includes a majority of Indigenous and 2S/LGBTQ+ youth. Formed in 2018, the YHAC meets weekly and collaborates on all aspects of Youth Health research.

Our goal is to inform drug policy and practice through research guided by the perspectives of young people with lived and living experience of substance use at every stage. Our work is informed by fundamental social and health justice principles.






Mission Statement

Our goal is to inform drug policy and practice through research guided by the perspectives of young people with lived or living experience of substance use at every stage. Our work is informed by fundamental social and health justice principles.

YHAC Members

YHAC Projects

Knowledge Translation


Living On
is an experimental film project series that brings together young people who use(d) drugs, researcher Danya Fast, and filmmakers in Vancouver.

Imagined in collaboration with the youth narrator, these short films allow young people to author and illustrate their own stories about drug use, recovery, care, overdose and living through loss. They move beyond familiar, often stigmatizing, images of drug use in Vancouver in order to develop alternative visual vocabularies for telling these stories.

Episodes featuring work by the YHAC:


Episode 1 “BFF”

(2020, Directed by Leah Nelson, Kiddo Films)

In our pilot film, images and words are used to evoke the joy and pain of childhood, friendship, drug use, and recovery. Idyllic images such as a birthday party were inspired by the narrator’s own childhood, as well as more recent experiences of “taking a cake” to mark one year of sobriety in Twelve Step programs.


Episode 2 “Family”

(2022, Directed by Sebastian Hill-Esbrand, Kiddo Films **Gold Medal Winner, Cannes Lions International Film Festival, Young Director)

Our second episode explores how things come together and fall apart as new families are created over time.  

More on this project here.


is an award-winning, monthly podcast about drugs, drug policy, and the drug war led by Vancouver-based drug user activists in collaboration with researchers and professional radio producers. Crackdown aims to address the stigmatization of people who use drugs, bolster efforts to implement evidence-based responses to the overdose crisis, and pilot and document a new model for community-academic knowledge translation partnerships.  Each episode examines an aspect of the overdose crisis by drawing on community perspectives and scholarly knowledge, while matching the production standards of professional documentary podcasts.

Episodes featuring work from the YHAC:

Episode 21 – Control (2020)

Activist Kali Sedgemore and anthropologist Danya Fast tell a story about the government’s desire for control—the way its attempts to detain and manage drug users often backfire.

BC’s Premier, John Horgan, has recently reiterated his support for the controversial Bill 22. Under the proposed bill, doctors could involuntarily detain people under the age of 19 at hospitals for up to seven days after an overdose—even if their parents or guardians don’t agree. In some circumstances, hospitals could even use physical restraints to keep young people from leaving.

Bill 22 is an example of the way that the desire to protect drug users—in particular young drug users—often becomes a desire to control them. Supportive housing can feel like prison. Hospitals can be dangerous and racist places, particularly for Indigenous people. And harm reduction programs can feel cold and institutional. And when programs become too controlling, they repel—and even threaten—the very people they’re meant to help.

Listen here.

Episode 28 – After the flood (2022)

2021 was a year of very ominous weather reports. There were unprecedented heat emergencies, wildfires, and Biblical floods. Meanwhile COVID-19, income inequality, and the overdose crisis continued to become more and more grim.

What would it feel like to endure all of this as a young person? What would it be like to try to build a life through the chaos?

To find out, we asked Rainbow, a young woman in her 20s, to record big and small moments from her life for 40 days.

This is Rainbow’s story.

Reports & Recommendations

Report: Harm Reduction Calls to Action Report (2022)
Report: Youth Voices on Treatment (2023)
Video: Ten Things I Learned at YHAC Field School (2023)


Note: Current and former Youth Health Advisory Council members listed in bold

Goodyear T, Jenkins E, Knight R, Sedgemore K, White M, Culham T, and Fast D. Autonomy and (in)capacity to consent in adolescent substance use treatment and care: A commentary. Journal of Adolescent Health. In press.

Thulien M, Charlesworth R, Anderson H, Dykeman R, Kincaid K, Sedgemore K, Knight R, Fast D with the Youth Health Advisory Council (2022). Navigating treatment in the shadow of the overdose crisis: Perspectives of youth experiencing street-involvement across British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Addiction 13(2S):S62-S71.

Canêdo J, Sedgemore K, Ebbert K, Anderson H, Dykeman R, Kincaid K, Diaz C, Silva D, Knight R, Fast D with the Youth Health Advisory Council (2022). Harm reduction calls to action from young people who use drugs on the streets of Vancouver and Lisbon. Harm Reduction Journal 19: 43.

Thulien M, Charlesworth R, Fast D with the Youth Health Advisory Council (2022). The generative potential of mess in community-based participatory research with young people who use(d) drugs in Vancouver. Harm Reduction Journal 19 (1): 30.

Giang V, Thulien M, McNeil R, Sedgemore K, Anderson H, Fast D (2020). Opioid agonist therapy trajectories among street entrenched youth in the context of a public health crisis. Social Science & Medicine: Population Health 11 (1): 100609.

Paul B, Thulien M, Knight R, Milloy MJ, Howard B, Nelson S, Fast D (2020). “Something that actually works”: Cannabis use among young people in the context of street-entrenchment. PLOS ONE 15 (7):e0236243.

Current Projects

    • Reimagining recovery with people who use(d) drugs and their caregivers
    • Between homelessness and care (and back again): Navigating complex institutional trajectories among young people who use drugs in Greater Vancouver
    • Centring young people’s voice: A collaborative community-based mixed methods study of substance use, harm reduction and safer supply among young people who use drugs in British Columbia
    • Side by Side: Improving the care system to improve health and well-bring of youth who use crystal meth
    • The Care Pathways Study


Our funders:


For more information about the Youth Health Advisory Council, please contact Danya Fast at [email protected].

BC Centre on Substance Use

400-1045 Howe St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2A9

E: [email protected] | T: (778) 945-7616 | F: (604) 428-5183

24/7 Addiction Clinician Support Line: (778) 945-7619

Online Addiction Medicine Diploma: [email protected].

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