By Carla Peacock

With the legalization of marijuana in Canada, the Markham P.A.R.T.Y. (Preventing Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth) program is helping teach local high school students about the risks of driving after smoking.

Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) in partnership with York Region Paramedic Services, Ontario Provincial Police, Markham Fire and Emergency Services and Dixon Garland Funeral home staged the scene of a fatal collision involving a bus to demonstrate to teens that driving after smoking marijuana and other risky behaviours come at a serious cost.

“The Markham P.A.R.T.Y. program provides youth in our community valuable and life-saving information to help reduce accidents that result in injury or death because of risky behaviours,” said Amanda McKissock, MSH emergency department registered nurse and Markham P.A.R.T.Y. program site coordinator. “By demonstrating the potential consequences of risky behaviour using a live scenario, students will have a first-hand and real-time look at the many people and resources it takes to save a life.”

This program is a vital component of the growing community effort to reduce death and injury in drug and risk-related incidents. Students participate in a full day of learning including information provided by MSH staff, physicians, nurses and emergency responders. They also hear from accident survivors who talk about the effects that injuries have had on their lives, their families and future plans.

“We need to teach as many youth as possible to understand the effects that marijuana has on reaction time and decision making, concentration and coordination,” says Brad MacMillian, York Region Paramedic Services lead paramedic. “I see the impact that this program has on the youth attending. We emphasize what the consequences are for smoking marijuana and driving so that they will think twice before getting behind the wheel of a car while high.”

The P.A.R.T.Y. Program was designed more than 25 years ago by Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre to raise awareness among teens that certain risk-related behaviours can have tragic consequences. Now, there are more than 100 programs around the world and the numbers keep growing. Emergency department staff across the country are all too familiar with these injuries, which indicate P.A.R.T.Y. is a necessity and all teenagers should have an opportunity to participate. Visit: msh.on.ca/areas-of-care/emergency-department/party-program or partyprogram.com to learn more.

Photo: Mock collision involving a youth driving while high.