Breakaway Youth and Family Services was established in 1989 by the two Toronto Children’s Aid Societies. It was designed to meet the treatment needs of youth 12 to 25 in Etobicoke who were experiencing alcohol and drug related problems. Originally it was to be a “sponsored” agency of the Children's Aid Societies but it was shortly divested into an independent corporation operating under its own Board of Directors.
Breakaway’s services were provided on a “modified outreach” basis, meaning counsellors would go to schools, coffee shops, and other locations to see clients as well as providing services out of their offices.
Breakaway has always operated on a “non-abstinence” basis, emphasizing instead the treatment of all aspects of our client’s lives and situations. In the last 15 years this approach has become known as harm reduction and forms the philosophical basis for all our work.
In 1991, Breakaway received a donation of a recreational vehicle from the Alliance for a Drug Free Etobicoke, and funding for two staff to provide full street outreach services to Etobicoke youth. In 1992 this program was fully funded by the Ministry of Health as an all age’s service. The outreach program established the first needle exchange service in Etobicoke with the endorsement of the then City of Etobicoke. Although we no longer operate a vehicle this program has evolved into our current Harm Reduction Outreach Team, which provides harm reduction services and support to street involved individuals in Toronto’s West end.
In 1994, Breakaway, in partnership with the George Hull Centre and the Toronto District Board of Education, received funding for Clear Directions, a day treatment program serving high school aged youth with “concurrent disorders” (both substance abuse and mental health problems).
In 2000, Breakaway and the Parkdale Community Health Centre collaborated to transfer the operation of the Satellite Methadone Clinic to Breakaway. This move resulted in a doubling of the overall size of the organization and completed our move to providing services for all ages (The Harm Reduction Outreach Team had been open to all ages since 1991). At this time our name was officially changed from Breakaway Youth and Family Services to Breakaway Addictions Services reflecting the expansion of our service mandate. The Satellite Opiate Treatment Program is a comprehensive opiate addiction treatment center which encompasses an opiate replacement treatment program as well as medical, counseling, and psycho-social supports on an outpatient basis in the community. Our comprehensive care approach adheres to Health Canada’s “Best Practices for Methadone Maintenance” (Canada Drug Strategy, 2002). The Satellite has been operating since 1994 and is regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive facilities in the province.
In 2008, Breakaway received funding to operate 40 units of Addictions Supportive Housing in partnership with Regeneration Community Services. Clients in these units are supported by five staff; three working directly for Breakaway and two seconded to Regeneration Community Services. This program, which operates from a housing first model, provides addiction supportive housing to people who experience chronic homelessness, and problematic substance use, and those who are high utilizers of hospital emergency room services, withdrawal management services, and have high rates of interaction with the criminal justice system.
In 2013, Breakaway received funding from the TCLHIN to establish an outreach service for individuals experiencing opiate dependence who were not receiving case management and support. The Toronto Opiate Support Team (TOST) operates in various locations throughout Toronto as an outreach team to engage with and advocate for people who are using opiates or replacement medications, and have little or no access to supportive services. TOST provides case management and counselling services and offers training and consultation to community service providers to increase community capacity to provide safe and effective services to people using opioid drugs. This team focuses on women, youth (up to 24), and older adults (55+). This program was full within a week of the staff being hired and continues to be fully subscribed. The program has established strong working partnerships with community agencies and physicians.
Since 2015, Breakaway has been providing management support and clinical guidance to Pieces to Pathways, a program by and for members of the LGBTQ community who are seeking help with substance related issues. P2P is a peer-led initiative creating Canada’s first substance use support program for LGBTTQQ2SIA youth 16 to 29 years old in Toronto. This program has been fully developed and run by people with lived experience from the LGBTQ community. The program was started with a six month “one time” grant from the TCLHIN and continued under a subsequent six month grant. After that the TCLHIN was unable to provide funding. Fortunately the program was able to secure funding from a private sponsor which kept the program running until October 2017 when the TCLHIN began to providing ongoing funding for P2P.