Jewish Addiction Community Services (JACS) Toronto is a non-profit organization whose mission is to deliver unified education, programming, care, and support to those affected by addiction in the Jewish community and beyond. Our addiction services are not limited to substance users (of drugs and alcohol), and extend to individuals with behavioural addictions, including gambling, sex and love, food, exercise, gaming, and technology. As a leading and trusted resource in the prevention and treatment of addiction, JACS clinicians provide individual and group therapy, and present educational workshops with a focus on prevention. Our workshops are specially designed to support individuals and loved ones who find themselves at any stage of the continuum, ranging anywhere from experimentation and social use to dependency/addiction.
Our services are free of charge or at a reduced fee for those with financial restraints. Clinicians offer immediate support when individuals are most vulnerable and their motivation is highest, to help them recover and thrive. JACS programs and services include individual, couples, and family counselling, facilitated support groups, and youth and adult outreach presentations in the community.
Our groups cover a wide range of topics to help all individuals affected by addiction. JACS has a total of 20 sessions per week to help attendees seeking support for their own or their loved ones’ issues around substance use, behavioural dependencies, and mental health, in a supportive and welcoming space.
Our programs promote prevention and equip attendees with the tools and resources to make healthier lifestyle choices. The Clayton Rosenthal Youth Outreach program provides educational workshops in Jewish and non-Jewish middle schools, high schools, and summer camps. The Courage 2 Change program for university aged students offers mental health support, both on and off campus. This includes mental health weekends, educational workshops, student ambassador projects, tailored support groups, and individuals counselling. Adult outreach presentations bring a range of addiction and mental health topics into synagogues, community centres, and corporate venues.
The COVID-19 pandemic unquestionably had a negative impact on mental health.
The first months in lockdown were particularly difficult – isolation, loneliness, grief, fear, and uncertainty contributed to deteriorating mental health, even for people without a preexisting condition. In 2022, more than one in three of Canadians claimed to struggle with their mental health, according to an Angus Reid poll. Anxiety, depression, and addictions worsened due to the physical health, economic, and social impacts of COVID-19. Learning how to cope with this new reality was the hidden challenge everyone had to overcome and this was especially true for individuals living with behavioural addictions and substance use disorders. More than 70% of JACS clients have underlying mental health issues.
In March 2020, JACS adapted quickly: JACS pivoted our delivery of services to online within 48 hours, and modified programming to incorporate additional mental health supports and resources. Our geographic reach expanded beyond the GTA as well, with clients from across Ontario joining support groups and clinical sessions online, from Sarnia to Wawa.
JACS stepped up to meet the needs of the community: hiring additional clinicians to provide services to a greater number of clients. More support groups, available with greater frequency. No interruption of services. No waitlist, ever.
“I know the whole world is dealing with COVID-19, but as an addict, the isolation aspect of the pandemic provides a real area of potential danger of physical and emotional relapse.
I am truly grateful for the daily morning men’s group on Zoom. The great turnout and safe space to share is a fantastic outlet for me to address problems in my life, as well as celebrate the successes. I can also see the progress in others who greatly value and regularly attend these meetings as well.”
– JACS Client
Addiction impacts everyone, not only the individual struggling. At JACS, loved ones learn they are not alone, and find a caring and experienced community to guide their family’s journey. Through practical guidance and emotional support, JACS equips families with the skills and knowledge, such as codependency, guilt and shame, boundaries, and self-care, to help foster the recovery process of their loved ones. This is how we save lives.
“I learned about enabling/co-dependency and how to avoid it – my son said this knowledge probably saved his life.” – JACS Client
JACS support groups establish a sense of community, as attendees confide in each other about their personal struggles and build trust. They bond over their shared experiences, and support each other as new friends, virtually or in person, inside and outside of the group session.
“I just wanted to let you know that JACS and my clinician especially changed my life. Thank you so much for everything you and JACS do for the community” - JACS Client
“The time for change group is very inspiring and Jay runs a very good group. It helps people with addiction understand and gives hope by listening to people speak about their issues. It's a very safe place and everyone is like a family.” - JACS Client
“I am certain that without this daily anchor that I found in JACS, I would not have found sobriety and recovery today.” – JACS Client
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, JACS expanded the frequency of the popular Men’s Support Group and introduced three new facilitated groups to meet the evolving needs of the community: Guided Meditation, Couples in Recovery, and the Rainbow Group. The previously weekly Men’s Group is now a daily meeting where attendees can share their day-to-day challenges, including in their work and relationships. In a welcoming and open environment, users and family members of all ages can discuss exploring their feelings and expressing emotions in healthy ways.
“The first couple of COVID months were extremely isolating and hard for me. Finding distractions and projects was not a solution to my addiction. JACS is offering fellowship, support, structure, counseling, a safe open honest space and hope. I don’t know where I’d be without them.” – JACS Client
The Guided Meditation group, established specifically as a response to COVID-19, takes place every weekday morning. This group promotes starting each participant’s day off on the right foot by relaxing and recharging via guided meditation.
The Couples in Recovery group helps couples build, strengthen, and maintain a healthy relationship through weekly activities and group meetings. Topics covered include the addiction cycle, co-dependency, social stigma, the importance of effective communication, conflict resolution, healthy boundaries, and much more.
The newest group, the Rainbow Group, is a specialized support group for members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community to address their substance use and related mental health issues in a safe, supportive, and all-inclusive space. With the acknowledgement of different lived experiences, the group works towards breaking down barriers and building resiliency, while affirming and celebrating gender diversity.
“I am so grateful for the Rainbow Group; it has been so lovely finding a community and family where I feel safe and comfortable to be myself and gain the support I need in the journey to recovery. Thank you, Rainbow Group, for everything you’ve done for me” – JACS Client
With the addition of these groups, JACS Toronto is proud to offer a variety of support groups appropriate to the needs of individuals of all different ages and genders, and covering a plethora of topics.
JACS community outreach programs built awareness about substance use and addiction, mental health, and healthy lifestyles. These clinician-designed programs were driven by mental health and addiction therapeutic techniques. The engaging workshops featured age appropriate and timely content for:
The Clayton Rosenthal Youth Outreach Program for youth in middle- and secondary schools, youth groups and camps.
Courage 2 Change mental health programming for young adults of post-secondary age.
Adult Outreach in community and corporate spaces.
The Clayton Rosenthal Youth Outreach Program is a leading educational resource for addiction and mental health in both Jewish and secular schools across the GTA. JACS’s Director of Youth Outreach presented workshops to increase students’ knowledge of how to handle common conflicts, such as peer pressure, social influences, stress, and other mental health concerns, to support their development of healthy coping strategies and resiliency. The engaging and interactive classroom visit or Zoom session included a guest speaker who shared their experiences with substance use, the progress of an addiction, and their journey to recovery.
“My students really enjoyed the presentation. They found it informative, interesting, and helpful in understanding what mental health is, what influences our mental health and how to take care of our mental health.” – Bill Hogarth Secondary School Teacher
Aldergrove Public School; Armitage Village Public School; AY Jackson Secondary School; Bayview Secondary School; Bill Crothers Secondary School; Bill Hogarth Secondary School; Bishop Strachan School; Black River Public School; Elementary Virtual School; Forest Hill Collegiate Institute; Greenwood College School; Humberside Collegiate Institute; Leaside High School; Markville Secondary School; Martingrove Collegiate Institute; Morning Glory Public School; Northern Secondary School; Red Maple Public School; Secondary Virtual School; Stephen Lewis Secondary School; The Student School; Thornlea Secondary School; Trios College; Unionville High School; Westmount Collegiate Institute; Youthdale Treatment Centre
Courage 2 Change (C2C) is a mental health focused initiative that features educational workshops, student ambassador projects and tailored support groups for post-secondary students and staff. The Director of Campus Programming offers a portfolio of programs including workshops for students, professional development training for campus staff, student leader and peer training, panel discussions, webinars, mental health weekends, support groups, individual counselling, and resourcing.
In 2021, C2C introduced the Student Ambassador Program to empower students, break down stigmas, and create awareness around mental health and addiction on campus. In our first year, the Student Ambassador Board consisted of five students at Queen’s and Wilfred Laurier Universities, who promoted mental wellness on and off campus. They represented their school to current and prospective students, and worked as liaisons between staff and students to determine which mental health initiatives would best suit their campus’s needs. The Ambassadors were guided through the program as they help with coordination of projects on campus, including speaking at or hosting an event, and took a leadership role on initiatives they wished to pursue at their institution.
“The main goals for our ambassadors are to empower students, lower stigma, and create awareness around mental health and addiction on campus. Our student ambassadors are rock stars!!” – Ita Tobis, Director of Campus Programming, Courage 2 Change
The Adult Outreach Program educated participants in community spaces and corporate venues. JACS’s Director of Outreach and Education presented on a wide range of topics to promote prevention and inform about resources for support. The Sunday Night Mental Health Check In was a trusted weekly virtual program the community can turn to for timely guidance and information, which regularly featured guest speakers who shared their expertise and lived experience. Presentations initiated dialogue about mental health and addiction and educated about the health risks and social harms of substance use and behavioral addictions and the barriers created by stigma. They also reinforced the importance of individuals and their families seeking help. The program saw major success as it attracted people who otherwise may not have attended a JACS meeting.
JACS worked with community organizations and institutions to extend our reach, which enabled us to educate more people about addiction and associated mental health issues. We collaborated with middle and secondary schools, university student organizations and clubs, and CMHA’s Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health, as well as synagogues, Jewish organizations, and community centres, to bring our outreach presentations to their populations. We also delivered professional development training for other service agencies around addiction and mental health. We regularly welcomed guest speakers from clinical agencies across Canada, the United States, and Israel to share their expertise with our community.
One of JACS’s core principles is that we never turn away a client in need of support. When a prospective client requires assistance that is outside the scope of our services, such as an inpatient residential program, we refer them to other addiction agencies who can provide specialized treatment. JACS has strong relationships with treatment centres locally and internationally that we trust offer the best care possible for their presenting needs. Conversely, JACS accepts referrals from other agencies and health care professionals when our services are best suited to meet the needs of one of their clients. Our clinicians also share their expertise, conducting consultations with concerned community and industry professionals, to promote holistic support.
A generous portion of the COVID-19 relief funding that JACS received comes from UJA Federation, in support of our participation through the COBALT program. COBALT aimed to reduce the number of community members who fall through the cracks of available support by providing holistic services in collaboration between four Jewish agencies: Jewish Family & Child Services (JF&CS), Jewish Immigrant Aid Services (JIAS), Jewish Vocational Services (JVS), and JACS. Since the program started, referrals across agencies have increased significantly.
Thank you to our generous benefactors and donors who make it possible for us to deliver on our mission and support our vision of raising awareness and educating community members about addiction and associated mental health, and treating those affected by addiction. We are proud of the impact JACS had on our community during the pandemic, and are grateful to our community for supporting our life-saving work.
But while the pandemic might be considered a thing of the past, its impact continues to affect those that need our services the most. It is no exaggeration to say that our efforts meant the difference between life and death for many during COVID-19. These past two years were the busiest years JACS has ever seen, and our services continue to remain in high demand.
When you support JACS, you are saving lives in real time. Please consider donating to JACS Toronto so that we can continue to be here to help those affected by addiction and related mental health issues. Your contribution will help save lives, support families and strengthen communities.
“I will be coming up on 1 year clean, have returned to work and am a much more present family member and parent. JACS literally saved my life!” – JACS Client