The concept of the Society originated with senior administrators employed by School District #34. These individuals were strongly supported by a group of teachers, most of whom were already involved with various aspects of the drug education curriculum and who could see the effect of substance abusing students in their classrooms on a daily basis. This initial community included police officers involved in drug enforcement, community leaders at the municipal and school board level, church leaders, service clubs, professionals and others.
A fundraising campaign was begun in March, 1988, and ultimately raised $105,000.00 solely from the community, including $50,000.00 from the Lions Club of Abbotsford/Matsqui.
The Provincial Government initially declined to provide any assistance, and plans to activate IMPACT had to be delayed while the Society attempted to find suitable housing within an extremely limited budget. Temporary accommodation in the form of an old house located on Bevan Avenue was eventually provided by the Municipality of Matsqui (for $1 per annum) in the Spring of 1989. An Executive Director, Dr. Mike Webster, also a Registered Psychologist, was hired to head up the program which finally began in June 1989.
In the meantime, 60 teachers operating in the five public high schools in Matsqui/Abbotsford and in two private secondary schools had received specialized education in early 1989. Their training included techniques to identify and intervene with students in the early stages of substance abuse, how to consult with parents and how to successfully refer youth to the IMPACT program. These teachers were also trained to provide on-going support to any students who have been referred to the IMPACT program.
Training for all teachers (including the private schools) was provided by School District #34 at a cost of approximately $10,000.00 and involved a specialist in drug and alcohol counselling from the United States. After fully reviewing the goals, objectives, organization and strategy of the IMPACT program, the specialist, Charles Blick, M.A., commented “that IMPACT was the best organized, best conceived program with the best chances of success” that he had ever encountered in his many training sessions though out North America.
IMPACT is now funded primarily by the FRASER HEALTH AUTHORITY to provide the full spectrum of “harm reduction” services for substance involved and substance affected youth as well as their caregivers and supports.
Impact’s current Executive Director, Brian Gross, has been with Impact since 2009 and has an extensive history working with youth, including directing creative arts programs at alternative schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 5 years and building a full complement of engagement programs at My Friend’s Place – a homeless youth drop-in Centre in Hollywood, California. He is a published author of textbooks on the subjects of ethics, management and media production and was an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton for 5 years. He holds a bachelors degree in studio art, a masters degree in critical and creative writing and, since being employed at Impact, has also completed a second masters in clinical counseling at City University.