Ignoring addicts affects the health of us all

It’s a decision bordering on the criminal. We’re talking about the Fentie government’s refusal to adequately fund the outreach van.

It’s a decision bordering on the criminal.

We’re talking about the Fentie government’s refusal to adequately fund the outreach van.

The van needs $15,600 a year from the Yukon government.

But the government isn’t chipping in.

And this is folly.

Without that money, the van has been forced to cut its Friday night shift.

And this has implications for us all.

The van, an old, decommissioned ambulance with two attendants — usually a nurse or a counselor and an outreach staffer — will now circle the city two nights a week, instead of three, feeding and offering assistance to drug addicts, alcoholics and other people in need.

It serves sandwiches, soups and hot meals, including chili and rice dishes, to the hungry. And it distributes hats, mitts and coats when it’s cold.

It curbs disease, by issuing clean needles to addicts.

It makes sure biohazard containers are readily available around town.

Staffers clean and dress the wounds of these largely abandoned people.

They also collect used, dirty needles from addicts — needles that would often be tossed aside if the van wasn’t around.

And now, because of the government’s decision, it’s not going to be around as often.

We’ll leave you to connect the dots.

But know that the van distributes hundreds of disease-preventing clean needles a night.

And, more significantly, it regularly collects more dirty needles in its biohazard containers than it hands out.

The van operates as a partnership between Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Yukon Family Services Association.

It is a frontline health service that provides invaluable contact between people on the fringe of society and those solidly within it.

It promotes health, prevents disease and helps keep used needles from being tossed into city parks.

A network of church groups, Blood Ties Four Directions and others all support the van, and use it to connect with people who are notoriously difficult to reach.

On a quiet night, the van will service 30 clients.

On busy nights, the number can hit 70.

The summers are the busiest, according to those who support the service.

Now, as that season begins, the outreach van service has been rolled back because the government won’t chip in $15,600 a year.

“It’s really a question of priorities,” said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell in a release.

Health minister Brad Cathers has a $2-million Substance Abuse Action Plan budget that he could tap, noted Mitchell.

“Why is the minister sitting on this funding when it could be used to help youth at risk” through the outreach van?

“The Yukon Party has money to study ports in Alaska and $3 million for railroad studies, but they don’t have money for projects that involve people.”

We’d take the argument one step further.

The Fentie government has money to distribute, but none for the downtrodden who traditionally don’t vote.

In this case, a little money goes a heck of a long way — improving the health of the whole community.

The government’s failure to step forward speaks volumes about its priorities.

And its failure to act to protect the poorest, most desperate people in society borders on the criminal. (RM)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Council contemplates wage freeze for 2021

Hartland brings forward notice of motion

Raises approved for City of Whitehorse management

Deal will begin with 2.6 per cent increase retroactive to 2019

What to expect: Yukon legislature resumes Oct. 1

In March the legislative assembly quickly passed the budget before ending early


Wyatt’s World for Sept. 30, 2020

Yukon artist’s work featured in national exhibit

Nicole Favron named as Yukon winner for 2020 BMO Art! competition

Men charged after police see suspected crack cocaine during traffic stop

Two men are facing charges after a traffic stop in downtown Whitehorse… Continue reading

CPAWS Yukon, Yukon Conservation Society encouraged by territory’s parks strategy

The conservation manager for CPAWS Yukon and executive director of the Yukon… Continue reading

School council elections taking place the first week of October

There are 30 contested spots on school councils in the territory

Hot Hounds bikejor race serves as lone summer competition

Held in Mount Lorne, the race was organized by the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon

Whitehorse operations building officially open

Staff are taking phased approach to moving in

North of Ordinary Experience Centre shutting down

COVID-19 has caused bookings for the space to become almost non-existent, owner says

Canada Games Centre could get new playground

Council to vote on contract award

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read