The territory’s recovering addicts need a safe haven

The Yukon has no aftercare program for recovering alcoholics. It is beyond time it established one. The territory's alcoholics already face enough obstacles.

The Yukon has no aftercare program for recovering alcoholics.

It is beyond time it established one.

The territory’s alcoholics already face enough obstacles.

Every year, the territory runs just nine alcohol-treatment programs from its Sarah Steele Building. Each intake can handle 12 people. The program won’t mix sexes, so it alternates between men and women.

That means every year only 60 men and 48 women are admitted for treatment in the Yukon. The programs are always full.

And, once these addicts are finished the 28-day program, they simply rejoin the community. For most, that means they find themselves right back in wild parties with their friends and relatives.

The only aftercare program is one-on-one counselling. So there is no reprieve for the newly clean grappling with their addiction.

Just try staying dry in those circumstances.

The territory’s civil servants have it a little easier than private-sector workers and the unemployed.

They can seek treatment Outside.

The Yukon government employs two Vancouver doctors, experts in addictions, who assess its employees. Currently, 14 civil servants are being treated for addictions Outside. The Yukon spends more than $120,000 a year assisting its employees.

All these programs are necessary because the territory has a thirst for booze. And it is growing.

Over three days last December, the Yukon Liquor Store on Second Avenue ran more than $498,000 worth of alcohol through its tills.

Conservatively estimated, that’s a seven per cent rise in consumption over last year.

Consider that three-day sales binge in light of the operation’s annual revenue of $10.6 million.

Often, the Yukon’s staggering booze consumption rates are dismissed, blamed on visitors from the South driving through en route to Alaska.

How does that jive with the sales in December, when it’s mostly the hometown crowd lining up with shopping carts filled with wine and spirit bottles?

Now, that doesn’t mean all Yukoners have a drinking problem. But that demand, coupled with the fact the Yukon’s 28-day recovery programs are constantly filled suggests that it needs to offer addicts more options.

One of the most important is an aftercare program.

It would offer a safe haven for addicts to solidify their recovery well beyond the influence of their previous peer group.

And, drawing on the services of mental health officials, social and family support workers, doctors, counsellors and financial planners, these addicts might get a little help sorting out their whirlygig life before they are left on their own.

Such a program is not going to be cheap. But the alternative is more expensive – eating up the resources of the justice, health and social service fields and ripping apart the lives of individuals and families.

Creating a safe haven and support system is far cheaper than ignoring the deep-rooted problem and simply treating the symptoms.

A territory of 30,000 people that can spend $500,000 on booze in three days needs more alcohol-treatment options.

It has rudimentary alcohol treatment at Sarah Steele. Now it needs aftercare to backstop that program. (Richard Mostyn)

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