Chase Blodgett, All Genders Yukon president, poses for a photo in 2015. The All Genders Yukon Society has received a roughly $100,000 boost in funding to put towards its free mental health support and counselling program after seeing an increased demand for it since the COVID-19 pandemic began. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

All Genders Yukon Society receives $100k for free counselling program

The All Genders Yukon Society (AGYS) has received a roughly $100,000 boost in funding to put towards its free mental health support and counselling program after seeing an increased demand for it since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The program has seen nearly a 27 per cent increase in use since March, AGYS President Chase Blodgett said in an interview Oct. 5, something he said was likely linked to the closing of spaces where trans, two-spirit and non-binary people feel safe and can gather.

“And so with the closing down of a lot of spaces, the few spaces that folks did attend and feel safe in were no longer open, so there was this kind of increased sense of isolation,” he said.

The new money came from the Red Cross and Yukon Employees Union. It was originally allotted Aug. 1 but announced by AGYS at the end of September; Blodgett attributed the delay to the society being busy trying to ensure continuity in service.

The program has been covering the cost of counselling sessions for 90 people in recent months and is available to trans, two-spirit and non-binary Yukoners as well as people in their immediate support systems, including family members, partners and friends.

It began last year when the Yukon government moved the provision or facilitation of counselling services in the territory to its Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services branch, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Yukon division and AGYS.

(Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services had, prior to then, delivered counselling services in the territory for years, but following a series of finance management issues did not receive government funding.)

AGYS itself doesn’t offer counselling, but instead has partnered with several service providers in the territory who bill AGYS directly.

Blodgett said the additional funding will allow AGYS to cover the cost of 500 additional counselling sessions and carry the society to March 31, at which point, with the new fiscal year, it can try to secure longer-term funding from the government.

Trevor and Stephanie, whose daughter is trans and asked that their real names not be used to protect their family’s privacy, described the AGYS program as “vital.” They’ve been using it for just more than a year now, they said in an interview Oct. 6, and prior to COVID-19 had been attending group counselling sessions where they were able to connect with other parents in similar situations and build a support network.

“It’s nice to have other parents going through similar things… We’ve lost family and friends over this, over our daughter socially transitioning, so just to have an area to talk about our feelings and, it’s just been life-saving, really, for us,” Stephanie said.

While the group sessions have stopped due to the pandemic, their daughter is still regularly attending art therapy funded via the AGYS program, which Stephanie and Trevor said has been helping her work through her anxieties and questions about her future.

“Art therapy has been amazing for us, we don’t know where we’d be without it,” Stephanie said.

Erin Legault, a counsellor with Ignite Counselling in Whitehorse, said she was happy to hear about the additional money for AGYS’s program, noting that funding stability was “huge” for ensuring clients received consistent counselling and could feel comfortable building relationships with their counsellors.

Ignite has more than 40 people who come in for services via the AGYS funding, according to Legault, and has recently been gaining about three to five clients a month.

Legault said she recently got back to work from maternity leave and began reaching out to old clients to see if they’d like to resume counselling with her; she recalled one client who wrote back enthusiastically about getting started again.

“And then at the end of their email, they actually said, ‘Is the All Genders funding still happening? Because if not, I can’t afford to come to counselling,’” she said.

“So it was really incredible to say, ‘Yes, of course, the funding is still there,’ because I really think it would limit so many people if that funding wasn’t there. I can’t say for certain of course but I think our numbers would just substantially drop if the funding wasn’t there.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

LGBTQmental health

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

Just Posted

Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)
Walking the Dempster

Patrick Jackson gets set for 405-kilometre journey

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
BREAKING: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read