(123RF illustration)

NDP takes Yukon government to task over unstaffed mental health positions

‘It’s total and utter bullshit’

The fact that the Yukon government still hasn’t followed through with its promise to hire 11 new addictions and mental health workers in the communities has NDP MLA Kate White fuming.

“It’s total and utter bullshit,” she said in an interview following question period in the Yukon Legislative Assembly Oct. 5

“People have to hitchhike if they’re not lucky enough to have a bus ticket to get from Watson Lake to ADS (Alcohol and Drug Services) in Whitehorse, and they’re lucky because they’ve got the Greyhound bus,” she said.

“But what about people in Pelly Crossing? Well, if they’re lucky they can take the Husky bus. What if you’re in Mayo? What if you’re in Old Crow?”

The pledge to hire 11 new addiction and mental wellness workers was a flagship promise in premier Sandy Silver’s budget this April. None of those positions has been filled yet.

In the legislative assembly Oct. 5, Health Minister Pauline Frost said the government was “reaching out to communities” so they would be involved in the decision-making process.

Silver said the government still intends to fulfill its promise.

“It would be inappropriate to hire and design those positions based upon our needs. We need to communicate with communities and determine what their needs are,” he said.

That communication has already happened according the Department of Health and Social Services. Spokesperson Pat Living said consultations with the communities and First Nations recently wrapped up after about eight months of work.

The government says new workers are planned for Old Crow, Carcross, Teslin, Ross River, Pelly Crossing, Mayo, Dawson City, Haines Junction, Carmacks and Watson Lake.

The 11th person will be a “therapist” working out of Dawson City, Living said. She didn’t have any more details on that position.

Each community position might have a slightly different job description depending on what the communities asked for, Living said. She didn’t have specifics for individual positions.

While Silver said he didn’t know when the jobs will be filled, Living said her understanding was “everything should be filled this winter.”

Dawson City, Haines Junction, Carmacks and Watson Lake, will become “hubs” according to the government.

Living said hub communities “are also getting additional new staff over and above the mental health and addictions workers.”

Those staff could include mental health nurses or child and youth counsellors, she said.

Staff in hubs will work with supports that already exist and “fan out to provide services in other communities.”

Frost said there have been four suicides in the communities in the last week.

While the government has been talking about consultation, “the communities have been trying to talk to government since the beginning of time about what they need,” White said.

“So there’s been a change in government but the needs of the communities have not changed.”

Silver said his government is aware of the struggles in the communities. “There’s been some real tragedies right across the Yukon that we have to address and deal with. The money is in place, the community conversations are happening.”

He said the government has filled all the social worker positions in the communities.

“A lot has happened already, a lot will happen and we are firmly committed to this platform commitment.”

Along with her frustration over the 11 empty mental wellness positions, White took the government to task for not filling the two new mental health nurse jobs it promised.

The government only has two mental health nurses — one in Dawson City and the other in Haines Junction — who cover all of the communities.

“Is that reasonable during crisis that you know that the nurse is going to come through next Wednesday? But what happens until next Wednesday?”

The government has promised to hire two more mental health nurses — one in Watson Lake and the other in Carmarks, White said.

“The longer communities wait the more disgraceful it becomes.”

In the legislative assembly Frost told White she would get back to her with an update.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

mental healthYukon health and social services

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

Just Posted

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Eric Schroff, executive director with the Yukon Fish and Game Association, poses for a portrait on Feb. 20. Schroff says he is puzzled as to why the Yukon government is cutting back on funding for the association. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)
YG cuts Yukon Fish and Game Association funding, tried to vet outgoing communications

Yukon Fish and Game Association says 25 per cent government funding cut will impact operations

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 27, 2020

Premier Sandy Silver during a live update on the COVID-19 situation at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 27. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Total Yukon COVID case count increased to 42 cases

Premier urges patience after national meeting on vaccine roll-out

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Most Read