A woman walks past the recently shuttered Many Rivers building on Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Sept. 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon’s crisis line is off the hook

The Yukon Support and Distress Line had been run out of the Many Rivers offices

The crisis line run out of Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services has been disconnected.

The defunct Yukon Support and Distress Line is going to weigh down emergency service providers, said the executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association-Yukon.

“I would say in terms of emergency or crisis, it’s 911 or the hospital right now,” said Tiffanie Tasane. “There are lots of concerned folks who don’t want to see the line shut down and people working pretty hard to get something going. I think it’s going to leave a big gap.”

Many Rivers’ former acting president announced last week the board would be resigning. The issue centred on inherited debt. Many Rivers had accrued more than $175,000. The Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) won’t provide funding until a plan is in place to deal with the problem. It’s unclear what will happen without a board.

In order for a society to dissolve, it must pay off all debts, said Bonnie Venton Ross, spokesperson with the Department of Community Services in a written statement.

“The second option is dissolution by the registrar, after the society is in default after a period of one year, or if it fails to comply with an order of the registrar,” she said. “Again, while the registrar has discretion, it is unlikely that he would dissolve a society if it has outstanding debts.”

The third and final option is to approach the Supreme Court of Yukon and request an order to dissolve the society if it hasn’t complied with overarching legislation for more than two consecutive years, she said.

HSS spokesperson Patricia Living said the board of Many Rivers resigned on Aug. 29, adding that it was on this date the crisis line was disconnected.

“Without the board, Many Rivers is not operating,” she said in a written statement. “The distress line was operated physically out of the Many Rivers building and without access to the building, volunteers are unable to continue operating the line.”

HSS and Northwestel had funded the crisis line, which was set up in 2014.

“We funded the organization for many years, and we remain committed to improving mental health services in the North,” said Andrew Anderson, Northwestel director of communications, in a written statement. “We will be working with our mental health partners to identify appropriate opportunities for further collaboration.”

There are interim measures in place: a national kids help line and Quebec-based Tel-Aide, which offers support in French. Living said Tel-Aide volunteers provide bilingual services.

Tel-Aide can be reached at 1-800-567-9699. The phone number for the kids help line is 1-800-668-6868

There is no timeline for getting a service like Yukon Support and Distress Line up and running again.

The Yukon government recently announced it’s giving Canadian Mental Health Association-Yukon $700,000.

This has enabled the organization to expand. It now has five full-time counsellors, up from two earlier this year.

Services are free. Tasane said there is no waitlist right now. She said it offers drop-ins on Tuesdays from 11 to 4 p.m.

Other support lines include Crisis Service Canada, at 1-833-456-4566; Kaushee’s Place at 867-668-5733; Crisis Centre Chat, at https://crisiscentrechat.ca for adults, https://youthinbc.com for youth; Crisis Text Line for young people in crisis, which can be reached by texting 686868.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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