Canada's Yukon Needs Better Youth Addiction Treatment: Parents

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Yukon needs more services for youth struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, say the parents of a Whitehorse man who committed suicide last month.

Lana and Ken Putnam said they spent about $100,000 to send their son Christopher, 22, to five different private treatment centres because the Yukon government offers little in the way of treatment or follow-up care for young people with chronic addictions.

“The 28-day program for somebody who’s chronic — and Christopher was chronic — simply is not good enough,” Ken Putnam told CBC News in an interview.

“The after-treatment care is simply not here,” he added. “Now, there are those who are going to say ‘of course it’s here,’ but show it to me.”

Christopher Putnam ultimately lost his battle with alcohol and drugs on Jan. 14, when he hanged himself in the family basement, his parents said.

Ken and Lana Putnam said they had been trying to help their son overcome the addictions he had since his teens, first to alcohol and later to drugs like marijuana, cocaine and crack. At one point, they said they hired a psychologist for family sessions in their home.

‘We pleaded with them’

Last fall, the parents found a non-profit treatment centre in Burnaby, B.C., specifically for young men, but Lana Putnam said they could not convince the Yukon government to help pay for the six-month program.

“We pleaded with them. We said our finances are depleted [and] we’ve spent all our retirement money,” she said. “They said that the Yukon government would not provide the finances for this program. So Ken and I got the money for our son on our own.”

They said Christopher did not stay long at the B.C. centre and came back home. Lana Putnam said things looked positive prior to Christopher’s death, as he started working at a Yukon zinc mine and he seemed to be doing well over the holidays.

Lana and Ken Putnam said they are now calling on the Yukon government for more help, in the hopes of helping other youth overcome addictions.

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