Yukon politicians should listen to youth who are demanding more addictions treatment services to help young people deal with and overcome drug and alcohol problems, according to a youth advocate and an organizer behind a recent petition.
Vicki Durrant, executive director of the Youth of Today Society in Whitehorse, said there is a serious and demonstrated need for youth addictions treatment programs in Yukon.
“In the last seven years, I think there’s been six young people that have died under the age of 22, and that’s way too many,” Durrant, who runs the Angel’s Nest youth homeless shelter, told CBC News.
Yukon health officials are reviewing a petition they received on Friday from Hailey Van Bibber, who gathered almost 600 signatures from people who want more addictions treatment services for youth.
Van Bibber, a 22-year-old northern justice and criminology student at Yukon College, said she started the petition after hearing that a friend, Christopher Putnam, had committed suicide in January after battling drug and alcohol addictions for years.
“Prevention is a huge part, but the reality is that it’s happening. I think treatment is something that should be acknowledged,” Van Bibber said.
“If the government could help out with a youth treatment facility, it would cater to so many of our youth today and maybe save their futures.”
No services for chronic addictions: parents
Putnam’s parents have spoken publicly about the lack of addictions treatment services aimed at youth.
Ken and Lana Putnam told CBC News in February that the Yukon government offers little in the way of treatment or follow-up care for young people with chronic addictions.
The territorial government offers two options for youth who need addictions treatment: an outpatient counselling program, and a 28-day residential treatment program in Whitehorse.
But Durrant said she knows of one young woman — just shy of her 18th birthday — who could not get into the 28-day program because it would involve missing a month of high school.
“The ones that are on the edge of life and death, those are the youth that need intensive treatment,” she said.
“When they’re coming forward and saying that this is something that’s lacking in our community, I think our government needs to really listen to what they’re saying, because they’re the experts.”
Van Bibber said she is also concerned about the lack of housing for youth. She is urging the government to provide full funding to the Angel’s Nest shelter.
Health officials who are reviewing Van Bibber’s petition could present recommendations to Health Minister Glenn Hart.