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Managed alcohol program to begin this spring in Whitehorse, says Yukon gov't

The St. Elias Adult Group Home in Whitehorse, in 2016. The residential managed alcohol program will be housed in the building starting this spring, and the people who are living there now will be transferred to other community-based group homes in the city.  (Mike Rudyk/CBC - image credit)
The St. Elias Adult Group Home in Whitehorse, in 2016. The residential managed alcohol program will be housed in the building starting this spring, and the people who are living there now will be transferred to other community-based group homes in the city. (Mike Rudyk/CBC - image credit)

The Yukon government is aiming to have a new managed alcohol program up and running in Whitehorse by this spring.

Such programs are targeted toward people who suffer from treatment-resistant alcohol use disorder. The Yukon program will serve up to 10 live-in clients at a facility in downtown Whitehorse.

"This is for individuals who really require alcohol and they will have severe medical issues if they do not get it," said Cameron Grandy, Yukon's director of mental wellness and substance use services.

The residential program will be housed in the building currently known as the St. Elias Adult Group Home in Whitehorse. The people who are living there now will be transferred to other community-based group homes in the city.

Grandy says that medical and counselling supports will be available in the facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The goal, he says, is to provide people with a greater amount of stability.

"They won't have as many of the issues that come with perhaps living at an emergency shelter — 405 Alexander — or having contact with RCMP or the hospital or multiple trips," said Grandy. "It's designed as a program for people to live in and thrive in, but at the same time, alcohol becomes sort of part of their therapy regime."

Cameron Grandy is Yukon's director of mental wellness and substance use services.
Cameron Grandy is Yukon's director of mental wellness and substance use services.

'It's designed as a program for people to live in and thrive in,' said Cameron Grandy, Yukon's director of mental wellness and substance use services. (George Maratos/CBC)

Andrea Abrahamson is the manager of the mental wellness and substance use services. She says some clients may choose to reduce the amount of alcohol they are given over time, and some clients may want to work toward living independently.

"We're a client-driven service, so the clients decide the goals," she says. "It could also be that this program is longer term for some. We will be client-focused as opposed to driving them somewhere where they may not be able to get to."

The program's goals will be to support the residents' nutritional needs, mental and physical health. She says that specialists will help to create care plans for people entering the facility - as they expect most residents to have complex medical needs.

"Our program is residential for a very specific reason," said Grandy.

"We're trying to use this as another opportunity to help reduce some of the stress around the downtown core and to give people an actual living model allows us to help meet many of their needs in one shot. It is really going to allow us to get the right resources to the right people."

The implementation of a managed alcohol program in the Yukon was one of the commitments made in the government's confidence and supply agreement with the NDP, and was also included as part of the territory's substance use emergency strategy, released last year.

In a news release on Wednesday, the NDP applauded the move, saying such a program is overdue in the territory.

"This is a step toward the evidence-based, harm-reduction approach we want to see more of, especially given that we're two years into a substance use emergency," said NDP MLA Annie Blake in a written statement.