Pubdate: Fri, 12 Apr 2002
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2002 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown


The territory's addictions treatment centre has written up a wish-list of 
alcohol and drug services needed in the Yukon - now it's up to government 
to find the money.

Earlier this week, the Alcohol and Drug Secretariat's executive director 
unveiled the results of nearly two years' planning and consultation. The 
plan entails a huge increase in addictions programs equaling $2.1 million 
per year and 16 new jobs added to the secretariat's current 26.4 positions. 
While some newly-planned residential treatment will come out of ADS' 
current budget, the secretariat is looking to the federal and territorial 
governments to help out with the added costs.

So far, the territorial government has approved the new plans in principle. 
The new and enhanced services on the wish list will be phased in as new 
funding is found. In the meantime, ADS will work on planning those new 

According to 1994 figures, alcohol abuse cost more than $13.8 million in 
the Yukon - $441 per person. The national estimated per-capita cost in the 
same year was $265.

The largest cost in the Yukon of about $6 million was due to lost 
productivity, followed by $4.2 million for direct health care costs. About 
15 deaths and 426 potential years of life lost were attributed to alcohol 
that year.

Currently, ADS has a detoxification unit, outpatient treatment and a 
prevention team. Under the new plans, all three would be enhanced and 
several other sections would be added altogether.

One of the most significant additions would be a live-in, month-long and 
gender-specific treatment program for between eight and 10 people each 
session. Men and women would have separate programs, which would alternate 
each month.

They're looking to house those residential treatment clients in the 
community rather than build a new facility, ADS executive director Corliss 
Burke said in an interview Thursday afternoon. The secretariat is still 
looking at where that accommodation might be, though it's unlikely it will 
be at ADS' Sarah Steele Building.

Having only one gender in a program is important because many people find 
it difficult to open up about intensely-personal issues with the opposite 
sex around, Burke explained.

There aren't any plans for separate drug and alcohol treatment programs. 
"We approach the issue of drug addiction in a very similar way to the way 
we approach alcohol addiction because alcohol is a drug and the process of 
addiction is very similar," said Burke.

"Although there may be differences in terms of lifestyle and effects on the 
body and consequences, many of the key issues are very similar so we don't 
make a distinction in the treatment program."

Part of the live-in treatment program involves relapse prevention - 
developing a follow-up plan. Parts of those plans involve identifying 
support networks of family, friends, self-help groups and community 
agencies, as well as ongoing counselling.

"We look at recovery as a process," Burke said. "It's not an event that 
happens here at ADS over a period of a month. It's a life-long process and 
for that reason, we involve many community groups in the provision of the 
treatment program."

As part of the enhanced continuum of treatment, ADS would like to see an 
eight-bed half-way house established to provide a transition for people 
who've gone through treatment but need a little more support to find stable 
living accommodations and get established in jobs. Burke said halfway house 
programs typically run from three to six months.

A halfway house is definitely a ways down the road, she said. If the money 
can be found, the new plan calls for phasing in the additional services 
over two years, though exactly what that would look like is still in the 
works. The number of detox beds - 10 - will stay the same, but the unit 
will now have a nurse on every shift as well as a recovery unit attendant. 
Usually, detox clients stay for two to five days until they're through the 
physical withdrawal and some of the psychological problems related to 
withdrawal. Now, the unit doesn't have any medically-trained staff but has 
a consulting doctor who provides guidance. The new plan calls for a nurse 
on every shift. "What that enables us to do is to work more closely with 
the doctors at the Whitehorse General Hospital and to avoid the problem of 
clients going back and forth between the hospital and the detox when they 
need medication," said Burke. "We'd also be able to more closely monitor 
the vital signs and medical needs of our clients and to do assessments as 
to when those clients need medical support from a doctor or hospital."

Outpatient treatment will have an increased focus on dual diagnosis with 
services to clients who have both mental health and addictions problems. 
Currently, ADS consults with Mental Health Services, but clients are often 
sent back and forth between the two units. Burke said they're looking at 
doing more assessment and on-site support to prevent that. It will also 
call for having someone on staff with a background in mental health as well 
as addictions.

"Not everyone (with an addiction) of course has a mental health issue, but 
depression is a very common problem that accompanies an addiction," Burke 
said. "It's important for us to understand the components of that and the 
complicating factors, as well as some other mental health issues.

As well, the secretariat is looking to add a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal 
Alcohol Effects counsellor who would give support and expertise to other 
addictions workers, as well as treat FAS/FAE clients and their families. 
Three new community outreach workers will be hired for Haines Junction, 
Watson Lake and Dawson City. Each will provide addictions services, support 
people coming out of the live-in program and help out first nations 
addictions workers in their home-base community as well as the surrounding 

Four more workers will be hired for the prevention unit, including two to 
focus on FAS/FAE issues. There will also be more focus on training 
professionals in allied agencies, non-government organizations and first 
nations addictions.

Initially, ADS will be looking to fill the treatment and prevention 
positions first because that's the biggest need identified, said Burke. 
With its current funding, ADS plans to run two, month-long, live-in 
treatment programs in the fall, one each for men and women. As well, 
gender-specific wilderness youth treatment programs are in the works for 
this summer. Open to all youth, the wilderness programs will involve about 
five youth per session.

"The wilderness-based programming is a common approach to this treatment 
simply because it captures the interest of youth and it helps get them out 
of their environment and into more positive activities," said Burke.

"It's a good program to increase and enhance their self-esteem, enhance 
their confidence in themselves, helps them to become involved in activities 
which are very positive and health-enhancing activities."

This is latest step in a review process of the territory's addiction 
services. Some 80 consultations were done in the summer of 2000, as well as 
65 consultations with more than 240 people since last fall.
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