Kwanlin Dün First Nation announces new substance use programs

Mar 4, 2022

Earlier in February, Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill had announced a new suite of treatment and harm reduction services to help citizens grappling with addiction. The new services will include funding for private treatment services across the country, as well as a managed alcohol program and expanded drug testing capacity at the First Nation’s health centre.

“We’ve reached a critical time in the Yukon,” said Chief Doris Bill during an announcement. “Sadly, we’re facing many public health crises. The continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the substance use emergency and the related stressors and mental health traumas. This is about saving lives.”

According to Bill, citizens face many challenges in accessing addiction services in a timely manner. Consequently, funding totaling $500,000 will be used for the delivery of services by helping citizens and their immediate family members to access private treatment centres across the country of their choosing.

“This program is designed to bridge a gap in our system,” said Bill. “It will be used when there are no other options, when existing funding programs are full or over-subscribed. If a person cannot access treatment when they are ready, it can be devastating, a huge setback. They can easily slip back into using and may never return again to the place where they were asking for help.”

Christina Sim, the First Nation’s director of health and wellness, said Kwanlin Dün is in the middle of finalizing the policy for creating the program, so that citizens will be able to access the program in the coming weeks.

This spring, a new eight-bedroom residence, called “Sarah’s House,” is projected to open – named after citizen Sarah MacIntosh, who, along with Wendy Carlick, had previously lived in the house. “Both women were well known for their kindness and compassion,” Bill said. “In 2017, they were murdered and taken from our community way too soon.”

“At Sarah’s House, residents will be able to stay safer while managing their addictions.”

Moreover, the residence will be integrated into the First Nations health centre and located in the McIntyre subdivision, and will offer a managed alcohol program, specifically targeting men.

According to a news release, at the residence, citizens will be provided with medically-prescribed doses of alcohol in order to stabilize drinking patterns. Residents will be able to transition out of the home, while others could make it their permanent residence, said Sim.

Sim had added that the First Nation is currently working to find nurses and support workers to staff the residence and that cultural support will be available, both in-house and in the broader community.

Currently, the First Nations health centre has the capacity to screen street drugs such as fentanyl. In the near future, the facility will be able to test for benzodiazepines, said Sim. Bill added that the drug tests will be free and confidential.

“It will help citizens make informed services,” she said. “If someone other than a Kwanlin Dün citizen came into our health centre and wanted to get their drugs tested, we would not turn them away.”