Statement on the Substance Use Health Emergency from Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee
Minister of Health and Social Services Tracy-Anne McPhee has issued the following statement:
“One year ago, in response to an unacceptable increase in opioid-related deaths and substance use-related harms in the territory, the Government of Yukon declared a Substance Use Health Emergency (SUHE). This declaration was a commitment to respond and a call to action to all governments, communities, organizations, partners and Yukoners to do their part.
“This is an ongoing, territory-wide challenge that cannot be solved alone by one organization. Over the past year, the Yukon government has worked closely with community partners, First Nations and governments to coordinate our response and advance a range of treatment, harm reduction, prevention and awareness initiatives.
- Creating a Mobile Paramedic Unit through Emergency Medical Services, which includes two mobile paramedics and a paramedic at 405 Alexander dedicated to overdose response, prevention and education for those at risk of substance use harm.
- Increasing and expanding drug self-testing capability across the territory, and providing education and instructions on how to perform tests.
- Renovating and improving the Supervised Consumption Site to support inhalation as a consumption method. The site has had over 2,000 visits since opening.
- Increasing access to Opioid Treatment Services at 405 Alexander by expanding physician coverage to two days weekly. Dedicated physician support provides on-site treatment for vulnerable Yukoners seeking to stop or manage their opioid use.
- Strengthening Opioid Treatment Services by hiring seven new employees, including nurses and people with lived and living experience as community engagement workers.
- Expanding opioid medication coverage to include Sublocade, an evidence-based, extended-release, once monthly injection of an opioid medicine called buprenorphine. This makes access to treatment easier for Yukoners in rural communities.
- Launching Car 867, a mobile crisis unit that includes an RCMP officer and a trained mental health nurse. The unit provides trauma-informed, client-centred responses to mental health emergencies and wellness checks, and offers early intervention to help divert people from the criminal justice and hospital systems.
- Organizing two territory-wide public awareness and education campaigns to decrease stigma around substance use and increase awareness of the treatment, counselling and harm reduction services available from government and non-government providers.
- Gathering feedback and suggestions from Yukoners, partners and subject matter experts through several forums and gatherings. These include Youth Roots: A Substance Use Prevention Gathering, a Ministerial Advisory Committee, Communications Working Group, and Project Executive Committee.
- Hosting two Mental Wellness Summits to hear from leaders, partners, people with lived and living experience, and Yukoners interested in learning more about pressing mental wellness and substance use issues, initiatives and solutions.
- Increasing on-the-land healing and treatment options in the territory:
- Working with the Teslin Tlingit Council to develop a co-facilitated, land-based healing option in Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services (MWSUS).
- Supporting a week-long family camp at Jackson Lake in partnership with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon.
- Developing a Roots of Hope partnership with Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin to support a land-based camp for youth who work with youth and a Mental Wellness Week in partnership with the City of Dawson.
- Partnering with the Nelson Project, which supports at-risk Indigenous and non-Indigenous men across the Yukon, for a three-day cultural learning camp.
- Supporting the Hives for Watson Lake partnership between Liard First Nation and MWSUS, which uses therapeutic and mentorship beekeeping to engage community members in activities focused on harm reduction, mental health, life promotion, suicide prevention and increased community-nature connection.
“This fiscal year, the Yukon government has also invested over $3.4 million in supports, harm reduction, treatment and to raise awareness as our territory responds to the SUHE. While government and community partners have worked diligently to expand and improve the mental wellness and substance related services available in the territory, many Yukoners continue to struggle, and toxic drugs still circulate in communities.
“We are working closely with health system and community stakeholders on a Substance Use Action Plan to be released early this year. The plan will be a road map to guide the Yukon’s ongoing response to many substance use issues in the territory, including those related to alcohol. In addition to harm reduction, community safety, and treatment and aftercare, prevention will be one of the plan’s key priority areas.
“We acknowledge and thank many partners for their continued support responding to the SUHE, including the Council of Yukon First Nations, Blood Ties Four Directions, the RCMP, Yukon Hospitals, and all First Nations, communities and other levels of government.
“Our work to respond to the Substance Use Health Emergency will continue with our stakeholders and in partnership with all Yukoners.”