Whitehorse Daily Star

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Chief Coroner Heather Jones

Deaths trigger ‘ongoing grief and heartbreak’

Toxic illicit drugs have claimed the lives of 17 Yukoners since Jan. 1, the Yukon Coroner’s Service confirmed today.

By Whitehorse Star on August 5, 2022

Toxic illicit drugs have claimed the lives of 17 Yukoners since Jan. 1, the Yukon Coroner’s Service confirmed today.

Strong evidence in three separate cases that are pending toxicological analysis suggest this number will rise, the coroner’s office said.

This follows the “record-setting and catastrophic numbers” seen in 2021, when 25 lives were lost over 12 months.

Deaths due to toxic illicit drugs represent 33 per cent of all cases investigated to date by the cornoner’s office in 2022.

Opioids in the form of fentanyl continue to be present in most of the fatalities.

“Every life lost to illicit toxic drugs in the Yukon is a preventable tragedy,” said chief coroner Heather Jones.

“The Yukon continues to face ongoing grief and heartbreak as these losses continue.”

The territory has now recorded 71 opioid-related deaths since April 2016.

“Each one of these deaths was preventable, and our communities continue to struggle with the grief and pain associated with the loss of life from the substance use health crisis,” the cornoner’s office said.

Of the 17 deaths that have occurred in 2022,

  • 14, or 82 per cent, occurred in Whitehorse;

  • nine, or 53 per cent, were male and eight, or 47 per cent, were female;

  • 12, or 71 per cent, were First Nations citizens and five, or 29 per cent, were non-First Nations citizens;

  • ages ranged from 26 to 73, with the average age 40;

  • benzodiazapines, or “benzos”, have been confirmed in six cases;

  • cocaine and its use has been confirmed in 12 cases and;

  • fentanyl has been involved in 14 cases.

“The Yukon continues to lead the country with per-capita toxic illicit drug-related deaths; there are very few who have not been directly affected by this ‘crisis,’” the coroner’s office said.

“The Yukon took a positive step in acknowledging the devastation of these losses and taking action to make a difference by declaring a substance use health emergency in January of this year.”

Since then, the Safe Consumption Site on Sixth Avenue was renovated to support the use of inhalants, the most common method of substance us in the Yukon, and its hours of operation were lengthened.

Emergency medical services staff have also increased at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter on Alexander Street.

Additional staff and resources have also helped expand services through the Opioid Treatment Services Clinic.

Providers can now prescribe safe supply, and the Overdose Outreach Team recently launched.

The team helps people who are at risk of overdose navigate the health system, access harm reduction education and connect with mental wellness and substance use services.

Almost 5,000 take-home naloxone kits have been distributed this year. Kits are easily accessible through emergency departments in the Yukon’s hospitals.

As well, both nasal and injectable naloxone kits are available across the Yukon at various health sites and through other system partners, like pharmacies.

New mobile paramedic specialists, who work closely with Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services and the Blood Ties Four Directions Centre, have been hired. They will begin work early in September.

“Earlier this summer, B. C.’s bid for an exemption to remove penalties for possession (of limited amounts) of some hard drugs for personal use was granted,” Jones noted.

“This encourages the shift of resources from a justice model to one that is health- and social service-based, and acknowledges substance use to be a medical issue rather than increasing stigmatization through criminalization.

“As we have seen so often, this leaves many unable to access lifesaving supports and services, dying alone.”

The coroner’s service, Jones added, is encouraged by the recent statement by Tracy-Anne McPhee, the minister of Justice and of Health and Social Services, that the Yukon is considering a similar appeal to the federal government.

“In addition to decriminalization, (the coroner’s service) strongly advocates a means of providing access to a safe drug supply as we continue to see the impact of each lost life,”  Jones said.

See related story in News Section.

Comments (11)

Up 3 Down 3

Helter Skelter on Aug 6, 2022 at 11:18 pm

Hello Juniper Jackson - Thank you for sharing your story.

However, I disagree with your statement that, “No one can help someone that does not want to be helped.” I have worked with many seemingly hopeless cases to help them see past themselves to a better life. The current approach employed by the Wellness Courts and the Governments to addictions is a fundamentally flawed approach - Harm reduction.

Whether you have a shoe or panty fetish, a gaming addiction, an internet porn addiction (There is help for YG), or substance use problem/addiction the number 1 treatment approach is accountability - The addict must be accountable and be held accountable. This is not done.

There is too much focus on “the relationship”. The problem with this is that it allows the addict an out, a ready made excuse to use substances. My counselor did not use my correct pronoun, my counselor is a stodgy old… Whatever, get over yourself already. Even if these things happen it is not about you!

This focus on “the relationship” is a zero sum game. An absolute absurdity. However, there are a lot of educated people who advance these absurdities as a matter of faith. The research shows that the relationship is at most, 30%, of the therapeutic alliance of which each individual in the dyad is responsible for half.

However, the therapeutic alliance is weakened through the practice of harm reduction because accountability is diminished. It communicates weakness in the alliance. This is how we end up with injection sites, safe supply, and a revolving door treatment/Corrections system. Why change if there is no pressure to do? At this current time in our history the system is literally praising and rewarding alcohol and drug use in our streets, and on your property.

It’s not about “the relationship” it is about what “the relationship” produces. Harm reduction approaches are often employed to facilitate a co-dependent relationship. Co-dependency is not healthy in a therapeutic relationship - Just the opposite in fact. However, this is exactly what the above creates.

So, if you have someone in your life who cannot or will not stop using substances despite the negative consequences on their’s and everyone else’s life around them you have to cut them loose, kick them out, while letting them know that when they want help you’re there for them but until then goodbye!

The attitude that says we have to save them is a psychopathology in need of remediation. The easiest way to see this failure is to look at money being thrown after the issue only to have it get worse… Are we not in a substance use emergency or something like that yet they keep dying while they continue to destroy the downtown core for everyone else - Trudeau’s Canada thanks to White and Singh - No accountability!

Up 5 Down 2

Josey Wales on Aug 6, 2022 at 8:05 pm

Attention all the enabling twits...

Off the charts done with junkies, and the idiots that normalize said lifestyle.
Mind you when they are all dead, what will our beached whale boated ALL levels of government do with all our money?
Give it to the pretend government, the one with no financial accountability...or any for that matter?

Up 33 Down 6

AdmiralA$$ on Aug 6, 2022 at 10:34 am

Money laundering to keep people high. You folks are demented quite seriously demented. Disgusting to think about how these officials would rather give you drugs then help you out. This is crazy town. It is almost as sad as allowing any government entity buy up private resources, like telecoms. This town has gone so commie they forgot what commie is. Good thing the capitalist overabundance welfare checks keep coming for now. Pathetic, how you assume there is a monetary solution to all this. What morons. Three more years of this folks, won't be much of a community left here. Just ashes and drunks, halfway there now.

Up 34 Down 3

Holy F@%k on Aug 6, 2022 at 10:20 am

Don't. Do. Drugs. Dummie.

Up 19 Down 4

iBrian on Aug 6, 2022 at 6:16 am

As a person not in the loop, like the cool kids who smoke this stuff.
Is the word not getting around that this stuff is bad? Like, I don’t understand, or are people just using this as a way out? Like suicide while high? Just seems a little odd that so many people are still dying from it.

Up 25 Down 3

Juniper Jackson on Aug 6, 2022 at 5:25 am

“Every life lost to illicit toxic drugs in the Yukon is a preventable tragedy,” said chief coroner Heather Jones."

Buy more staff hours, spend more bucks on Naloxon kits? Oh yeah.. we'll see how that works out.

No matter what you do..what you say.. no one can help someone that does not want to be helped. Drug addiction, and to another extent, booze takes away that gentle, kind, loving person, and give back a liar, cheat, thief. I could go to jail for some things I did to my child. Threw her out, brought her home, locked her in, did not report her when she stole everything I had in the house that she could get 10 bucks for. I gave her money to keep her from selling herself. Yup.. that didn't work either. Every Mom of an addict knows exactly what I am talking about. Knows the despair, the anger. We were good parents, where did this come from? 4 of my 5 all prospered. Where did we go wrong? Addiction is a terrible thing. "Why can't you just leave me alone?" Why? because i love you, I don't want to live without you in my world. "Get off my back, I'm 18, then 22, then 25, then 30. And finally, you have to leave them alone. I am grateful that she doesn't want to die. Many addicts do. They can't stop and they hate themselves for it. An overdose is an easy death. Addicts get so wrapped up in the next high that there isn't any room inside them to care about anything else. Not their family, not their friends. Nothing.

What I would like is real programs. It cost $30,000 to send an addict to private rehab in Vancouver for 30 days, and another couple of thousand to provide housing, food, transportation after they are released and go back daily for support care and affirmation. We need those programs here. I don't have money anymore. I have practically nothing now. But, in that dark moment when she thinks.. i need help. I want her to be able to walk in somewhere and get it. This government throws away a LOT of money, millions and millions. Build a rehabilitation center, that is there for them. Free of Charge. There are a few government funded rehabs centers in BC but they are full with long waiting lists, and that is where the ambulance takes a OD that will survive. Maybe they have to go to rehab 5 times before it takes. Maybe just once. Maybe never, but if the RIGHT help is not available, we'll never find out. The right help btw is not a safe injection site and free drugs. An addict will buy his drugs anyway, take what's offered for free and binge out on it. Or, will always have a stash. A lot of tears, and no easy answer.

Up 22 Down 5

Richard Smith on Aug 6, 2022 at 1:29 am

The real obvious reason for these increased tragic drug overdose deaths is the approaches by governments.

Expanded Supervised Consumption Site (SCS) (government run crack house), Safe Supply (free illicit drugs) and decriminalization for possession etc.

Major studies have been done on these approaches and concluded they are long term disasters. One such study is "Harm Reduction" by Rufo - google it.

Minister of Justice and Social Services, Tracy-Anne McPhee and her new puppet Dr. Ranade (Chief Medical Officer) are blindly moving towards increased overdose deaths in the Yukon.

Proven approaches that reduce these deaths are increased treatment facilities for those those who want to try and break the drug addictions, stricter law and court enforcement (better incarcerated than dead).
Get rid of the SCS, Safe Supply and decriminalization approaches.

Up 27 Down 3

jack on Aug 6, 2022 at 12:24 am

Given the negative impact they have on our society, we have to become tough and really start pushing the drug dealers around. Run them about of town, publish their identities etc, directly protest at their homes, ban them downtown, legislate harassment, make their Yukon lives very difficult at every turn.

Double so in the vulnerable communities where they reek havoc on young lives for a few bucks.
Enough of the progressive softness.

Up 27 Down 12

The unconscious civilization on Aug 5, 2022 at 6:41 pm

Heather Jones states that, “Every life lost to illicit toxic drugs in the Yukon is a preventable tragedy…”.

Agreed - Don’t do drugs and you won’t die of an illicit drug overdose, toxic, or otherwise. However, there is still the chance that you could die from a licit toxic drug overdose in the form of a ‘vakseen’.

How do you people justify supporting this L-NDP alliance? There should be protests in the streets - “Canadian Lives Matter”!

Up 32 Down 4

bonanzajoe on Aug 5, 2022 at 6:01 pm

Do you think maybe the Judges "catch and release" program might be part of the problem?

Up 20 Down 3

bonanzajoe on Aug 5, 2022 at 5:59 pm

Well, looks like the government programs are working.

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