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KDFN starting northern Canada’s first residential managed alcohol program

“We want to save lives,” says KDFN Chief Doris Bill.

This newly renovated duplex will be known as Sarah’s House and serve as permanent housing for eight men.

Kwanlin Dün First Nation is starting the first residential managed alcohol program in northern Canada through a new supported living residence called Sarah’s House.


The home will house eight men as permanent residents and help them with stabilizing their drinking patterns, eliminating the need for binge drinking, and decreasing their alcohol consumption over time.


“This is about saving lives,” said Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill announcing the news in a virtual press conference this morning.


“We did our homework around a managed alcohol program. We went down to Edmonton and we had a look at a place called Ambrose Place in the Edmonton area and we were quite impressed with what we saw,” said Chief Bill


“We believe that Ambrose Place has managed to save a number of lives – and that in the end is really what we want to do. We want to save lives here and do what ever we can to assist people where they’re at,” Chief Bill added.


The house is located in the McIntyre subdivision of Whitehorse and is named after Kwanlin Dün First Nation citizen Sarah MacIntosh who lived in the home. MacIntosh’s life came to an end when she was murdered alongside her housemate Wendy Carlick in 2017. Their bodies were found inside the home.


The structure used to be a duplex but has since been renovated into one home with eight bedrooms – creating a shared living experience for residents. One nurse and one support worker will be on 24 hour shifts in the home.


“The house is intended to be permanent housing for the residents. We know that some people may transition out of the home, which is great, if we are no longer meeting their needs,” said Kwanlin Dün First Nation health and wellness director Christina Sim at today’s press conference.


Sarah’s House will be funded by the First Nation, the federal Reaching Home Strategy, the Health Canada Northern Adult Living Allowance program, and Reaching Home funding through the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. Those who call Sarah’s house their home will also pay rent to support the programing.


Staff are currently being recruited to work at Sarah’s House and Kwanlin Dün First Nation is hopeful it will be open by the spring.


Chief Bill said the program could be expanding in the future. She has heard from citizens who would like to see similar facilities for women and youth.


New harm reduction programs

Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill (CHONfm file photo).

Chief Bill also announced new harm reduction programs as the Yukon leads the country in opioid deaths at a rate 48.4 fatalities per 10,000 people.


“We have been speaking about treatment for our citizens for quite some time. I think the urgency of the situation right now just requires that you know, we move a lot faster,” said Chief Bill.


The First Nation is investing $500,000 for citizens and their family to access trauma and substance use treatment programs across the country when waitlists are too long here at home and no other options are available. The money is coming directly from Kwanlin Dün First Nation over two years. The cash is expected to be made available to citizens in a few weeks when some policies are finalized.


Also announced today, Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s health centre will be able to test client’s drugs for fentanyl and benzodiazepines. As of now, fentanyl testing can be done but it will be a couple of more weeks before the centre is set up to test for benzodiazepines.


Published February 11, 2022.

Written by: Dylan MacNeil

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