Yukon gov't says rural mental health services 'shared responsibility'

The Yukon government is trying its best to provide adequate mental health services to people living in rural communities, a government spokesperson said. Some rural Yukoners say they're desperate for better care.

Government struggles to fill gaps in rural mental health

'We're trying to meet the needs as best we can,' said Pat Living, from Yukon's department of health and social services. (CBC)

The Yukon government is aware of gaps in rural mental health and is working to fix them, a spokesperson said.

"We're trying to meet the needs as best we can," said Pat Living, from the territory's department of Health and Social Services.

"We are challenged, however, by the large geographic area and an inability to provide all services to all people, in all areas."

The issue was recently highlighted by people in the remote community of Ross River, who complain they're in desperate need of better care for people with mental illnesses. Right now, a mental health worker visits the community twice monthly, and residents say that's not enough.

Living says the government tries to find people in rural communities to help provide necessary support to individuals, between professional visits. That's not always easy, she said.

Living also said the government cannot take all the blame for any gaps in service. She said her department continues to work with First Nations, the RCMP, mental health professionals and other non-governmental organizations to find other solutions.

"It's a shared responsibility. It's not just a government or departmental responsibility."

"There are, unfortunately, instances where we cannot respond as quickly as people would likely us. We're not the only jurisdiction in this position."

Living said the government is exploring options such as telehealth and telepsychiatry for rural communities. And she said the territory's long-promised mental health strategy should be along, soon.

"We have one opportunity to do this right, and we want to make sure that that's what happens," she said.