Yukon's NDP is pressuring the government to realize one of its budget initiatives this year, and hire 11 new full-time addictions and mental health workers in eight Yukon communities.

MLA Kate White spoke out in the legislature, taking the health minister to task for not yet hiring new workers. She said many communities desperately need help for people in crisis or contemplating suicide.

"That person might have to wait up to 14 days to receive the help they need," White said. "Given the current health crisis, what is this government waiting for to fulfil its commitment?"

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver made the promise in his 2017 budget address in April.

"We are investing $160,000 in capital costs and $1.49 million in operating costs to support 11 new full-time addictions and mental wellness workers in eight communities outside of Whitehorse," he said.

Pauline Frost

Health Minister Pauline Frost said the government is working with the communities to determine their needs. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

Health Minister Pauline Frost acknowledged on Thursday that nobody's been hired yet.

"We intend to fill those positions as quickly as possible," she said. 

"The communities will drive that process, they will determine what is required in their communities, and we are reaching out into the communities."

'Some real tragedies'

The government says workers will be placed in Old Crow, Ross River, Carcross, Teslin, Pelly Crossing and Mayo, with additional hubs in Haines Junction, Dawson City, Carmacks and Watson Lake.

Speaking to reporters after the session, Premier Sandy Silver said that he recognizes the toll mental illness can take on communities. He specifically referred to Old Crow, where people have recently died by suicide. 

"We know about the tragedies that are happening in Old Crow right now, and there's been some real tragedies right across the Yukon that we have to address and deal with," Silver said.

"So like I said, the money's in place, the community conversations are happening."

Silver also said that over the last 10 months, his government has filled every social worker position that was vacant.

With files from Nancy Thomson