The waiting list at a Thunder Bay treatment centre specializing in solvent abuse has doubled this year as more clients are staying longer to get the care they need and learn new skills.

More than three dozen people are vying for just 12 spots at the Ka-Na-Chi-Hih centre on Dease Street, which focuses on First Nations culture.

"After care is very important, we do see a lot of people coming back because they don't have those supports in the communities they return to," said Jessica Wilhelm, a manager responsible for intake, outreach, intervention and aftercare.


Jessica Wilhelm says Ka-Na-Chi-Hih eventually hopes to open a separate after-care facility to free up space. (Josh Lynn/CBC)

"Thunder Bay is a very different lifestyle than the communities they're from. A lot of times they just want to go out fishing and hunting [or] take a walk in the woods. There are things that they're used to, that the city doesn't accommodate."

"The wait list keeps growing and growing [because] the clients are staying here … to get the job skills, the education, [and] the things they need to … to return home."

Supportive environment for healing

One client said he appreciates having a place to stay in the city.

"When I graduate I'm planning to stay here [and] work in Thunder Bay," the youth said.

"Back home's kind of hard."

Without follow up care in their communities it's easy to relapse when peer pressure comes knocking, Wilhelm said.

"How they do their own aftercare at home is they just basically hole themselves up in house ... so their old groups and old friends that they used to hang around will start calling them to come back out and sniff again."

Ka-Na-Chi-Hih would like to one day open a dedicated aftercare facility, Wilhelm said.

"Being able to have the resources and the supports to stay clean and maintain a positive, healthy lifestyle seems to be really the key to success," she said.

"We do see a high rate ... of people coming back because they don't have those supports in the communities they return to."