MLA pushes for more mental health support in Faro, in wake of shootings

The MLA for Faro, Yukon, says there are "significant gaps" in the supports and services available in that community, in the wake of last month's deadly shootings.

'Significant gaps' in supports and services available in Faro, says MLA Stacey Hassard

'The government's mental health hub [for Faro] is greatly inadequate,' said Yukon Party MLA Stacey Hassard. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

The MLA for Faro, Yukon, says there are "significant gaps" in the supports and services available in that community, in the wake of last month's deadly shootings.

Yukon Party MLA Stacey Hassard pressed the government in the Yukon Legislature on Monday to "immediately place permanent mental health and counselling supports in the community."

"Several residents of Faro have reached out to the government about the significant lack of social services and mental health resources," he said.

Two people were killed in Faro and another critically injured when a gunman went on a shooting rampage through the community on Oct. 26. Another local resident — the estranged husband of one of the victims — has been charged with murder, attempted murder and assault.

Hassard said that residents have decried the lack of support for domestic abuse victims in Faro. A worker stationed at the territory's mental health hub in Carmacks is unable to meet the need, Hassard said, quoting from a Faro constituent's email.

"The government's mental health hub is greatly inadequate," Hassard said. 

Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee responded by suggesting that Hassard's comments about resources for domestic abuse victims were not accurate.

"There are extensive services available for individuals who are victims of domestic violence, whether they be in Faro or anywhere here in the territory," McPhee said.

"Any individual ... who is seeking support can call Victim Services."

McPhee also said that the government beefed up mental health services for Faro immediately after last month's violence. 

A sign outside the municipal office in Faro after last month's deadly shootings. Two people were killed and another critically injured. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

Premier Sandy Silver also weighed in, saying that mental health services have improved since when the Yukon Party was in government.  

"They had two mental health nurses for all of rural Yukon. We've changed that around to do the [mental wellness] hubs, four hubs and we also hired over 20 more people than what was there in the past," Silver said.

The four mental wellness hubs, created in 2018, are in Carmacks, Dawson City, Haines Junction and Watson Lake. Each is intended to serve other nearby rural communities, with the Carmacks hub serving Faro, Pelly Crossing and Ross River.

An auditor general's report last June examined the hub model in Yukon and found it had made mental health services more available to rural Yukoners. However, it also found that the government did not know whether the hubs were meeting the needs of Yukoners.

The auditor general also found that the Health department has struggled to recruit and retain staff to deliver mental wellness services.

With files from Anna Desmarais