M’Chigeeng chief proposes remote youth treatment centre

by Alicia McCutcheon

M’CHIGEENG—The death of a 22-year-old woman from an apparent drug overdose on July 3 in M’Chigeeng as the most recent in a string of tragedies involving youth and drug abuse has caused Chief Joe Hare to call for the need of a treatment facility for his community.

“I think we can establish this facility on Clapperton Island,” Chief Hare told The Expositor. “It’s considerably removed from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of Manitoulin.”

The chief noted that M’Chigeeng owns 343 acres of land on Clapperton and pointed to an article in the Globe and Mail about the Pine River Institute near Shelbourne.

“Pine River Institute is a residential treatment centre and outdoor leadership experience for youth 13 to 19 struggling with mental health issues, and specifically substance abuse,” their website states. “Their family lives are in uproar. Their personal and academic lives are in jeopardy. These are kids who have exhausted other interventions, and need a new, creative approach. That new approach is available in a peaceful area outside of Toronto, where family-centered wilderness, therapeutic, and academic programs come together in a unique, holistic treatment and educational model. At Pine River, we address the self-destructive behaviour. We teach math skills and life skills side-by-side. We take all the time it takes to rebuild a life. And we remain supportive of our families long after the program ends.”

“Within the last two years we have had four young people die from causes related to the use of drugs and several young people have ended up in jail,” Chief Hare wrote in letter to his community last week. “From the first incident on, we had established four volunteer groups to try and deal with the many issues and difficulties our young people are having.”

The letter noted the four groups are focussing on four topics brought up by youth themselves as a cause for concern in previous community meetings: family and community, drugs and alcohol, youth and cultural revitalization.

The community also put on an addictions-focussed conference in May, paying for any youth who wished to attend, a youth conference as well as a training and career fair. “But we need to do more,” the chief said.

“We’ve done a few things, and some were useful, but the problems are acute in some cases,” he continued. “We would like to start providing a more direct intervention program. I believe that we haven’t done enough and we need to do more.”

“We have to develop a program that would help these young people in crisis,” Chief Hare added.

A meeting with “key” M’Chigeeng staff has been called for July 14 to discuss the idea further.

“The problems we have to cope with are not solely the making of young people,” the chief’s letter continues. “The families in the community have to own up as well. It may take a while to change the family environment in many cases. If we could, this is what we need to aim for: stable households with a safe environment, two adult role models free of physical and emotional abuse, free of drugs and alcohol, where teenagers can comfortably talk to the adults and are provided with essentials of food and shelter. Otherwise, teenagers take to the streets at night and weekends to get away from it all, and without self-esteem, it is difficult to impart self-esteem and to boot, trouble is around the corner. It becomes harder and harder to make it to the age of 25.”