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Treatment centre needed in Inuvik: MLA
Inuvik Boot Lake MLA asks Dept. of Health to look at existing infrastructure

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 22, 2011

Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Alfred Moses questioned the Minister of Health about existing buildings that could be used for a treatment centre in the legislature last week.

Moses acknowledged that the GNWT would not be building any new infrastructure during this assembly, but wanted to see an inventory of existing structures that could be used to help people with mental health and addiction issues.

"I’d like to see an inventory of the buildings that are not being used right now in the Beaufort-Delta that can house such treatment programs for the people that are going through the system and don’t have that opportunity to get those services that they need," Moses said in the Legislative Assembly on Dec. 12.

Moses wants to see more programs and services in the community that can support people after they've gone through detox or to other treatment centres. Right now there's only one treatment centre in the NWT, on the Hay River reserve, but it doesn't help people from Inuvik, Moses said.

"Hay River doesn't meet the cultural needs and traditions of the people from here. It doesn't suit the people in the Beaufort Delta," Moses said in an interview with the Inuvik Drum on Dec. 19.

"We need something that speaks to the people and their culture."

The territory used to have three treatments centres – one in Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort McPherson – but in the 1990s funding changed from core funding to a per diem basis, which saw the two other treatment centres close. Even now the Hay River Nats'ejée K'éh Treatment Centre only operates at 50 per cent capacity.

"What I suspect is happening, from what people say, is that they don't see it as successful," said Tom Beaulieu, minister of Health and Social Services. "People are going, recovering from alcohol treatment and then drinking again."

Discussions have been held about not just a treatment centre, but a transition centre that would help people returning from 60 or 30 days of treatment to adjust back into their life.

"If they're going through treatment, but it would be less formal. Live in the space and slowly transition back into the community," Moses said. "We do have empty spaces in Inuvik to put a program in place."

Moses suggested the Arctic Tern facility, which used to be a young offender facility, or the former elder's home, next to Inuvik Town Hall. While the Arctic Tern facility is likely structurally unsound, other buildings could be put to use for extra programs.

"The system is failing the people, especially in the Northern regions," Moses said. "The staff are being exhausted dealing with detox, but if there was a specific building in place to help people with addictions, it would give people a safe place to go. The sooner the better."

Some funding has been set aside by the Aboriginal Pipeline Group and others if the Mackenzie Gas Project moves forward, Moses said, but that's not enough.

"We have to stop talking about things like this and get some action," Moses said. "We can't wait for outside factors."

Beaulieu said the GNWT has no plans to create a conventional treatment facility at this time, but is looking at addictions as a big issue in the territory.

It will not re-open any residential facility, but will look at other GNWT buildings that could be used for treatment centres.

"People want to heal on the land, maybe spend six weeks on the land, heal and come back and they need a place to go," Beaulieu said. "We're looking at three-month backlogs right now for mental health and addictions."

The 2011 NWT Health status report stated that approximately 58 per cent of mental illness hospitalizations between 2007 and 2008 and 2009 and 2010 were for substance abuse – primarily alcohol-related.

The report also noticed that while most alcohol consumption occurred without harm, adverse experiences such as harmful effects on friendships or social life, physical life and home life or marriage did occur.

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