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Nunavut addictions treatment centre planned for Iqaluit

An addictions and trauma treatment centre will open its doors in Iqaluit in about five years, according to the centre’s executive director Jakob Gearheard.

Canada, Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik committed funding for the centre

Nunavut's Premier Joe Savikataaq, Canada's Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan and Nunavut Tunngavik's president Aluki Kotierk signed a declaration of intent to build the Nunavut Recovery Centre Monday in Iqaluit. (Sara Frizzell/CBC)

An addictions and trauma treatment centre will open its doors in Iqaluit in about five years, according to the centre's executive director Jakob Gearheard.

It will be the first residential treatment centre in the territory since Nunavut was created. 

The Government of Canada, the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) — the organization that represents Inuit in the territory — signed a declaration of intent to build the Nunavut Recovery Centre Monday in Iqaluit.  

Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O'Regan committed Canada to $47.5 million to help build the centre over five years, NTI committed $5 million and the government of Nunavut committed the rest — it doesn't have a dollar figure yet, but expects it will be about 30 per cent of the building costs. 

During those five years, the Makigiaqta Training Corporation — a subsidiary of NTI —  will provide $11.8 million to train Inuit counsellors for the centre. 

Makigiaqta's grant will go to the Ilisaqsivik Society, which already has a training program for Inuit counsellors.  

After those five years, Canada has promised $9.7 million annually to support the operating costs of the centre. 

Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan committed Canada to $47.5 million to help build the centre over five years, NTI committed $5 million and the government of Nunavut committed the rest — it doesn’t have a dollar figure yet, but expects it will be about 30 per cent of the building costs. (David Gunn/CBC)

Plans for this centre come from a feasibility study completed last year, after which Gearheard was hired to run the centre. 

He was previously the director of the Ilisaqsivik Society in Clyde River, Nunavut, which runs cultural healing and training programs. 

Inuit-led, clinically informed

The treatment model for Nunavut will include cultural on-the-land treatment programs that encourage healing through cultural activities like berry-picking, fishing and hunting. 

Gearheard said both the recovery centre and the on-the-land programs will be Inuit-led and clinically informed. 

"The vision is — we need options, some people will want to go to an on-the-land program and some people won't necessarily want to go to an on-the-land program," Gearheard said. 

Some people will want to be treated in their home community, while others might want a bit of distance from their situation for treatment, he said. 

Right now, Nunavummiut must leave the territory for residential treatment programs. 

Cambridge Bay has a 28-day on-the-land program up and running Gearheard said, with work being done to get similar programs on the go in Clyde River and Rankin Inlet. 

The details of how everything will fit together are still being worked out, but Gearheard said some may choose the recovery centre as an initial treatment and an on-the-land program as a follow-up or vice versa. 

Iqaluit was chosen as the location for the centre because it is also the location of Nunavut's only hospital and patients would have access to those healthcare facilities, according to Aluki Kotierk, NTI's president.

Inuit-led treatment programs mean programs delivered in Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun, with Inuit culture as the driver, Kotierk said. 

"The expectation is that through the trauma-informed approach, through the addictions treatment, they'll always be looking at how Inuit would approach things,"  Kotierk said.

Part of that is offering treatment to the whole family, including having suites for the whole family to stay at the treatment centre. 

There will be specialized programming for pregnant women to help prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). 

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