N.W.T. man checks himself into Poundmaker's after being sent to facility without detox progam

A man from Fort McPherson, N.W.T., in need of a medical detox for addiction treatment, said the territorial government sent him to a facility in Alberta that doesn't offer detox.

John Blake said he's been dealing with addiction for a long time and just wants to recover from it

Poundmaker's Lodge in Edmonton recently took in a client from the N.W.T. who was sent to an addiction treatment facility that doesn't offer medical detox. (Supplied)

A man from Fort McPherson, N.W.T., in need of a medical detox for addiction treatment, said the territorial government sent him to a facility in Alberta that doesn't offer detox.

John Blake, 49, said he wanted to deal with his addiction, something he's done in the past after staying at the Poundmaker's Lodge Treatment Centres, a facility no longer contracted by the territorial government.

"I've been struggling with my addiction for quite some time here, and you know, it's a hard battle," he said. 

Blake said the territorial government arranged a flight out of Inuvik in late January for him to get that treatment at a facility in Alberta. 

Blake said he knew he was in need of a medical detox, a program that helps people manage acute intoxication and withdrawal.

But when he arrived at the Thorpe Recovery Centre in Blackfoot, Alta., he was informed he wouldn't be allowed to stay. 

"I was brought into the room, stripped naked. Made to have a piss test. Brought back over to the room and told that I wasn't welcome in the facility, that they didn't have a detox centre," Blake said. 

CBC News reached out to Thorpe about the incident by email, but didn't hear back immediately.

Blake said he then waited in the lobby for two and a half hours with little information before returning to Larga Homes, a facility in Edmonton that accommodates northerners needing to travel to the city for medical care. The territorial government allows those needing treatment to do their detox at Larga. 

But Blake said after his experience at Thorpe, he didn't want to return there. So he got in touch with Poundmaker's, where he was able to check in as a client.

'It's really easy to lose people into the street'

Siobhan Dreelan, the community engagement officer at Poundmaker's, said it was lucky that Blake was so determined. 

She said being sent to a facility that wouldn't take him could've easily stopped him from ever getting treatment. 

"It's really easy to lose people into the street, especially downtown Edmonton," she said. "Resources are scarce, and especially if you're coming from the North. You don't know the city, you don't know how to get around. But thank goodness, the gentleman was quite resourceful and was able to call us."

Dreelan said the situation never should have happened as the Thorpe website advertises that it suspended its medical detox treatment.

The territorial government was asked about the process of sending people to treatment centres needing detox. 

Jeremy Bird, a spokesperson for the department of Health and Social Services, said in an email that "conversations about whether the individual might need detox services would be an important part of these discussions between the individual and their case manager, as they determine which facility to attend.

"Many of the facilities we work with offer detox, either onsite or in partnership with a local detox facility," he wrote. 

A survey by the territorial government in 2021 found many people in the N.W.T. want to see more access to detox care, especially in the communities. 

Poundmaker's no longer under contract

Blake said the last time he was at Poundmaker's, he was able to recover from his addiction and returned home thinking he could continue to stay clean on his own. But that didn't end up happening and he said part of that is a lack of resources.

"Like there's nothing in the Northwest Territories for a person to fall back on when you… leave the treatment program," he said, echoing concerns voiced by many in the North, as well as the Auditor General of Canada

At Poundmaker's request, the territorial government ended its contract with the treatment facility in late October. It was the only Indigenous treatment facility the territory had a contract with. 

This means residents from the N.W.T. staying at Poundmaker's won't be covered by the territorial government. But Dreelan said that funding originally comes from the federal government and that they are working with Blake to ensure his stay is paid for.

The territorial government has issued a request for proposals for Indigenous healing centres, essentially a callout to possible facilities that would be willing to work with the N.W.T. The request for proposals was set to close this week.


Luke Carroll


Luke Carroll is a journalist with CBC News in Yellowknife who has previously worked in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario. Luke is originally from Brockville, Ont., and moved to Yellowknife in May 2020. He can be reached at