North

No residential addictions treatment centre in N.W.T.'s new mental health plan

Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy says new 2-year plan aims to expand supports available to people in their communities.

Two-year plan includes $400k for land-based addictions treatment, e-mental health options

N.W.T. Health Minister Glen Abernethy says previous treatment centres in the territory were expensive to run and often empty. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

The Northwest Territories government has a new,two-year plan to support mental health and addictions recovery — but a residential addictions treatment centre isn't part of it.

"We never say there will never be a new treatment centre in the Northwest Territories," said Glen Abernethy, the minister of health and social services. He said previous facilities in the territory were "very, very expensive to run, and they were often empty."

Abernethy said the Mental Wellness and Addictions Recovery Action Plan aims to expand supports for people in their communities.

More options in the South

According to 2017 to 2018 data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the N.W.T. had the highest rate of hospital stays due to substance use in Canada.

But right now, there is no inpatient addictions treatment centre in the territory, said health department spokesperson Andrea Nilson. Residents must travel to Alberta or British Columbia.

Abernethy said territorial residents can access a greater variety of treatment options in the south.

"We get a wider range of programs — programs focused on women, programs focused on men, programs focused on traditional healing wellness, we've got trauma informed care we've got access to psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals that we were never able to provide in our treatment centre," he said.

Alcoholics Anonymous are anonymous, [but] if it's two people in the community, it's hardly anonymous- Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy

No new hires

The mental health and addictions plan doesn't come with new hires.

However, said Abernethy, the health department is working to place 49 counsellors for youth in N.W.T. communities over the next four years.

The plan does come with some new money, he said, including $400,000 for land-based, mobile addictions treatment.

Other goals of the plan are:

  • To reduce stigma;

  • To introduce online programs to help people cope with anxiety and depression;

  • To work with southern treatment centres on aftercare for patients upon their return home;

  • To give staff cultural safety training, which is meant to help them recognize the unique history and experiences of Indigenous people.

Aftercare

According to the plan, the department will work with southern treatment centres on aftercare for patients upon their return home.  

Abernethy said in the past, the government hasn't supported "peer-driven" aftercare as much as it should have.

This plan, he said, aims to make it easier for people in communities to connect with others who are also living with addictions.

"Like Alcoholics Anonymous are anonymous, [but] if it's two people in the community, it's hardly anonymous," said Abernethy. "We need to find ways to have them be able to reach out."

The minister said the health department has already begun to act on the plan.

Abernethy said that if the programs outlined in the plan are put to use, he'll consider it a success.

Caroline Cochrane, the minister responsible for the Status of Women, says it's too soon to comment on specific recommendations from the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (Claudiane Samson/CBC)

MMIWG inquiry calls for healing programs

The final report from the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls made seven recommendations to all governments related to health and wellness.

Among them was a call for continual and accessible healing programs for all children of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and for crisis response teams in all communities to meet "the immediate needs" of an Indigenous person or community after a traumatic event, such as a murder or violent incident.

In an emailed statement Caroline Cochrane, the N.W.T. status of women minister, said it is too early to comment on how the government will respond to the inquiry's specific recommendations.

"We are currently assessing current [government] activities to understand how they correspond to the Inquiry's recommendations. After we have done our assessment, we will need to discuss priorities with N.W.T. Indigenous governments and the Native Women's Association of the NWT," she said.