North

N.W.T. government has no plans for local treatment centre

The Northwest Territories government has no intention of establishing an addictions treatment centre in the territory. The health minister was responding to calls for a treatment centre to save residents from having to leave the territory to get treatment at a live-in facility

Health minister says money still available for Indigenous on-the-land programs

N.W.T. Health Minister Julie Green said the last residential addictions treatment centre in the Northwest Territories —  the Nats'ejee K'eh Treatment Centre near Hay River —  was plagued by the same problems that resulted in the closure of other treatment centres in the territory. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

The Northwest Territories government has no intention of establishing an addictions treatment centre where people can live while they get treatment.

New Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green responded to a call in the legislature Thursday for a residential treatment centre in the N.W.T. to save residents from having to leave the territory to get treatment at a live-in facility.

"The reason it's in the south is that people can get in right away," said Green. "They can be in a co-ed or gender-specific facility, depending on their preference. And they have access to a range of services which we simply don't have in the Northwest Territories."

Green was responding to questions on Thursday from Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty. He pointed out that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for the establishment of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories "to address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harms caused by residential schools."

The last residential addictions treatment centre in the Northwest Territories closed seven years ago. Green said the Nats'ejee K'eh treatment centre near Hay River closed for the same reasons other treatment centres in the territories shut down — "...a lack of suitable staff, the inability to be able to [take new clients] at any time, issues around confidentiality, and people wanting to actually leave the North and their triggers for substance abuse and have a new start in the South."

We're focusing on ... aftercare, on things like on-the-land healing and what supports we can put in place to help people hang on to their sobriety when they come back.- N.W.T. Health Minister Julie Green

Green said the annual budget for residential addictions treatment is $2.3 million.

The government contracts with six facilities in the provinces to provide treatment. Green said a total of 45 people took advantage of that in the first six months of this year, with 15 completing their program. Green said the numbers are lower than typical this year. Normally about 200 people go south for live-in addictions treatment each year.

"What we're focusing on as a department is on aftercare, on things like on-the-land healing and what supports we can put in place to help people hang on to their sobriety when they come back."

Green said a $1.8 million fund is available to support on-the-land healing. She said only two Indigenous organizations —  the Dehcho First Nations and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation — have applied for funding from it. About $1.3 million remains available.

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