GN resurrects possibility of treatment centre

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Just as the beer and wine outlet is under construction in the capital, the Government of Nunavut is exploring the possibility of a treatment centre in the territory.

Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo
With the new beer and wine outlet under construction, the Government of Nunavut has issued a call for proposals to explore needs and options for in-territory treatment.
August 2017

The search is on “for a consultant to assess needs and produce options for additional addictions and trauma treatment services in Nunavut.”

The request for proposals (RFP) comes from the Quality of Life Secretariat and is being handled by Community and Government Services.

The RFP states “one of the options must be a residential addictions and trauma treatment centre; an example of another potential option would be mobile, on-the-land programs.”

The consultant’s task will be “to provide a clear understanding of Nunavummiut needs for addictions and trauma treatment, identify key gaps between needs and services currently offered, provide three options to address the gaps with a high-level presentation of resources required to achieve them, and identify the resources needed, in detail, to achieve an option identified for further exploration by the

stakeholders engaged.”

Included in the jury recommendations from an inquest into the high rate of suicide in the territory in September 2015 was a recommendation to the Department of Family Services that “(The department) shall open substance abuse treatment centres in each of the three regions by September 2018.”

That was before the Quality of Life Secretariat was created. That new division came on the heels of Premier Peter Taptuna declaring suicide a crisis post-inquest.

Since 1998, Nunavummiut seeking treatment for substance abuse have gone south. During the 2015-16 fiscal year, 40 Nunavummiut attended out-of-territory residential treatment. The Department of Health has standing offer agreements with several facilities.

In 2002, then-Premier Paul Okalik and Health Minister Ed Picco promised the government would open a detox and treatment centre in the territory in 2003. That never happened.

More recently, Okalik famously quit cabinet in March 2016, dropping his health and justice portfolios over this very issue. He said opening a beer and wine store without proper supports in place, such as a treatment centre, would put vulnerable people at greater risk and he was losing sleep over it.

This past November in the legislative assembly, Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak asked Finance Minister Keith Peterson what specific delays were impeding the opening of the beer and wine store. Peterson acknowledged that the absence of treatment centre was a concern.

“The fact of the matter is we can’t afford to open a treatment centre in Nunavut,” he said.

In early 2016, Noel Kaludjak, former regional director at Kivalliq Counselling and Support Services based in Rankin Inlet, told Nunavut News/North each region should have a treatment centre.

“It would go a long, long way to prevent suicide, prevent crime, prevent violence. They wouldn’t have to be sent down to other places. They would be in their own territory,” he said, adding homesickness is always an issue for Nunavummiut.

Kaludjak insisted the territory needs a long-term plan.

“Not just a temporary plan, but a permanent plan. It would be very, very helpful to our people. I know the government is very short on funding, but we need to look at things for the future. It’s urgent. Our people need a place to go to get help. Putting people in jail is not going to solve the problems.”

Asked if a territorial residential treatment centre was still on the books for Nunavut, the Department of Health responded by e-mail in November, saying it is “committed to the development of addiction treatments capacity across Nunavut, with a focus on community-based services and supports.”

Meanwhile, it’s anybody’s guess when the Iqaluit beer and wine store will actually open.

“Since the Department of Finance is still working on details surrounding the upcoming opening of the Iqaluit beer and wine store, we are unable to provide a specific answer at this time,” stated communications manager for the Department of Finance Denise Grandmaison.