Mr. Speaker, the 17th Legislative Assembly identified the need to enhance addictions treatment programs as a key priority. Our government is committed to making sure that NWT residents have the tools and support they need to overcome their addictions challenges.
Addictions is linked to poverty and to educational achievement. Addictions can affect parents’ ability to care for their children and meet their needs. Their impact goes well beyond the individual. Families, communities and even our economy can be affected.
Mr. Speaker, we asked twelve respected community leaders to come together, to travel to communities, and to learn from our people’s experience of what solutions are most effective in this battle against addictions. I want to thank Mr. Paul Andrew, the Chair of the Forum, and all the members for their efforts. After the Minister’s Forum completed its work last year, 67 recommendations were put forward in the final report on how to move ahead with a plan of action to help people heal and recover from addictions.
Many of these recommendations perfectly align with what is already laid out in our Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan, A Shared Path Towards Wellness.
The report also identified a need for new services and approaches. Initiatives that focus on spiritual and cultural healing are being incorporated into our approach to mental health and addiction service delivery. We are also focusing on the need for streamlined intake and fast turn-around in accessing treatment services.
Mr. Speaker, the NWT is a diverse region made up of many different cultures, with their own traditional beliefs and practices. We need as many options as possible to allow people to decide what works for them. People need to determine their own pathways to wellness, and it is the government’s responsibility to help them follow that path. We are addressing the recommendations of the Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness with $2.6 million in new funding in the 2014/15 Budget. This is in addition to the existing budget of $6 million for the delivery of the community counseling program across the NWT.
As a result, we will be continuing to provide an array of southern residential treatment options which can offer specialized treatment facilities, gender specific options, cultural components and increased length of treatment. We will ensure that NWT residents who attend these treatment programs are offered follow-up support and aftercare through their Community Counselling Program once they return home.
Through the Standing Committee on Social Programs, we will continue to keep the Members of the Legislative Assembly informed about developments in this area. I greatly appreciate Mr. Moses, Mr. Dolynny and Mrs. Groenewegen taking the time to visit Poundmaker’s Lodge with me recently. We saw firsthand the high quality of care our residents are receiving at one of our four southern residential treatment facilities, and we heard directly from NWT residents attending this program how important this treatment option was to them.
Mr. Speaker, at the same time, we have not lost sight of the need to develop NWT-specific options as part of our approach to addressing addictions. In collaboration with Katlodeeche First Nation, we are exploring options for the use of the Nats'ejée K'éh building to ensure existing infrastructure is put to good use.
On-the-land programs will be an important part of our continuum of care. The 2.6 million in proposed new funding includes $900 thousand dollars to establish community based on the land healing programs. This fiscal year we are partnering with Aboriginal governments and regional authorities to pilot a variety of approaches to combining traditional and clinical approaches to healing. I am also committed to obtaining the best possible withdrawal management services for our residents, and work is underway to identify models that are best for the NWT.
In closing Mr. Speaker, I can assure Members that the Department of Health and Social Services is working to put in place a range of addiction treatment services that meet the needs of all residents of the Northwest Territories. We will open the doors for people to choose their own pathways to wellness and addiction-free lives.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker