In their closing circuit of meetings of 2020, Inuvik Town Council was able to speak to NWT MP Michael McLeod about a variety of issues.
One of those issues brought up was the absence of an addictions treatment facility in the North.
“We used to have one here in Inuvik, which was very successful until a territorial government in particular pulled the financing.” said Coun. Clarence Wood during a Dec. 14 Town Council meeting, referring to the Delta House, which shut down in 1997 during a budget contraction.
I also understand there was effort to establish a detox centre in town in 2017, which may or may not have had the potential to evolve into a full-blown addictions treatment facility.
It seems the plan did not come to fruition. But just because good ideas have not succeeded in the past doesn’t stop them from being good ideas. As we emerge from the pandemic with the onset of Covid-19 vaccines, the first and most important step is going to be contending with the social fall-out of lock downs, sudden disruptions of important social services and particularly the restrictions placed on family gatherings like funerals.
You don’t have to be a psychologist to understand that those things could negatively affect many people’s mental health or that such stresses could contribute to and/or agitate addictions. Were you to take Psychology 101 in University, however, you would also learn that people, without thinking about it, often associate their environment and their addictions together and their bodies develop safeguards against the intoxicating substance, requiring higher dosages to reach the same high. A great deal of overdoses happen, or so I was taught, as a result of someone being displaced from their usual comfort zone — either through trauma or pushing outwards because the comfort zone has become too comfortable to produce the needed rush — and using a dose that they are habitually used to but their bodies are not prepared for.
Mental Health and addictions treatment go hand-in-hand. Right now, an NWT resident in need of addictions treatment will have to uproot and go to somewhere they’ve never been and learn new life habits in that setting. Then, they’re sent back here, with the buildings that bring up old memories, encounters with old friends and old habits, and you have a risk of a relapse.
Far more effective would be a place in the region people could go, where they could have the in-person support of their friends and family and have them along for their journey. Where they could reconnect with traditional knowledge and apply it in relevant ways.
Nothing I’m saying here are new ideas — the Truth and Reconciliation Commission includes prioritizing the funding of healing centres as one of its 21 recommendations.
I maintain the GNWT did the right thing by focusing on minimizing the spread of Covid-19 as its top priority. But as we all know, when you solve a problem you typically create a new one. The Federal Government and the GNWT need to focus on repairing the collateral economic and social damage that has been endured as a result of preventing an outbreak of Covid-19 in the NWT.
“There has been an increasingly louder voice recommending a treatment centre be set up in the North,” McLeod tells us.
Let’s crank up the volume in 2021.