The pieces are coming together for comprehensive in-territory addictions and trauma treatment with the completion of a report outlining a preferred way forward, including a proposed budget of $102.5 million over five years.
Health Minister George Hickes says he’s appreciative of the level of detail in the report.
“More importantly, it’s just breaking it down with the three pillars, bringing forward existing initiatives, enhancing some of them, creating new initiatives at the community level and, obviously, pillar two of a treatment facility. I was quite impressed with the background work that went into it,” said Hickes.
In an interview with Nunavut News in February, then associate deputy director for the Quality of Life Secretariat Karen Kabloona said the outcome of this report, once completed, would depend on the new government’s mandate and priorities.
“I know there’s competing priorities,” she said at the time.
Hickes said addictions and trauma treatment, and the report provided by NVision, falls right in line with Turaaqtavut, his government’s mandate developed in Pond Inlet shortly after Kabloona spoke.
“It meshes perfectly. When we sat down in Pond Inlet as a full caucus to decide on our mandate, addictions treatment was obviously a very high priority and it made its way into Turaaqtavut,” said Hickes, adding there was a high level of commitment to an actual treatment centre but also an identified need for having resources and capacity at the community level.
That includes clinical and traditional counselling.
“I think this report really highlights the recognition of those factors.”
The total price tag for the plan, from 2018 to 2024, is $102.5 million. That includes developing and maintaining on-the-land healing camps, creating and maintaining a recovery centre in Iqaluit, and Inuit workforce development associated with community-based treatment and a made-in-Nunavut facility.
Hickes, who is also minister of Finance, says the detailed breakdown of numbers make sense.
“I’m quite comfortable with the financial analysis that was done,” he said.
Government reports are a dime a dozen, often dropped and left to collect dust, but Hickes says that won’t happen in this case. He says Nunavut is the last jurisdiction lacking a bricks-and-mortar treatment facility, a point of discussion for several years.
“I can’t imagine this report collecting dust. It just came out. I literally got the final copy not long before I tabled it. To be blunt, I can’t imagine any of the regular members not holding me to task on this, or holding the government to task,” he said.
“That being said, there’s partners, there’s ongoing discussions. NTI (Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.), Health Canada, a number of different stakeholders from community wellness groups – it’s a true joint effort. NTI, Indigenous Services Canada, we’ve been talking about what type of funding model will work, what type of resources are going to be needed, capacity building for training. ”
Hickes says a lot of the necessary discussions have already been happening.
“I just can’t see this falling to the wayside. It’s just too high an identified priority. It’s taken a while to get to this point, but now that we’re here there’s real momentum behind it.”
Financial support will have to come from the Government of Nunavut, and also the federal government.
But, beyond finances, Hickes makes the point that community resources will need to be shored up, in terms of trained professionals who can help identify specific treatment needs for clients and ensure after-care.
“Looking at training and development dollars is going to be the critical component,” he said.
Hickes has met with NTI president Aluki Kotierk, and he says they have discussed Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation dollars. And speaking of a facility, he says when the doors open, it’s important “to have a complement of staff that are from Nunavut that are ready to walk in the door and go to work from day one.”
Overall, Hickes is pleased with the NVision report.
“It’s black and white. It shows us what resources we need and it helps us in our lobbying efforts. When we do this, we’re going to do it right, and we’ve already started,” he said, speaking community capacity, which he sees as a real employment opportunity across the territory.
“When it comes to when we can have a facility, I’d like to see an announcement in the upcoming federal budget in early spring (2019).Then it would at least let us know a workable timeframe from an infrastructure standpoint, but it also gives us the green light to go ahead with the training and development to build the staff capacity for the facility itself.”