Territorial addictions and trauma treatment in the works

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A plan for in-territory addictions and trauma treatment is in development but whether or not, and how, it moves forward will depend on what elected officials agree will be their mandate for the coming four years.

Associate deputy minister for the Quality of Life Secretariat Karen Kabloona, seen here speaking at the Unite for Life summit held in May 2016, says a plan for a way forward for in-territory addiction and trauma treatment is in development thanks to funding from Indigenous Services Canada.
photo courtesy Dept. of Health

“Full caucus is meeting in Pond Inlet this week to review the mandate,” said associate deputy director for the Quality of Life Secretariat Karen Kabloona Feb. 21.

“I know there’s competing priorities.”

Nevertheless, the drive and funds to tackle addictions and trauma in Nunavut, and to turn the tide on suicide, has seen a considerable increase in recent years.

Kabloona started out alone on the Quality of Life file, which was created in the wake of a devastating coroner’s inquest called to shed light on the high rate of suicide in the territory.

“Nobody would come work with me because it was a dead-end job,” she said.

But, since then, Kabloona has seen her staff grow to 10. The secretariat, along with its partners Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), Inuusirmi Katujjiqaatigiit (Embrace Life Council) and the RCMP, released a fully funded action plan, Inuusivut Anninaqtuq, in 2017, with the GN committing $35 million over five years.

The strategy includes the development of the in-territory treatment plan, though funding up to $388,000 for this initiative comes from Indigenous Services Canada.

Also, in the interim, federal funding saw the delivery of a 28-day mobile addictions treatment program for women in a natural setting at a cabin with some tents, eight kilometres from Cambridge Bay in September 2017. A similar program was held for men in May and June 2017. Both were organized by the Cambridge Bay Wellness Centre.

Director of wellness Janet Stafford-Brenton told Nunavut News at the time she is planning similar treatment camps again this year. Other Nunavut communities have expressed interest in the same model of on-the-land counselling, she noted.

Kabloona says she’s repeatedly heard community-based treatment is what’s wanted and what works best. But she also notes there is not one treatment for everybody. At the moment the GN has 31 contracts with facilities in the south.

“We wanted to acknowledge there’s no one treatment for everybody. That people need different options based on their language, how important culture is, access to elders, how much they’d like to remain anonymous. So we always will need a spectrum of services for Nunavummiut for addictions and trauma treatment,” she said.

Inuusivut Anninaqtuq commits to a feasibility study for a residential treatment centre with an on-the-land component – but a request for proposals sought innovation, so is not limited to a facility. Indigenous consulting firm NVision Insight Group was awarded the project Sept. 6.

NVision’s work will be in four phases. Phase 1, which is completed, included a literature review of previously completed studies here and with other Indigenous populations, consolidating all the available statistics, an assessment of needs and gaps, and looking to new and emerging concepts.

“We did approach people who are vocal about their own recovery and asked them to contribute,” said Kabloona.

Phase 2 involved suggesting a very broad preliminary vision. Phase 3 requires scoping out the high-level concepts, and Phase 4 involves attaching a price tag.

Then there’s staffing to consider.

“A big part of our work is determining workforce needs to adequately staff a facility that’s different, or a treatment that’s different,” said Kabloona.

The original request for proposals had April 28 as a completion deadline, but Kabloona isn’t certain at this point if the work will require more time.

“We’re trying to respond to the needs of Nunavummiut and that takes cooperation from a lot of different people,” said Kabloona.

“We have the right people around the table.”

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Michele LeTourneau first arrived at NNSL's headquarters in Yellowknife in1998, with a BA honours in Theatre. For four years she documented the arts across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Following a very short stint as a communications officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories, Michele spent a decade at a community-based environmental monitoring board in the mining industry, where she worked with Inuit, Chipewyan, Tlicho, Yellowknives Dene and Metis elders to help develop traditional knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit contributions for monitoring and management plans. She rejoined NNSL and moved to Iqaluit in May 2014 to write for Nunavut News. Michele has received a dozen awards for her work with NNSL.