Opposed to YK Chamber of Commerce Demand for Treatment Facility
The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce plans to make the establishment of an addictions treatment facility in Yellowknife an election issue. The demand is simplistic, misplaced and feeds into the notion community MLAs have that Yellowknife gets everything and their regions get nothing.
Addictions is a symptom, not the root cause of the challenges Northerners face. A 2005 GNWT Health status report revealed 50% of the territorial population would be in need of mental health services by 2008. It is the government's failure to invest in establishing effective, culturally relevant mental health services that drives the epidemic rates of addictions, suicide and violence in the North. As evidenced by recent events, services to address mental illness at Stanton Territorial Hospital doesn't cut it.
With respect to addictions treatment, there is a territorial facility in Hay River. Is it used to its full capacity? There was a treatment facility in Inuvik that was defunded by the GNWT and a treatment facility in Fort Macpherson that was never funded to the degree it should have been by the GNWT. No doubt there are dozens of other community initiatives related to addictions that have come and gone over the years.
In Yellowknife, there was a detox and a treatment centre. While there is no doubt it was helpful to many people over the years, there were times when it was destructive. Women in particular were vulnerable in a coed treatment environment. In its final days 6 women had left the facility because an inmate with 12 convictions (some related to violence) was in the treatment program with the women. One of the women said he was stalking her and another said he choked her. Decision-makers in the organization refused to address the matter in any meaningful way and blamed the women. The treatment centre shut down and the organization no longer operates.
When it was shut down, the GNWT and service providers in Yellowknife claimed they had come up with a plan to replace the treatment centre and detox services. The Centre for Northern Families and the women who had laid the complaint were excluded from that discussion. Stanton Territorial Hospital said they had a 10-bed detox capacity and the Salvation Army was hand picked to deliver a Withdrawal Management Program. The Tree of Peace continued to offer day treatment services and made referrals to Hay River and treatment programs in the south.
Aside from that, Yellowknife has a Day Program where people who are intoxicated can go during the day and 2 shelters, one for men and one for women where people who are intoxicated can go at night. For those who are violent it would fall to the responsibility of the RCMP unless there is a mental illness or some other type of health challenge and then it falls to Stanton. There is also a large "sober" transition house for men that is underused because men staying in the emergency shelter can't or won't live in the building. There is family counselling available to anyone in the community at no cost for those who can't afford it.
The slate of services available in Yellowknife is in stark contrast to communities that don't have RCMP detachments or most other services. Rather than re-establishing a very expensive treatment facility, it would make more sense to streamline and strengthen the services that do exist so they are more effective and appropriate. As it stands treatment approaches tend to be narrow in focus and not culturally relevant and housing or service delivery agencies employ rigid eligibility requirements that either exclude people or create a situation where people choose not to access those services. The transition between the streets or shelters, the RCMP detachment and the hospital is fractured with very little communication between those parties or agreement about how those services work together.