Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut June 08, 2011 - 5:52 am

No treatment centres for Nunavut until 2013: Curley

“The cost will not be staggering, but this government is going through a deficit period"

SARAH ROGERS
Tagak Curley, Nunavut’s health and social services minister, tells reporters June 7 that his department would be “pressed for time” to open the territory’s promised treatment centres by 2013. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Tagak Curley, Nunavut’s health and social services minister, tells reporters June 7 that his department would be “pressed for time” to open the territory’s promised treatment centres by 2013. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

Nunavut’s health minister, Tagak Curley, confirmed June 7 in the legislature that plans to open two addictions treatment and healing centres in Nunavut will be delayed.

First, the Government of Nunavut must produce guidelines for these centres and find the money need to renovate existing buildings, he said.

“The cost will not be staggering but this government is going through a deficit period,” Curley said. “That’s what makes it tough. We’re somewhat limited…What we’re obligated to do is have a clear, detailed plan because some modest capital expenditure may be required. This is a planning year.”

The GN said earlier this year that it would open Nunavut’s first addiction treatment centres by 2013 as part of its 2011-12 business plan for the health and social services department.

This plan said that one of the department’s priorities would be the development of treatment programs and services.

However, Curley told journalists that the GN will be “pressed for time” to have any facility in operation by the end of its term in 2013.

This past January, the GN sent out request for proposals for centres, which were to treat both adults and youth “who have significant mental health [problems] and/or addictions.”

These requests were later put on hold.

If the two new centres, planned for Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit, ended up going through regular planning cycles for capital and operating and management costs, the projects wouldn’t move ahead until 2013 at the earliest, finance minister Keith Peterson told Nunatsiaq News in April.

Peter Ma, the deputy minister of health, also told Nunatsiaq News in an April interview that the GN’s decision to put the RFPs on hold reflected a desire to “step back” and see what Nunavut needs and “do it right.”

The centres’ future will depend on the capital budget, Ma said.

Curley still said opening treatment centres is a “priority” and that a plan to that end will be tabled in the fall.

About $1.6 million in start-up money was included in this year’s territorial budget for addictions treatment and healing centres.

Curley acknowledged the high cost of sending patients out of the territory for drug and alcohol treatment — now their only option.

But Nattilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk argued that, beyond its cost, a territorial treatment facility should be culturally relevant for its Inuit clients.

“Addictions and substance abuse lie at the root of many of our social problems,” Ugyuk said in the legislature June 7. “To be successful it has to come close to home.”

Of the 14 suicides committed in Nunavut so far in 2011, Ugyuk said she knows at least one of them was committed by someone who suffered from serious substance abuse.

“Who knows how many suicides could be avoided if they were treated for drug and alcohol abuse,” she said. “We need a substance abuse treatment program in Nunavut to address this serious problem.”

The last treatment centre to be located in Nunavut was the Inusiqsiuqvik treatment centre in Apex, which operated between 1991 and December 1998.

That centre fizzled because few clients used it, causing funding problems for the board that operated it.

The old Inusiqsiuqvik building now houses the Qimaavik women’s shelter.

As for the former student hostel in Cambridge Bay, earmarked by the hamlet’s Wellness Centre as a possible treatment centre, it appears to be in fairly good shape — at least from the outside.

The GN’s 2004-05 capital budget included $500,000 to revamp and renovate the building into a patient residence. The building is still vacant.

With files from Jane George

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