Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut November 11, 2014 - 6:06 am

Nunavut’s suicide prevention strategy still under evaluation

“Progress has been made on all eight commitments outlined in the action plan"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
This former hostel in Cambridge Bay was to have been a residential addictions treatment centre — but it opened earlier this year as a mental health facility. The building, now completely renovated and with a capacity of 12, is about half-full. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
This former hostel in Cambridge Bay was to have been a residential addictions treatment centre — but it opened earlier this year as a mental health facility. The building, now completely renovated and with a capacity of 12, is about half-full. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

An evaluation and report that will guide the work of groups implementing the Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy has a new deadline: March 2015.

The strategy was first released in September 2011 by its partners Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Government of Nunavut, the RCMP and the Embrace Life Council, pledging more research, mental health services and suicide intervention training for the territory.

While the strategy’s first phase was supposed to wrap up March 31, 2014, the strategy’s partners announced last spring it would be extended by a year.

But when South Baffin MLA David Joanasie asked the health minister last June to detail the work that’s been done to date, he had to wait some time for a response.

In a response to Joanasie’s questions tabled Oct. 21, the GN’s health department noted that “considerable progress has been made on all eight commitments outlined in the action plan.”

For its own part, the department of health outlines some of its own accomplishments in the written response.

As part of efforts to improve infrastructure to provide better mental health services to Nunavummiut — as outlined in the action plan — the department points to the renovation of the old Tammaativvik boarding home in Iqaluit.

It’s since been re-opened as the Akausisarvik Mental Health Treatment Centre, offering services to 15 in-patient and 40 out-patient clients.

The GN has also refurbished a former hostel in Cambridge Bay — which has been earmarked to become a residential addictions treatment centre — and re-opened it in January 2014 as a 12-bed residential mental health and addictions treatment facility.

While the strategy’s partners have yet to outline their financial commitments to it, the health department says the plan has been supported by a “continuum of care” delivered through its Mental Health and Addictions Budget, which totalled $38,000,000 between 2011 and 2014.

That’s helped pay for five new mental health staff, the department said, in Qikiqtarjuaq, Kimmirut, Grise Fiord, Resolute Bay and Iqaluit.

And to date, the department said 812 Nunavummiut have been trained in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST.)

Some of the department’s accomplishments are less clear, like funds to run a one-year pilot project to operate the Kamatsiaqtut help line 24 hours a day starting in October 2014 — it currently runs every day from 7:00 p.m. to midnight.

According to the health department’s response, the federal government contributed more than $8 million on the plan between 2011 and 2014.

The department said it’s still waiting to hear what the federal government will spend on the strategy beyond this year.

You can see a copy of the Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy here.

The details of the activities and expenditures of all the strategy’s partners will be published in an evaluation report that should be made public by the end of March 2015, the health department said.

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