Coming up on Addictions Awareness week, Nov. 19-25, Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone dove into discussion on the matter with Health Minister John Main during the Nov. 9 session of the legislative assembly.
“My questions today,” said Lightstone, “are regarding the complex treatment needs of those suffering with mental health and addictions. Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned on the first day of the fall sitting, there is a growing concern in Iqaluit about the state of public safety in the community. It’s apparent that we need a strategy to both improve public safety and address complex treatment of needs of those who are suffering from mental health and addictions.”
Lightstone then asked Main whether there have been any significant developments on this front.
The minister thanked Lightstone for raising “questions about mental health and the fact that the most vulnerable need help, on their behalf… in terms of the Iqaluit mental health and addictions services, there is a comprehensive suite of services available. The mental health and addictions team provides assessment, crisis intervention, stabilization services, outreach support, and psychotherapeutic services.”
Main expounded on the networking that takes place.
“Some of them work just across the street at the Greenstone Building and they are spread in different facilities in Iqaluit. They do work on establishing connections with different organizations in the community and it’s those connections which help to build partnerships, which in the end serve residents of this fine city.”
Lightstone spoke about the link between addictions and mental health and crimes committed in the territory.
“Studies have shown that a majority of crime and violence is committed by a small number of persistent offenders,” he said. “Many individuals contributing to the growing concerns of public safety in Iqaluit likely have regular interaction with the RCMP and may also be regular visitors of RCMP holding cells.”
He then asked Main to explain the direct interaction between mental health staff and the RCMP, and how this collaboration will result in better community outreach. Main responded that he was unable to provide detailed information on the relationship between the two groups due to a lack of data, but elaborated on the outreach work currently in place in the city.
“The mental health and addictions team works with the Department of Family Services, they work the men’s and women’s shelter, they work with the Elders’ home, the YMCA, the Umingmak Centre, and also with corrections facilities. Mr. Speaker, what does this look like? It means things like drop-in counselling sessions at the schools, and also an after-school program. It also means a weekly drop-in that’s offered at the Uquutaq Society, and there’s a weekly program at the Qimaavik Shelter in Apex. There is so much excellent work happening in terms of all of our partners. It’s really encouraging to see all the different organizations contributing to the needs and to serving people who need help.”
Lightstone responded that he was encouraged to hear about “a lot of proactive measures being incorporated there, but one area that the minister hasn’t mentioned was interaction between Health and the RCMP. If these discussions have not happened, I would like to ask the minister to commit to initiating these discussions between health officials and the RCMP to allow mental health staff to visit our RCMP holding cells to inform individuals there of what programs and services are available, should they make the choice to get there… and just be aware of the options and more importantly, that it is possible.”
Main reiterated that the Department of Health currently works “with the correctional staff, and we go over (to) their holding cells or the correctional facilities.”
He pledged to consult with Premier P.J. Akeeagok on Lightstone’s concerns and suggestion, and said he will return to the legislative assembly with more information and will “discuss the details” at a later time.