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Addictions and trauma treatment targeted for funding, Hickes says in advance of budget address

The Government of Nunavut’s budget for 2019-2020 will include Health funding earmarked for the implementation of in-territory addictions and trauma treatment, based on a detailed three-pillar plan released last year.

Addictions and Trauma Treatment in Nunavut: Executive Summary

Health Minister George Hickes says if the GN’s 2019-2020 budget, to be unveiled Feb. 20, is approved in the legislative assembly, plans for in-territory trauma and addictions treatment will advance.
photo courtesy Nunavut Legislative Assembly.

“Pillars one and three – the Inuit employment and the on-the-land programming, as you’ll see in the upcoming budget, we have some immediate action plans on those initiatives, working with a number of different stakeholders, including NTI (Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.) for the training component of it,” said health minister George Hickes said at a Feb. 11 interview.

Hickes, who is also finance minister, is scheduled to deliver his budget address in the legislative assembly Feb. 20. Then the budget needs to be approved.

Hickes didn’t go into budget details, but the five-year plan estimates pillar one – enhanced community services and on-the-land healing camps – would require $767,280 for start-up costs and $3,594,623 for 2019-2020.

“We want to build on the success of the Cambridge Bay wellness program, their on-the-land program, and bring it into the three regions,” said Hickes.

The Cambridge Bay Wellness Centre has been organizing mobile addictions treatment programs outside the community for women and men beginning in spring 2017. Hickes says plans also include enhancing that community’s program.

Pillar two – a centre in the capital – will require federal funding, and that’s something Hickes says the GN and NTI have been working on together. The plan estimates $55,186,175 in start-up costs for a centre, and annual operations costs of $10,664,126.

Asked to speculate on timing for a centre, Hickes said, for example, if the feds announced funding this spring, the earliest a building could be completed is 2022-2023.

“We are working on all three pillars at the same time. There’s been a lot of collaboration between the Department of Health, Justice, Family Services, Culture and Heritage, Education, the Arctic College and, of course, NTI,” he said.

“So that when we get the green light from any federal funding that might be available, we’re ready to go. We have a very firm picture of what we’d like to see.”

That picture has been in development since late 2015, when an inquest into the high rate of suicide in the territory exposed the distressing details of a failed prevention strategy – including the GN’s disastrous failure to dedicate funds – and a broken relationship between the partners: the government, NTI, Isaksimagit Inuusirmi Katujjiqaatigiit Embrace Life Council, and the RCMP.

In 2017, under the leadership of former associate deputy minister Karen Kabloona, the newly-minted Quality of Life Secretariat developed a solid plan in Inuusivut Anninaqtuq – United for Life, and a renewed partnership. The GN committed $35 million over five years. Community stakeholders were involved in the development of Inuusivut, as well as the vision for in-territory treatment, as they’d made clear was necessary at GN-organized summits.

Developing an Inuit workforce to staff trauma and treatment initiatives will likely make use of Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation funding.

“We want to make sure Culture and Heritage is involved, and NTI is involved, in making sure the training component has that core aspect of (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit), cultural competencies,” said Hickes.

“We don’t want to pay lip service. There’s so many times where we talk about culture in our programming … We want to make sure it’s the core of it, not an afterthought. We want to make sure, working with our partners, that we develop the programming that’s suited for Nunavummiut.”

Hickes also notes the “fantastic job” Clyde River’s Ilisaqsivik has done producing Inuktut-language-speaking counsellors.

“We’ve utilized a number of graduates from that program in different community wellness capacities, from mobile trauma teams to counselling in different communities. We might have to look at enhancing that program and taking it to another level to bring in substantial numbers,” said Hickes.

“I think we’re on very good footing with the success out of Clyde River. Is it going to be easy? No. But, at the same time, we believe that the base resources are there already, so we believe we can build upon them and make this a successful project.”

According to the plan, pillar three – Inuit Workforce Development – has a price tag of $1.2 million per year to fund a degree program at Nunavut Arctic College (NAC).

“This costing is based on comparable resource commitments being made by the GN with respect to workforce development and training in other areas, specifically the Nunavut law program. In addition, $1.2 million per year has been identified as needed for counsellor education and training.”

Hickes says in-territory, community-based healing will be a game-changer. Though some southern facilities the GN uses offer some culturally appropriate programming, he adds, “Nowhere is there a pure vision of what we envision as our counselling and healing process.”

“We want to make sure we’re doing better than we are now, at the community level, at the regional level, at the territorial level,” he said.

Finally, Hickes revealed Embrace Life Council executive director Kim Masson has taken over the position Kabloona vacated in late 2018 at the Quality of Life Secretariat.