Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green released the GNWT’s Addictions Prevention and Recovery Services Work Plan this week, outlining the direction for the territorial government to build coordinated and easily accessible addiction support for all residents.
This approach will ensure responsive actions that best meet the needs of residents, according to Green.
The work plan identifies five areas within the addictions prevention and recovery system needing improvement to address based on several recommendations from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG): increased understanding of residents’ self-determined mental wellness and addictions recovery needs to inform program planning and priority setting; enhanced partnerships with Indigenous governments and communities to ensure a continuum of services that better meets the addictions needs of residents; improved access to culturally safe addiction prevention and recovery services; increased consistency in the coordination of addictions services and aftercare; and enhanced ability to track community-identified and service user-identified outcomes.
The plan sets out specific actions for two years.
Feedback from the Standing Committee on Government Operations, which completed a review of the OAG audit and the GNWT’s proposed work plan in November 2022, will also be included.
Jeremy Gibson Bird, manager of communications with the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS), provided a breakdown based on people seeking facility-based addictions treatment between April 1, 2021 and March 1, 2023 (some of whom had addictions to multiple substances):
-89 per cent alcohol
-44 per cent cocaine or crack
-35 per cent cannabis
-0.02 per cent opiates
-0.02 per cent amphetamines
“We can’t reliably identify the number of individuals who struggle with addiction in the territory as not everyone is necessarily accessing services,” Bird said.
In 2021-22, 100 people were approved to attend treatment, of those 100, 15 of them didn’t attend, 27 were discharged early and 58 of them completed the treatment.
As of March 1, 205 people have been approved to attend addiction treatment in 2022-23. Thirty-two are currently in treatment for in-patient programming, 48 did not attend, 40 were discharged early and 85 of them completed the program.
Bird, who didn’t know the overall number of applicants for treatment, suggested that the increased number of people approved in 2022-23 can likely be attributed to the removal of Covid restrictions.
“In-patient treatment is just one option and is a small, time-limited part of a person’s recovery journey,” Bird said. ”Not all individuals living with an addiction want facility-based treatment, nor is it effective for all people.”
He added that it’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healing and recovery.
Work is still underway to administer the NWT Addictions Survey this spring — the last survey was administered in 2018.
Bird said addiction is a complex process and there are many contributing factors, such as childhood trauma/adverse childhood experiences (including abuse and neglect), multigenerational trauma, minimal access to economic resources, social exclusion, discrimination, violence and others.
He also listed some of the protective factors, including having a positive caregiver, strong attachment to family, school, and community; and attending meaningful activities such as sports, volunteering, work, etc.