(PUBLISHER’S NOTE: All the MLA candidates were asked to comment on the best way forward for the sobering centre in Yellowknife. Go here to see the full question and context.)
Addressing addictions is a complicated issue that requires supports for people at various stages in their recovery.
First and foremost we need a culturally-appropriate territorial addictions treatment facility in Yellowknife to better support Northerners who are ready to seek treatment. We also need a managed alcohol program and safe consumption sites, especially for women to reduce the occurrence of assaults they experience.
But we also need to stop producing people who turn to substances to deal with the hurt and trauma they have experienced. We, as a collective, are participating in this ongoing failure to stop the trauma of poverty and addictions that are a result of past traumas. When we talk about a vicious circle, this is it.
I don’t pretend to have all of the answers but we can start by providing better mental health supports for youth and a focus on prevention. Youth mental health programming including the pilot child and youth care councillor program will be essential in supporting youth and preventing them from turning to substances in the first place.
As with everything, the most obvious solution is rarely the whole picture. Our government must also invest in increased housing initiatives like housing first and expanded support systems like guaranteed income and integrated case management to fully support all people of the NWT. These issues didn’t form overnight and it will take a sustained and serious focus over a number of years for healing to take place.