Lean times ahead for treatment centres

GNWT closes Delta House in Inuvik

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

ANNETTE BOURGEOIS

The closing of Delta House in Inuvik may not have directly affected the treatment centre in Iqaluit, but it foreshadows difficulties to come.

“Their closing will not affect us,” said Dorthe Kunuk, the executive director of the Inuusiqsiurvik Treatment Centre in Iqaluit. “We’ll still be operating.”

Cries of protest rang from the Western Arctic last week when Health and Social Services Minister Kelvin Ng announced the closure of Delta House, a 20-year-old alcohol and drug treatment centre in Inuvik.

And though the three-year-old Inuusiqsiurvik Centre in Iqaluit hasn’t been closed, it will receive less government funding this year.

“We expect getting less money, but I haven’t been told yet what that is,” Kunuk said.

Government to cut funds

Funding cuts this year aren’t the only obstacle Kunuk faces. In three years, the centre must look elsewhere for money; the government will no longer provide funding.

“By 1999 we’ll be completely cut,” Kunuk said. “I hope by then we will have the skills and knowledge to work with the Inuit culture and provide programs. In terms of funding, hopefully Inuit will be more aware of the problems and go for the help that they need.”

In a Health and Social Services draft discussion paper released in November concerning program reforms for alcohol and drug addictions, the government stated it would be moving away from treatment centres towards community-based programs.

High vacancy rates

Aside from Delta House, the GNWT funds three drug and alcohol treatment centres. Inuusiqsiurvik Treatment Centre is the only one in Nunavut.

According to the GNWT, they’ve become inefficient and expensive because of high vacancy rates. As well, a large number of potential clients are referred to southern centres for treatment.

“The occupancy rate depends on the programs and services we can offer people,” Kunuk said. “For us the low rate is because we’re still in the process of developing programs for clients to meet their needs.”

Kunuk said they’ve already started to make changes anticipating government-funding withdrawal. The centre has increased staff training, plans family programs, and will begin two after-care programs next month.

Looking for support

Kunuk said she’ll also be looking into promoting the centre in the south to attract more clients.

She was confident that with programs in place, the centre would be in a better position to face 1999. But without government funding, Kunuk said she’ll be looking to the local community for financial support.

The discussion paper also outlined the government’s intention to focus more attention on preventative measures.

“There are some difficult choices that need to be made as the department attempts to change its focus from treatment to prevention during a time of fiscal restraint,” the paper stated.

Although the reforms have been targeted for April, the paper points out that cuts, including cuts to addictions treatment, may be made as part of overall budget reduction measures.

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