Planning for failure

By JIM BELL

There are many uncertainties surrounding Nunavut’s future. But thanks to the GNWT, we may now rest assured about one of them.

Nunavut, whatever it may turn out to be after April 1, 1999, will be as full of drunks and drug addicts as it is today.

That’s guaranteed by recent announcements made by the GNWT’s Department of Health and Social Services.

And it’s not the closure of Inuvik’s Delta House treatment centre that the public should be worried about. Yes, everyone was talking about that last week ­ which is understandable when a longstanding institution is axed.

Lost within the debate over the closure of Delta House is a far more serious problem. And that is a new way of paying for alcohol and drug treatment centres that the brainiacs within the GNWT’s health department have recently devised.

Under it, treatment centres will lose what’s called “core” funding ­ an annual chunk of money that’s used to pay everything from fuel and power bills to office expenses and staff salaries.

Instead, they’ll move to what they’re calling a “user pay” system. That means that for every client they treat, the treatment centre would get paid a certain chunk of money. Under this system, more clients equals more money.

And no clients equals no money.

The same gaggle of brainiacs have also given treatment centres a new job ­ the job of promoting their facilities and attracting clients ­ along with the vital funds those clients will bring.

This is a ridiculous idea, even for the GNWT. Ridiculous, because it virtually guarantees that Inuusiqsiurvik, Nunavut’s only alcohol and drug treatment centre, will one day die of financial asphyxiation.

And that will happen because the GNWT is doing nothing to ensure that Inuusiqsiurvik and other treatment centres get the clients they’ll need to bring in revenue.

“Clients,” by the way, is the social service euphemism used to describe the drunks and drug addicts who go to treatment centres to get better.

In Iqaluit alone there are hundreds of people who need this kind of help, and in Nunavut there are thousands. The GNWT’s own statistics demonstrate that.

So why are there empty beds in the NWT’s treatment centres, as GNWT officials now say? Why does this absurd situation exist?

The GNWT would have you believe it’s because treatment centres haven’t been sufficiently entrepreneurial in promoting themselves.

But the reason, clearly, is the GNWT’s own lack of support for those centres ­ especially the kind of support that would result in the referral of more clients to treatment.

Where, for example, is the information that community alcohol counsellors, nurses, CHRs, social workers, doctors, RCMP members and others need to know in order to help make client referrals? And where is the support for the network of community alcohol-and-drug counsellors that was part of the GNWT’s original plan for Inuusiqsiurvik?

And why is the GNWT not sending more of its own employees to treatment?

Kelvin Ng, the Cambridge Bay business man who’s now masquerading as the NWT’s minister of health and social services, appeared on CBC Northbeat last week in an attempt to pretend that he understands the consequences of his department’s recent decisions.

But, naturally, he didn’t even acknowledge the existence of those questions.

Instead, he used the interview to talk about a new idea called “mobile treatment” ­ under which teams of fly-in, fly-out consultants would be paid to offer treatment in communities.

Though it’s an idea that may turn out to have some merits, Ng didn’t explain them. And he certainly didn’t explain how the idea would save us money.

The Inuit of Nunavut are already many years behind most other aboriginal peoples in Canada in their awareness of drug and alcohol and addictions and how to deal with them. Even the western NWT is far ahead of Nunavut in that area.

Thanks to the GNWT, it looks as if Nunavut will stay that way for some time to come.

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