GN developing mental health centre in Iqaluit

Nunavut’s health department is now preparing the old Qimmavik women’s shelter for use as a mental health centre.



The Nunavut government plans to have its newest health initiative, a mental health facility in Iqaluit, up and running over the next few weeks.

The mental health centre’s programs will be phased-in over time, beginning with a day program. A residential program and community outreach elements will coming later, said Nunavut Health Minister Ed Picco.

“We’re pretty excited about this facility opening. It’s one of few programs to start anywhere in the North,” Picco said.

The centre will be housed in a building close to the Baffin Regional Hospital recently vacated by theQimaavik women’s shelter.

Although there’s much preparation to do before opening the centre, Picco said he hopes to have it up and running in four to six weeks.

He envisions the centre offering a variety of activities, ranging from day activities through residential and outreach programs.

He hopes the centre would offer some respite to families dealing with members who live with some form of mental illness.

But there are people living at the homeless shelter who could also benefit from this facility.

The day program will be for people with psychological needs living in the community and include things like life skills, with one-on-one counselling and some academic upgrading.

Later plans involve the use of residential and outreach components.

The program will be community-based, with a team of psychologists, psychiatrists, community health workers, and community outreach workers who can offer support at the centre and in other communities, making it a Nunavut-wide service.

The programs will incorporate “Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit” and Inuktitut will be the primary language for programming and counselling.

“The goal is to provide a safe living environment and programs for people with identifiable mental illness,” Picco said.

Doug Sage, the director of mental health for Nunavut’s health and social services department, said their priorities right now are hiring staff and planning a suitable program.

There’s also an urgent need to provide shelter for homeless people who live with mental illness, Sage said.

Gordon Barnes, the director of the Oqota Homeless Shelter, says that 20-30 per cent of the shelter’s clients have some kind of mental illness.

Sage said the centre would help fill the needs of people caught in the gap between homelessness and those psychiatric problems that need hospitalization.

But he stressed that not all homeless people are mentally ill. “It’s two separate issues,” he said.

“It’s not a homeless shelter. We have one of those and it will continue to operate,” Sage said.

Before the centre can open, the facility needs minor renovations and some painting to make it suitable, he said.

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