N.W.T. to launch survey on addictions treatment, mull relapse options

·3 min read
Health Minister Julie Green is launching an addictions recovery survey to learn what worked and what didn't for residents who've been through treatment.
Health Minister Julie Green is launching an addictions recovery survey to learn what worked and what didn't for residents who've been through treatment.

(Mario De Ciccio/CBC - image credit)

The N.W.T. government is launching a survey on addictions treatment available to residents.

The Addictions Recovery Survey will ask people what programs and services they've accessed in the past "to learn what has worked, what has not, and what residents feel they need to support their recovery."

"We know we need to further strengthen our system to help those who are struggling most," said Health Minister Julie Green, who announced the survey Friday. "Hearing from individuals who have personally experienced, or had a family member experience, addictions will best inform our approach."

Green characterized the survey as a "critical first step" that, together with the forthcoming N.W.T. Alcohol Strategy, will help address reduce alcohol-related harms.

Speaking to CBC on Monday, Green said work began on the survey about six months ago after an investment from Health Canada to help address the problem of substance use and its impacts on mental health in the territory.

She said the survey is directed at people who have received facility-based treatment, aftercare counselling, or other services that aim to support them in regaining sobriety.

"This survey is supposed to capture firsthand experience from people who have used the supports that are available to find out how helpful they were, whether there were any barriers accessing them, whether other things might have worked better," said Green.

The survey opens Monday and will remain open until March 31, she said.

"It'll be well-advertised so that everyone who has an interest in this, which turns out in the end to be almost all of us have some connection with substance abuse, if not directly, then indirectly, there's an opportunity to respond."

Green has resisted calls to establish an addictions treatment centre in the territory, explaining that N.W.T. residents can access a larger range of services by traveling south.

In October, she said her department was focusing "on aftercare, on things like on-the-land healing and what supports we can put in place to help people hang on to their sobriety when they come back."

The government committed to "increase the number and variety of culturally respectful, community-based mental health and addictions programs, including aftercare" as one of the 22 priorities it list on its website.

Relapse prevention?

In the legislature Friday, Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson proposed Green look into creating a kind of relapse centre that could support people who've returned from recovery and find themselves on shaky ground.

"One thing I've heard is that they're looking for a place to go, whether it be for a day, an hour, a week, when they feel they might relapse," Simpson said. "We should have something in the South and something in the North as well, just so that people have easy access."

Green said she'd look into it.

"It is a serious commitment of our mandate to improve after care services and this is a potentially promising way of doing that," she said.

The addictions recovery survey will be advertised through traditional and social media. Hard copies will be available through community counselling programs and treatment facilities.