N.W.T. terminates contract with Alberta addiction treatment centre

The government of the Northwest Territories ended its contract with Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centres. A spokesperson for the department of health and social services said the contract was terminated at Poundmaker's request. (Supplied - image credit)
The government of the Northwest Territories ended its contract with Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centres. A spokesperson for the department of health and social services said the contract was terminated at Poundmaker's request. (Supplied - image credit)

As of Oct. 29, residents of the Northwest Territories have one less option for addiction treatment.

The government of the Northwest Territories ended its contract with Poundmaker's Lodge Treatment Centres, the only option the territory had that advertised treatment specifically for Indigenous clients.

Jeremy Bird, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services, said the contract was terminated at Poundmaker's request, though he wrote in an email that "it would be inappropriate to get into the details of the circumstances that led to this action."

Poundmaker's did not respond to questions prior to deadline.

In the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly Friday, Jane Weyallon Armstrong, MLA for Monfwi, pressed Health Minister Julie Green for details on why the contract was ending.

Natalie Pressman/CBC
Natalie Pressman/CBC

Green declined to provide details but said that she recognizes the need for Indigenous focused treatment. She said the department would advertise for a new service provider that specializes in Indigenous healing and that the request for proposal (RFP) on that contract is set to go out by the end of 2022.

Weyallon Armstrong told CBC News that she's frustrated with the declining options for treatment, referring to the 2013 closure of the Nats'ejee K'eh Treatment Centre in Hay River.

The territory established an agreement with Poundmaker's Lodge the same year, following the Hay River centre's closure.

More treatment options needed: MLA

Weyallon Armstrong acknowledged the five other addiction treatment facilities that have agreements with the N.W.T. — three in Alberta, one in British Columbia and one in Ontario — but stressed the importance of a facility close to home with treatment through a cultural lens.

"With Poundmaker's, it's all Indigenous led, there are Indigenous workers and everything is Indigenous," she said. "Poundmaker's already knows about our culture, you know, so they are aware of it."

That's something she said she was missing in her own treatment.

Weyallon Armstrong sought addictions treatment in 1990 and 2010 at a facility in Saskatchewan.

"For me I found it to be too intimidating because it wasn't Native focused," she said of her experience at the facility.

She praised community counselling services and on the land programs available in the territory, saying that "communities and Indigenous governments are doing their best to provide services," but said that "we do need an outside treatment program as well." She added that more options are needed and that the territory should have more than five contracts with facilities.

During Friday's question period, Green said that she would be meeting with the Tłı̨chǫ government and chief of Behchokǫ̀ at the end of the month to talk about addictions services and aftercare.

Green told the house that if "[Weyallon Armstrong] has specific people that she would like me to meet or talk to, I would welcome the opportunity if she would invite me to her community."

"I am certainly looking forward to continuing the conversation about strengthening the system," Green said.

Weyallon Armstrong told CBC that she would make arrangements for Green to meet with leaders in the riding and would be attending a meeting on addictions services on Nov. 29.

She said she hopes the minister will "listen to the people."

"They need to start listening to the people and work with them."