Cost of out-of-territory addictions treatment has grown for past three years

Diane Thom, minister of Health and Social Services. (File photo/CKLB)

The Government of the Northwest Territories has spent about $8 million over the past three years for out-of-territory addictions treatment.

The total amount per year has climbed nearly a million dollars in that time — from $2.2 million in 2016-2017 to $3 million in 2018-2019.

Jackson Lafferty says that’s money that could have stayed within the NWT if there was a treatment centre in the territory.

The Monfwi MLA re-opened a long-standing conversation yesterday at the Legislative Assembly, urging the health and social services minister to consider a centre in the North.

Minister Diane Thom said the GNWT has contracts with four southern treatment centres: Poundmaker’s Lodge, Sturgeon County, Alberta; the Fresh Start Recovery Centre in Calgary; the Aventa Treatment Centre for Women, also in Calgary; the Edgewood Treatment Centre, in Nanaimo.

Shed added that an average of 170 people per year have attended the various centres.

“Obviously, it is a worthwhile initiative, but at the same time it should be happening in our region,” said Lafferty. He asked Thom if she had plans for a northern treatment centre, “involving on-the-land treatment approaches and an integrated system or community-based follow-up and support program.”

The minister said her department gives Indigenous governments about $17.5 million for several programs related to addictions, including on-the-land programs and counsellors, among others. Of that amount, about $2 million goes towards aftercare programs for residents returning from their treatment in the south.

Thom pointed to the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation’s Project Jewel as one of the aftercare programs in the NWT.

Lafferty said staff from Pundmaker’s Lodge helped train several northern counsellors back in the early 90’s. Short of a proper treatment centre in the North, he asked if the minister would support more of this kind of training.

She stopped short of committing to any specifics, but said her department would “look at” these types of initiatives.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis has been a general news reporter with CKLB since January 2019. Originally from rural Ontario, he first came to the NWT in 2016 as an intern with Up Here magazine and fell in love with the North. In his time with CKLB, he's had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures. Otherwise, you can find him hanging around the Legislative Assembly. If you have a story or want to chat, reach out to