Centre on Substance Abuse meets with NWT leaders

Centre on Substance Abuse meets with NWT leaders
Right: Michel Perron. Left: NWT Health and Social Services Minister Tom Beaulieu.

Representatives from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) touched down in Yellowknife last week to meet with government officials, community leaders, NGOs and other stakeholders to further strategize and dialogue about collaborative solutions to substance abuse.

The meeting is a part of a series of cross country discussions CCSA is undertaking to “gain a greater understanding” of local community issues and move forward with partnerships.

“The purpose was to talk about the issue of alcohol and drugs in the North and particularity in the Territories,” Michel Perron, CCSA’s CEO, told The Journal. “This was an opportunity to explain some of the national strategies we are working on that are relevant to the NWT and, by the same token, we also heard from local representatives of activities that are underway – and there are many – and how we can contribute to that work and how that work here may be instructive for other areas of the country.”

NWT Health Minister Tom Beaulieu said the meeting has “opened the door” for future partnerships when to comes to substance abuse.

“We will be moving forward with our plan for on-the-land treatment when it comes to addictions, as we heard from the communities during the Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness in June…And we’re open to have as many partners as possible working with us on our initiatives because we’d certainly like to have a broad range of ideas and they (the CCSA) have a rich history in substance abuse,” Beaulieu told The Journal.

“This is about adding to that and building the relationship so that we have a good handle on what are the specific priorities here so we can best respond to them,” Perron said.

Cultural healing as the centre of recovery and addiction treatment was a topic the CCSA took great interest in at the table, Perron said.

“It is quite a powerful notion and that whole cultural piece has to be not only embedded, but really part of the DNA of how we deal with this issue for First Nations peoples. That was very telling,” he said.

The CCSA thought such programming could be applicable on reserves in the south, Beaulieu said, also noting that the department is currently preparing to roll out a few pilot programs focused on healing through an on the land agenda.

“More proposals for this programming have come in than we have money to fund, so we’ll be looking at all of them and rolling out some pilot programs immediately,” Beaulieu said.

Talking youth and addiction

For Beaulieu, the challenge of youth addiction treatment was also an interesting roundtable topic of discussion, one he hopes to have a solution for in the future.

“We can’t really build a centre to treat youth, but we might be able to dedicate a location for a centre that could be used for youth treatment programming,” he said. “In the past, we’ve treated youth in the south mostly…This time, we’re trying to work with the youth to identify that they actually have an addiction issue. It’s very difficult to get a kid that’s 14, 16 or even 20 to admit they have an addiction problem. They’re so young, so it’s hard to move forward.”

Beaulieu said they may look into strategies where youth can come together to benefit each other in their healing processes.

Prevention standards concerning youth drug use is something the CCSA has worked on over the past few years, Perron said, which could help the NWT down the road.

“It’s all very new…within the last year and a half or so,” Perron said. “The standards articulate in a clear way what is effective programming for youth. Those standards that we launched were recently adopted by the United Nations and are being applied internationally, so there’s a lot of applicability. If they’re applicable in Somalia, I think they’re applicable here in the NWT.”

The standards are designed to support new and existing prevention teams in planning, implementing and evaluating their initiatives. They are composed of standards for substance abuse prevention in schools and communities, along with guidelines for family-based prevention initiatives. They include a monitoring and evaluation tool kit as well as other interactive resources for youth and youth workers.

“Essentially, the door is open for us to contact them and for them to contact us,” Beaulieu said of the CCSA.

According to Perron, there was a “real, genuine interest” expressed by attendees at the meeting to continue working with the CCSA.

“We’re not going to show up and never return. Our commitment is to come back to the NWT regularly.”

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