Northwest Territories Health Minister Glen Abernethy.
The territory’s health minister says he’s fully committed to a sobering centre in Yellowknife and even a managed alcohol program, also known as MAP, if the right partners come together.
Glen Abernethy recently wrapped up a trip to Ottawa, where he toured a MAP facility run by the Shepherds of Good Hope.
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Abernethy said the trip provided him with ‘a great opportunity’ to learn more about some of the programs available to those suffering from substance abuse.
Managed alcohol programs give alcoholics set amounts of liquor throughout the day as part of a harm reduction strategy.
It’s designed for people with severe addictions who might otherwise hurt themselves by ingesting harmful materials like cleaning products to get their fix.
The program also has its fair share of critics though, who say the practice is counterintuitive and a way of giving up on people with drinking problems.
In an interview with Moose FM, Abernethy said he’s committed to a sobering centre in the NWT capital first and foremost.
Once that happens, he says it makes sense to try and get a managed alcohol program off the ground as well.
Yellowknife’s Safe Harbour Day Shelter will soon be open 12 hours a day.
“We need to start somewhere and we’re going to start with a sobering centre then move into more of a day-based managed alcohol program at some point,” he said.
“Our first priority, first and foremost, is the safe sobering centre that we need to get established as quickly as possible so that people who are intoxicated have a safe place to go.
“I feel strongly that a MAP program and sobering centre can be tied together.”
In order for that to happen though, Abernethy says community partners have to work together.
The health department would also have to come up with a model that best suits Yellowknife, whether it be facility-based or day-based.
Abernethy says his department is working to secure a location for a sobering centre in hopes of opening one within this fiscal year.
Even though a sobering centre and managed alcohol program in Yellowknife could still be months away, Abernethy is convinced the need is there.
“We’re not talking about helping individuals be intoxicated, what we’re trying to do is help them attain some level of stability,” he said.
“We know there are individuals [in Yellowknife] who are severely addicted to alcohol and rely on other products and other mechanisms to get themselves intoxicated.
“Those individuals can benefit from a managed alcohol program.”