A million in federal funding to fight substance use issues

Drugs seized at Fort Gary Apartments
A file photo of drugs seized at Fort Gary Apartments. Photo courtesy of the RCMP.
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The GNWT received federal funding to help the territory deal with its substance use issues.

Health minister Julie Green and federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller announced $1 million in funding, stretched out over five years for various measures to help address problematic substance use through the Northern Wellness Agreement.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller (left centre) pictured meeting with the president of the Norman Wells Land Corporation back in 2019. Photo by Emelie Peacock/100.1 Moose FM.

The money will support the territorial government engaging with various stakeholders, including local non-governmental organizations and “integrating the views and priorities of Indigenous Governments and communities in decision making.”

The cost per person of substance abuse in the NWT was $2,329, more than double the national average $1,081, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addictions. 

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In the health department’s annual report released earlier in November, substance use was highlighted as a serious issue for the territory. Hospitalizations because of substance use has steadily increased in the past 15 years, according to that report.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing substance abuse,” Green said in a statement. “It is only by working with Indigenous governments and communities on a coordinated approach to take action on alcohol and substance misuse that we will be able to see progress on addressing this serious public health issue.”

The territory’s substance use issues take a variety of forms.

In the territory, 47% of males and 39% of females report heavy drinking at least once per month — consuming four or more drinks on one occasion for females and five or more drinks on one occasion for males. This is significantly higher than the 2018 national average of 19.1 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

Cocaine continues to be the illicit drug of choice for survey respondents, with 16 per cent of people having ever used cocaine.

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Hallucinogens are also popular, according to the GNWT, with more than a quarter of those surveyed having tried them.

The percentage of Northwest Territory residents who smoke increased to more than 35 per cent, according to the health department’s annual report.

“Problematic substance use has devastating effects on individuals, families and communities,” Miller said in a statement. “We recognize that the most successful strategies include elements of prevention, treatment and harm reduction, and are guided by the needs identified by the clients and communities they serve.”

The feedback and responses gathered from the territory’s discussions with stakeholders will help support the development of a territorial alcohol strategy.

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