Mr. Speaker, a key priority of this government is to make sure that NWT residents have access to the right tools and supports that they can choose from to help overcome addiction issues and poor mental health. As a government, we are committed to ensuring that our residents have as many options as possible to help them move forward on their path towards wellness.
The updated Action Plan, Pathways to Wellness, which I will be tabling later today, combines the actions contained in the 2012 action plan, A Shared Path Towards Wellness with the recommendations from Healing Voices, the report of the Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness. It reflects actions the Department of Health and Social Services has committed to undertaking over the next two years and describes our progress to date. It describes how we will better utilize our $23 million dollar budget that supports mental health and addictions programs.
Pathways to Wellness continues our commitment towards strengthening service delivery by focusing on the following four goals:
- Promoting Understanding, Awareness and Acceptance;
- Focusing on the Client;
- Improving the Availability of and Access to Services; and
- Improving the Effectiveness of Services
Mr. Speaker, a key element in the updated action plan is more addictions programs based in Aboriginal culture and spirituality. This reflects the top priority identified by the Minister’s Forum, which recommended the establishment of on-the-land-healing programs for both youth and adults. The Department has partnered with Aboriginal governments for three different on-the-land pilot programs this year, and the lessons learned will be used to expand these programs to other regions of the NWT. The Main Estimates includes additional funding of $900 thousand dollars for this purpose.
Addictions and mental health issues impact not just individuals, their families and communities, but also affect our justice system. The updated Action Plan identifies the need to establish wellness courts for individuals who are battling mental illness. Rather than sending them through the criminal justice system, where they don’t receive the right support, these specialized courts will refer them to the appropriate services based in their community.
Mr. Speaker, over the past two years we have streamlined our services to cut down on wait times for residential treatment by establishing a more efficient referral process.
We are using not only traditional media but have also added social media to raise awareness and have an online dialogue with youth and families about substance abuse, addictions and treatment options. A great example of this is the new Feel Real Radio show, which broadcasts across the NWT every Thursday night on CKLB radio.
We still have a long way to go. It will take a collaborative effort from government departments, Aboriginal governments and agencies, and community groups to help realize our Assembly’s vision of strong individuals, families and communities.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.