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Glen Abernethy – Response to Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness

Mr. Speaker, the 17th Legislative Assembly identified the need to enhance addictions treatment programs as a key priority. Our government is committed to making sure that NWT residents have the tools and support they need to overcome their addictions challenges. Addictions is linked to poverty and to educational achievement. Addictions can affect parents’ ability to care for their children and meet their needs. Their impact goes well beyond the individual. Families, communities and even our economy can be affected. Mr. Speaker, we asked twelve respected community leaders to come together, to travel to communities, and to learn from our people’s experience of what solutions are most effective in this battle against addictions. I want to thank Mr. Paul Andrew, the Chair of the Forum, and all the members for their efforts. After the Minister’s Forum completed its work last year, 67 recommendations were put forward in the final report on how to move ahead with a plan of action to help people heal and recover from addictions. Many of these recommendations perfectly align with what is already laid out in our Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan, A Shared Path Towards Wellness. The report also identified a need for new services and approaches. Initiatives that focus on spiritual and cultural healing are being incorporated into our approach to mental health and addiction service delivery. We are also focusing on the need for streamlined intake and fast turn-around in accessing treatment services.

Glen Abernethy – Anti-Poverty Roundtable and Next Steps

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to this Assembly’s goal of helping our residents become healthy, educated people free from poverty. A strong territory needs a strong society and all residents of the NWT should have the chance to enjoy the benefits of living in a prosperous, well-governed territory and to participate fully in a healthy, just society. Last June, I was pleased to table the Anti-Poverty Strategic Framework: Building on the Strengths of Northerners. This important document represents input from key stakeholders and was an important first step. Later today, I will table in the House, the GNWT’s initial response to the Framework. Our government’s Anti-Poverty Action Plan outlines the commitments we will make, starting immediately, to improve our response to poverty in the NWT. Our Action Plan includes investments of $2.6 million. This new funding will support day shelter programs in Yellowknife and Inuvik, and to build new housing units in four small communities for residents who may need additional support. It will see $1 million in new spending every year to provide nutritious food directly to children and youth through established programs. This demonstrates our government’s commitment to taking leadership in the reduction of poverty in our territory, and will form a part of the Territorial Action Plan which will include actions by all sectors and all regions of the NWT. But this is only a start. We have always recognized that this government can’t tackle this issue alone. We need to partner with communities, Aboriginal governments, non-government organizations and business.

Glen Abernethy – Early Childhood Development Action Plan

Mr. Speaker, this Assembly’s vision of healthy, educated people contributing to a strong and prosperous Northern society starts in early childhood. The Departments of Education, Culture and Employment and Health and Social Services have worked collaboratively to craft a renewed Early Childhood Development Action Plan based on best practices, national and international research, and the wisdom of our Elders. This Action Plan is the companion document to the Early Childhood Development Framework tabled in May 2013, and we will be tabling it later today. The Framework identified the need to emphasize the whole family, improve and expand existing services, and improve communication and awareness of available services. It also identified the need for qualified and dedicated staff, culturally appropriate services and in some cases, increased funding. The Framework built on existing successful programs, including the Healthy Family Program.

Tom Beaulieu – Aboriginal Health and Wellness

Mr. Speaker, this Assembly is committed to a goal of healthy, educated people free from poverty. Improving the health status of the Aboriginal population in the Northwest Territories is one way the Department of Health and Social Services is accomplishing that goal. Clearly, if we want to make meaningful change, we have to focus our efforts on the areas of greatest need. We must stop designing “one size fits all” solutions and start listening to communities about what will work. Aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories are suffering from an increased burden of chronic diseases and the trends are worsening. Their cancer rates are higher, Type 2 Diabetes is a growing concern, and they are more likely to be hospitalized for mental health or addictions related issues.