Hay River’s health authority is introducing a new program designed to help residents affected by addiction following a reported escalation of drug activity and drug-related deaths last year.
The Hope for Families program is an attempt to fill gaps in services and resources brought up at a town-hall meeting in November, said Monica Piros, the health authority’s director of child, family and community wellness.
At multiple meetings in the fall, some residents described a feeling of losing their community to drugs. Town politicians say several residents lost their lives in drug-related circumstances over the past two years.
During November’s town hall, Piros recalled a resident standing up and asking: “What services are in place for people impacted by addiction?”
“We realized, oh, well, not much actually,” Piros told Cabin Radio on Wednesday, “so we sat down and put together an outline for this group very quickly after that.”
Piros said the program does not seek to eliminate addiction but provide residents with goals and coping mechanisms when they are affected.
“For many people, complete abstinence may not be a realistic goal,” she said.
“What we’re hoping to do is save lives. We want to help people understand that they’re not alone. We want to normalize mental health and we want to try to help families stay together.”
According to Piros, each week at Hope for Families could look different, with participants given a say in the types of support offered.
“We have an outline for topics that are helpful for people to know about, including evidence-based practices for what the most effective treatment looks like,” Piros explained.
“But we see that some flexibility is needed to organically evolve the curriculum. For example, yesterday ended up being more of a talking circle.
“I think flexibility is necessary with things changing so quickly and more people being impacted by addiction.”
Since starting her role a year ago, Piros said she has noticed a lot of discussion of hurt felt following the closure of the Nats’ejee K’eh treatment centre, which operated at the Kátł’odeeche First Nation until its closure in 2013.
Hope for Families cannot replace a treatment centre, she said, but she hopes residents can utilize the resources and work with the child, family and community wellness team to find supports that work.
“There’s this perception that those of us who come from the south are here for the money and we don’t practice holistically,” said Piros.
“Those are outdated notions. I have a very diverse team and we want people to understand that we’re incorporating that holistic approach to how we’re working with our clients.”
Hope for Families will run every Tuesday from 7-9pm at Hay River’s Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre.