Is a relapse centre the best way to improve NWT addictions services?

As the GNWT launches a territory-wide survey of how its addictions recovery services perform, one MLA believes a “relapse centre” should be one option introduced.

Health minister Julie Green says the new survey will help to determine “what has worked, what has not, and what residents feel they need to support their recovery.”

The NWT’s practice of sending residents south for addictions treatment having closed its own facilities has been debated for years.


In the legislature on Friday, Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson introduced a new spin on that theme by suggesting the GNWT create a relapse centre for those recovering from substance abuse.

“One thing that I’ve heard from some of the people is that they’re looking for a place to go, whether it be for a day, an hour, a week, when they feel that they may relapse,” Simpson said.

“I would ask the minister of health if her department is willing to take a look at maybe identifying a centre or addressing that somehow, so people don’t have to leave the Northwest Territories when they feel like they’re going to relapse, but where they have a place to go, a safe place to go and get some treatment.” 

Green was keen on the suggestion, calling it a “promising way” of improving aftercare.

“That’s an interesting idea, and I understand the intent there, to sort-of have what they are now calling a ‘circuit breaker’ so that, if somebody has had a slip, rather than going back into a full 28-day treatment program, there would be a shorter and more immediate intervention,” she said.


Plea for public housing

Simpson also pressed ministers on the acquisition of more housing for Hay River during Friday’s sitting.

Told by housing minister Paulie Chinna that there are no plans for more public housing units in the town, Simpson pushed her to reconsider.

“Hay River is in dire need of housing for single families, for single people, for larger families,” Simpson said.


“People have been on the waiting list for up to three years.

“We have to look, I guess, outside of the box on this and figure out how to get more housing in there.”

Last March, NWT Housing Corporation data showed there were 71 Hay River residents on the public housing wait list.

Simpson suggested the private sector could construct units for lease back to the government as public housing.

A file photo of Paulie Chinna in October 2019. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A file photo of Paulie Chinna in October 2019. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Chinna said she was “quite interested” in exploring that option.

“Looking at this approach is different, and I would like to look at unique opportunities throughout the Northwest Territories,” she said. “If we have an opportunity with the private sector, I would like to take a look at that.”

Chinna added the corporation has been in contact with managers of the Hay River highrise, which has 122 apartments and is currently out of use.

The NWT government is examining the possibility of applying to the federal housing co-investment fund for cash to reopen the building.