New Treatment Facility offers life line to improve Inuit wellness

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Out on the land excursions, one of the activities offered by the alcohol and drug treatment and recovery facility. © Carson Tagoona

Isuarsivik, a Nunavik community organization committed to alcohol and drug treatment and recovery, received an eight and a half million-dollar commitment from the Quebec Government last March towards construction of a new regional recovery centre in Kuujjuaq. Isuarsivik also secured contributions from Makivik Corporation and the Kativik Regional Government (KRG) totalling two million dollars.

The current facility, Isuarsivik, which has been operating for more than 20 years, is too small and outdated to meet the demand for treatment and recovery in Nunavik.

Sadly, it is forced to turn away more people seeking recovery and treatment than it accepts. In January 2018, Isuarsivik launched an ambitious program to raise 22 million dollars to build a new modern 22-bed treatment facility. The fundraising campaign is engaging private corporations, individuals and other foundations as well as the federal government, which has yet to commit financially despite repeated support gestures.

Ice fishing, just one of the activities that are offered to clients of Isuarsivik. © Carson Tagoona

Isuarsivik Chairman, Dave Forrest, a Kuujjuaq businessman and long-time resident says, “the goal is to expand from our current centre, which is an old and overcrowded military barracks built in the 1950s into a new facility that both recognizes the magnitude of the alcohol and drug crisis gripping our communities and gives us the resources to recover from the trauma that fuels it.”

The projected cost of the new facility is 32 million dollars. It will be built on the northeast edge of the community on a rock outcrop overlooking the Koaksoak River. This physical environment and proximity to nature will support the mental and cultural components of treatment and recovery. The land has been secured after extensive negotiations with the local Municipality and the Nayumivik Land Holding Corporation.

As important as offering treatment and providing a life line to hundreds of people now suffering, by its very existence, this new facility will demonstrate the region and Governments’ commitment towards supporting Nunavummiut on their path to recovery and overcoming the effect of alcohol and drug abuse.

The 6.1-million-dollar operating budget has been secured through commitments from Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) via its community sector support program and the Ungaluk Safer Communities Program administered by the Kativik Regional Government and Makivik Corporation.

The new facility will have a staff of 40 with facilities and structured programs to accommodate families and address the extent a whole family can be affected by the addiction of one or more of its members.

An ambitious training program was undertaken in 2017 in collaboration with the NRBHSS to ensure a capable and trained Inuit workforce is ready when the building is completed.

Isuarsivik has also achieved the first level of certification with Accreditation Canada and is in the final step of securing the accreditation status from the Government of Quebec.

Isuarsivik is encouraged that organizations and the Governments recognize the terrible social, mental and economic costs that drug and alcohol abuse is having on Nunavik communities.

“Everyone also accepts the increasing abuse will continue unless we make major investments in treatment, recovery and education,” says Forrest.

“The support from the Québec Government is so gratifying and important,” says Forrest, adding the Sociètè du Plan Nord has played a crucial role in securing provincial participation.

“We are hopeful that Canada’s Government and its departments will soon walk their talk on reconciliation and improving Inuit wellness.”

Isuarsivik is heartened by the commitment made by Kuujjuaq Mayor Tunu Narpartuk to support the initiative. Mayor Narpartuk joined the fundraising initiative announcement at the Northern Lights Trade Show and Conference in Ottawa this past January.

“This project is an investment in all of Nunavik. What’s more,” added Mayor Narpartuk, “I am committed to join and promote this fundraising initiative. It’s vital for our communities that this facility be built as soon as possible.”

Isuarsivik has charitable status, which means donations are tax deductible.

You can visit www.isuarsivik.ca to learn more about this project and donate.