New addictions centre in Northern Quebec to focus on treating whole family

The new regional recovery centre and the corresponding programming will cost around $40.5 million. (Submitted by Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre)
The Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre is breaking ground on a new addictions treatment centre in Nunavik this month.

The official ground-breaking ceremony will take place at the end of August.

The organization is just finalizing its funding agreement with Infrastructure Canada to round out the $40.5 million it will need to build the new centre and fund the corresponding programming.

It’s received federal, provincial and regional funding for the project, which will treat trauma and addiction, according to the organization’s executive director Alicia Aragutak.

“The cost of doing nothing … that’s very, very expensive,” said Aragutak. “So having a dedicated team that sincerely believes in the project … is very key.”

Isuarsivik has been serving the 14 communities in Nunavik — the Inuit region of Northern Quebec — for 25 years.

The Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre currently operates out of this building, which Aitchison says is one of the oldest in Kuujjuaq. (Submitted by the Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre)

Its current building is one of the oldest in Kuujjuaq, according to the board’s vice chair, Mary Aitchison. It’s an old U.S. military building from the 1940s.

Right now, it offers six-week inpatient treatment that blends clinical work with cultural counselling, including on-the-land activities like berry picking, fishing and hunting.

The current building lets it host nine participants at a time, and the sessions run throughout the year, alternating between all-female participants and all-male participants.

Whole family treatment

The new building is part of a larger development plan for the organization developed in 2016. It will have room for 22 participants, with room for a daycare and school room, so attendees can bring their families.

“When you come to a recovery centre, then you go back to your family. It’s very, very difficult to reintegrate yourself because you haven’t gone through the program together,” Aitchison said.

The plan shifts treatment to be more trauma-informed as well, helping attendees process trauma from colonial policies, including residential schools.

Including family, trauma and expanding on-the-land counselling will extend the inpatient treatment to 8-week sessions.

“When we learn about our history we often deal with just the negative impact, but we also touch upon our resilience and that’s why bringing back a family program is very natural. It was the family unit that provided for us traditionally,” Aitchison said.

Aragutak says as they begin to offer family treatment, they will expand their services to have more youth-centred counselling.

The centre has 17 staff right now, and plans to build up to 43 by the time the new centre opens.

Aitchison says Inuit staff are what makes the centre successful. She says on-the-land programs are difficult to translate into a second language, and the staff makes the effort to translate clinical addictions counselling into Inuktitut.

Construction has begun on Isuarsivik’s new recovery centre. It’s set to be completed by 2021. (Submitted by Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre)

Isuarsivik is also piloting a continuing care plan for participants with the eventual goal of a liaison person in each Nunavik community to follow-up on treatment plans.

The organization is working with the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services to find housing and office space in each community.

Aragutak says Isuarsivik will announce more as the programs gear up.

Right now, the centre is in its earliest stages. Electricity is being connected to the site and a road is being built to the new building which will look out over the Koksoak River.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Study gives Canada’s northern territories failing grades on curbing alcohol harms, CBC News

Sara Frizzell, CBC News

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