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The multi-million dollar treatment facility on Dettah Road has gone unused for many years. It has five buildings, including a garage, two cottages, an office and a 1,070 square foot main building. - Daniel Campbell/NNSL photo

Yellowknife's treatment facility goes unused
Housing corp looks to sell off overgrown complex

Daniel Campbell
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 30, 2013

The Nats'ejee Keh Treatment Centre in Hay River, the last addictions treatment facility in the Northwest Territories, is closing its doors for good on Monday.

As the Hay River facility shuts down with an uncertain future, Yellowknifers might remember another treatment centre outside their own city, gone unused for years.

Hidden behind the woods at kilometre six of Dettah Road, perched above a small lake, Somba K'e Lodge was built in 1991 by Northern Addictions Services (NAS) with the assistance of the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation.

The original cost to build the facility was $2.95 million, or $4.3 million in today's money, according to the Bank of Canada. The facility could house up to 28 patients at a time and offered full-time addictions treatment and counselling. The majority of NAS' funding came from the Department of Health and Social Services.

But in July 1999, the department pulled its funding of the facility, describing it as "underused" and "in need of reprogramming," according to an article that ran in Yellowknifer at the time. NAS began looking for other programming to run at the facility, such as an aboriginal offender treatment program. Its efforts were unsuccessful and NAS' mortgage on the facility fell into arrears. "Burden on taxpayers"

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation took over the property in 1999. It has retained ownership ever since. The five buildings, totalling 1,442 square metres of space, have been mostly unused since then.

The main building, at 1,070 square metres, has 14 double rooms, a central kitchen and other common areas. There are also two self-contained cabins with their own kitchens. A garage and maintenance building greets visitors as they follow the path to the facility, while a larger office building lays at the end of the path.

What those buildings could be used for is up to anyone with enough imagination -- and cash.

Revi Lau-a, spokesperson for the corporation, stated there has been interest in the facility, but wouldn't say who wants to buy.

"Disposal by sale is an option for the NWTHC. As such, the NWTHC would not want to prejudice any negotiations with interested parties by providing their names or the purpose of their proposed purchase," Lau-a stated in an e-mail to News/North.

Lau-a stated the property was valued at around $1.2 million in March 2011.

The NWT Housing Corporation pays about $28,000 a year to keep the abandoned facility running.

Daryl Dolynny, MLA for Range Lake, said the Hay River treatment facility might suffer a similar fate as the one in Yellowknife.

"Now they've become inventory and potentially a burden on taxpayers," Dolynny said.

The Hay River facility will fall under the responsibility of the Department of Public Works and Services, according to Health and Social Services Minister Tom Beaulieu.

He said the facility also sits on band land, so the government will be negotiating with local Dene to decide what to use it for.

When asked what ideas he had for Nats'ejee Keh, Beaulieu said "I dont' know," noting it is a beautiful building with many potential uses.

Losing facilities and minds

Dolynny said the ramifications of keeping both facilities closed could be severe.

"We have a double-edged sword. Not only are we losing a facility, but the very people who have made a life up here," he said. "A lot of people forget this is the second time in a short history that we've closed a treatment facility."

The closure of the Hay River facility means around 16 health care jobs are lost.

"If we ever reactivate this program in the future, what message are we going to send to this community of health care workers? It doesn't bode well."

Dolynny, who is also a health professional, said there is an obvious need for treatment facilities in the NWT. While he says the "on-the-land" and "mobile" treatment programs offered by the health department are necessary, he asserts treatment facilities should be a top priority.

"Two failed attempts tells me we've done something wrong. The community and the public have been asking for more in the NWT and here we are removing them," Dolynny said.

By Sept. 30 the Northwest Territories will have two fully-functioning, yet abandoned treatment centre facilities, with space for 58 people in need of addictions counselling.

NNSL photo/graphic

Retrospective The Dettah Road Treatment Facility

  • 1991: Built by Northern Addictions Services for about $3 million
  • 1991-1999: Facility delivers addictions counselling and treatment to patients from across the North
  • July 1999: Government pulls funding, NWT Housing Corp. takes over property
  • 1999-2003: NWT Housing Corp. leases part of facility to Somba K'e Healing Foundation
  • May 2003: Somba K'e Healing Foundation doesn't pay rent, NWT Housing takes over full facility
  • 2003-2008: Facility is unused
  • 2008-2012: Det'on Cho Corporation leases facility to use it as a trades training centre
  • Jan. 2012 present: Facility is unused
(Information courtesy of NWT Housing Corp.)

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