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Addictions pilot project goes forward
Youth program to be held this summer in the Deh Cho

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 6, 2014

The development of a pilot project that will offer an on-the-land program focused on addictions intervention for youth is on schedule.

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Approximately 60 people participated in the Deh Cho Youth On the Land Addictions Planning Gathering in Fort Simpson in October. The pilot project is still on track to hold a program in the Deh Cho this summer focused on addictions intervention for youth. - NNSL file photo

Last October, the Department of Health and Social Services ran the Deh Cho Youth On the Land Addictions Planning Gathering in Fort Simpson to discuss, with people from around the region, the feasibility of running a program in 2014 and what the project should look like if it moved ahead. The program will be offered in the early summer of this year, possibly late June or July, said Andy Langford, the director of territorial social programs with the department.

Since the gathering, planning work has been done, including the creation of a tentative program. In the next one or two months, a request for proposals is expected to be released to identify someone who can do the detailed day to day organization and planning for the event, Langford said.

The program is expected to last two to three weeks and include youth who are at risk of developing addictions issues or who are already in the early stages of experiencing addictions. Langford said it hasn't been decided yet how the participants will be chosen. The number of participants will be based, in part, on the program's budget.

The department is in the process of striking a steering committee that will oversee the pilot project. Every Deh Cho community will be asked to suggest a member for the committee, he said.

The location of the program is expected to be decided by the committee. Participants in the gathering had lots of ideas for locations, but costs and logistics will have to be factored in the decision, Langford said.

The committee will also help develop the terms of reference for the request for proposals. Depending on what is received, different organizations may be put in charge of different aspects of the program, including logistical operations, the healing component, land-based activities and the spiritual and cultural aspects.

"It will be a combination of approaches," he said about how traditional and Western components of healing will be integrated in the program.

The Dehcho Health and Social Services Authority is now taking the lead on the pilot project, with support from the department, and has dedicated a staff member to the program for the next six months.

"We need somebody on the ground in the Deh Cho," Langford said.

Langford couldn't comment on the budget for the pilot project because it is part of the department's 2014-15 operating budget that won't go before the legislative assembly until this month or next. The department is "very excited" to be developing this program, he said.

The project is being created as a result of the Minister's Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness. Members of the forum traveled to NWT communities to ask what is and isn't working when addressing addictions and mental health issues, and what needs to be done next.

The program responds to the two top recommendations, which were to provide on-the-land healing opportunities and to provide more opportunities for youth to address addictions issues.

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