Hay River North
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker the upcoming legalization of cannabis has sparked a lot of discussion about addictions and addictions treatment. That is not surprising, given our staggering rates of substance abuse in the NWT and the fact that many of us either see or feel the effects of addictions on a regular basis.
However, we must recognize that, while addiction is a problem, it is also a symptom of an underlying issue. If an individual feels a need to escape reality through drugs or alcohol on such a regular basis that he or she develops an addiction, there is a reason behind that need. There is something else driving that need.
Unfortunately, those driving forces, the mental health issues that lead to addiction, are often hidden. However, the impacts of mental health issues can be very real. Addiction is just one potential outcome. Suicide is another, as many Northerners know all too well. Even when the impacts are not this extreme, they can still be debilitating, life-altering, and affect people's emotional, physical, and economic well-being. Mental health issues can prevent people from holding a job, from maintaining adequate housing, and from having healthy relationships.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to think that this isn't news to people. I would like to think that everyone here is well-aware of these facts. However, the mental health supports available to the people of the NWT, and Hay River in particular, make me think otherwise. The government often pays lip service to mental health issues and produces many frameworks, strategies, and action plans with the best of intentions, but since I have been in office, I have seen little come from these efforts in terms of what is happening on the ground in Hay River. The wait list for community counselling in Hay River is still months long. They simply don't have the resources to keep up with the demand, meaning that many of the people who need treatment never end up receiving it. What happens to those people? Many trudge on and make it through each day, suffering quietly. Others may see their symptoms worsen and develop into a substance abuse problem, at which point the GNWT will step in to help.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I would like to see this government become more proactive and less reactive, so they are not forced to react to situations that could have been avoided in the first place. I would like to see this government pay the same heed to the state of our human infrastructure as it does to our capital infrastructure. I will have questions for the Minister of Health at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.