This is page numbers 5601 - 5648 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was public. View the webstream of the day's session.

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Question 736-18(3): Mental Health Services
Oral Questions

May 28th, 2019

Page 5627

Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Throughout this Assembly, we have started to see the significant impacts of maintaining good mental health. The de-stigmatization of mental health and the promotion of best practices, and the emphasis on culturally based healing, is becoming more apparent as we enter the era of reconciliation. Mr. Speaker, can the Minister of Health and Social Services tell me if the progressive features of this hospital, the Stanton Territorial Hospital, can be made towards the hospitals in the Beaufort Delta so that it's within reach of constituents in Nunakput? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 736-18(3): Mental Health Services
Oral Questions

Page 5627

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Question 736-18(3): Mental Health Services
Oral Questions

Page 5627

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Our commitment to cultural safety and culturally respectful healing is a system-wide endeavour, and the Health and Social Services system is making changes to service delivery to ensure that this commitment is reflected across the entire Northwest Territories. Yes, a number of activities have taken place in the new Stanton. We are hoping to learn from these initiatives to make sure that, where we can roll them out in different communities, we will. Some of them are infrastructure-related and may not be able to be done in hospitals that are already constructed, but, where we can actually implement some of the concepts and ideas, we certainly will do that.

Food services is certainly an example. We've been pretty creative about it during an ability to provide traditional foods in Stanton. That doesn't actually start until July 1st, but we brought in special freezers. We're doing training with our providers, and we found ways to make that happen, and we'll certainly learn from that and apply it where necessary.

Having said that, I do want to point out that the Inuvik Hospital is also continually improving its delivery of culturally relevant services and trying to incorporate local ideas and local concepts. They've tried really hard to bring in local art and make the place a little bit more welcoming to the local residents of the region, and they'll continue to do that. We're doing it at the territorial level. We'll take what we learn from Stanton and apply it where appropriate, but Inuvik is not waiting. They're doing things themselves, as well.

Question 736-18(3): Mental Health Services
Oral Questions

Page 5628

Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput

It's good to see that the Department of Health and Social Services is working with Indigenous governments and our federal government. Mr. Speaker, it takes funding from federal programs, and also, it takes implementation from the Government of the Northwest Territories, as that's where the majority of the capacity is when it comes to mental health and wellness. I appreciate the response from the Minister. My second question is: can the Minister tell me what health efforts have been provided to Stanton Territorial Hospital to address the underlying causes for mental health and suicide?

Question 736-18(3): Mental Health Services
Oral Questions

Page 5628

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Stanton is an acute care facility, so often, by the time an individual has shown up at Stanton, there is already a health issue under way, but we want to make sure that we're respectful. We want to make sure that we're supporting. To do that within Stanton itself, recognizing that it is an acute care facility, they have recently introduced the behavioural health work model, which is actually replacing the old standard security model in the psychiatric unit. A behaviour health worker is a non-professional staff member who has received focussed, job-specific training, and they are both intended to build relationships with our clients and intervene when aggression occurs, but the training also includes identifying early warning signs and escalation and de-escalation approaches and techniques and provide support to mental health clients. So they're not just seen as a uniform; they're there to actually support the individuals and provide some opportunities for discussion in addressing some of the issues.

This is, obviously, more aligned with the recovery-oriented model of care that is presented in the Mental Health Framework, so there are things in the hospital we're trying to do to better support our residents, as opposed to the old models that have been in place.

Now, as far as trying to address some of the underlying causes, that's not being done within Stanton. I think that's being done at a territorial level. It's a multi-department responsibility. We have a number of action plans we're moving forward with for youth and adults at a territorial level.

Question 736-18(3): Mental Health Services
Oral Questions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Oral questions. Member for Nunakput.

Question 736-18(3): Mental Health Services
Oral Questions

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Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the response information from the Minister. Mr. Speaker, during his statement yesterday, the Minister stated that Health and Social Services would focus on culturally appropriate food for patients at Stanton Territorial Hospital. Can the Minister give us a timeline of when this healthy initiative will be carried out in the Beaufort Region, as well as regional centres around the Northwest Territories? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 736-18(3): Mental Health Services
Oral Questions

Page 5628

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

This is an incredibly important area. I don't think there's a Member from a small community throughout the Northwest Territories, an MLA, who has not raised traditional foods as an issue. The designer of Stanton, the Health and Social Services Authority, has recognized the value in that, and we have taken steps to make sure that we can provide traditional foods in Stanton, and from there we can learn and develop opportunities to look at other locations.

Having said that, they're not serving traditional food today. The targeted rollout date of the availability of traditional foods, as I said earlier, remains July 1st at the new Stanton. The staff within are currently focussing on training of staff, and staffing up processes with the contractor, who is Dexterra. Stanton Indigenous wellness staff and Dexterra plan to visit the Whitehorse Hospital in mid-June to meet with their traditional foods program staff and learn everything they can from them, so that we can bring it back here. The implementation at Stanton will provide a model, as I said, for other facilities across the Northwest Territories, whether that's long-term care, regional health centres, anywhere that we are providing food. So we hope to see this grow out across the Northwest Territories, with Stanton being the kick-off. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Question 736-18(3): Mental Health Services
Oral Questions

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The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Oral questions. Member for Kam Lake.

Question 737-18(3): Mental Health Services for Youth
Oral Questions

Page 5629

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In my Member's statement, I talked about some of the work that our young parliamentarians did when they were here earlier this month on mental health. It was a very impassioned debate, and I think they offered a lot of things. Of course, our government has a Youth Mental Health Action Plan and there are some major changes to how mental health supports are offered in schools that were made in the last operational budget. I'm wondering if the Minister of Health and Social Services can speak to some of the concerns raised in the motion that was debated in Youth Parliament. The motion called for all high schools and communities having access to dedicated youth mental health specialists, and if the Minister could speak to whether or not that's been achieved and to whether or not the changes that were made have expanded and increased access to mental health supports for young people in the Northwest Territories in their schools. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 737-18(3): Mental Health Services for Youth
Oral Questions

Page 5629

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Question 737-18(3): Mental Health Services for Youth
Oral Questions

Page 5629

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Member is correct, we rolled out a Youth Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan last fiscal year. It's a four-year plan, including rolling out travelling youth counsellors, who are the professionals the Member is highlighting throughout the Northwest Territories, 49 positions over four years. We're in year two. We staffed up in the Tlicho and the Deh Cho last fiscal year. This year, we are staffing up in the Beaufort-Delta and the Sahtu region. Next fiscal year, we will be staffing up in Yellowknife, and the fourth year, we will be staffing up in the South Slave. I can tell you that it's my understanding that there is only one vacancy in the positions that were identified last fiscal year, and we are making good progress in staffing up for this fiscal year. The school year starts in September; that's when we're hoping to have the positions all in place. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 737-18(3): Mental Health Services for Youth
Oral Questions

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

That's great news, and I think that this is a really key initiative that young people are speaking out and speaking up on, and that's why we need to really pay attention to it. It sounds like we're making good progress.

They also brought forward the need for online mental health resources for youth to be made available, including online peer support and anonymous counselling options. In many ways, young people want to engage through mobile devices or by keeping their identity somewhat depersonalized. Does the department offer these services, or are these services offered in schools or some other mechanism that youth can access in the NWT?

Question 737-18(3): Mental Health Services for Youth
Oral Questions

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

I had an opportunity to sit in the gallery and listen to the youth parliamentarians during their debate, and it was great to be there, it was great to hear everything they had to say. I have to say, one of the things that I found unfortunate is many of the things they were talking about, including the ability to have some supports online and using tools that are useful to them, they didn't seem to recognize that they existed, which means we have failed to do our job to help get that information out to them.

What I can tell you is we have a significant number of supports that are available online to do exactly the types of things they were talking about. I've asked the department to reach out to youth to see if there is any opportunity to figure out how we get that message to them because, although we have these programs in place, many people don't seem to know.

I can give you an example of some of the types of things that we do have. The department does partner with the Kids Help Phone to promote services to NWT youth, so there is the 1-800 line, but on top of that there is live chat with Kids Help Phone counsellors. We have an informative website, including the Resources Around Me, which connects youth in need to local resources and more information that is available at a national level, things like the kidshelpphone.ca. There is a button on that link that connects to you Resources Around Me that articulates what is around you, what is in the Northwest Territories. There is also some text options. You can text to a crisis line, if that's the technology that you're comfortable with.

In addition to this work, the department is working towards the implementation of eMental Health options for NWT residents, including an app specifically for youth with depression or anxiety. I could keep going, Mr. Speaker. There is more, but I do take the Member's point, and I do take the point from the youth that they want it. If they don't know it exists, it doesn't matter that it does, and we need to do a better job of making sure that they're aware that it exists so that they can use it when they want it. So we'll be working to find a way to get that information into the youths' hands and technology.

Question 737-18(3): Mental Health Services for Youth
Oral Questions

Page 5629

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

The Minister has a reputation as a mind reader in some of these exchanges we have in question period, and that was my next question. I know that a lot of these supports are already there. We've seen them in business planning reviews; we've seen them in budget reviews, and it seems like a lot of the kids who came forward just didn't know about them. I know that all kids are connected, now, through online. My son has a Google account, and he is nine years old. So is there a way for the Minister to work with his colleagues in the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and the school boards to put some of these resources into those online learning materials that are already going on? So there could be an online resource when kids are going to the computer labs, when they're using their tablets, they can just access it right there, it's built in. Can the Minister work on that?