Opening Statement to News Conference—Addictions Prevention and Recovery Services in the Northwest Territories
2022 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly—Addictions Prevention and Recovery Services in the Northwest TerritoriesOpening Statement to News Conference
Jo Ann Schwartz, Principal, Office of the Auditor General of Canada—31 May 2022
Good afternoon. I want to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional unceded territory of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. I am in Yellowknife today to discuss our audit report on addictions prevention and recovery services in the Northwest Territories. This report was tabled by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly earlier today.
In this audit, we wanted to know whether the Department of Health and Social Services, the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority, and the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency provided addictions services to meet the needs of Northwest Territories residents.
Overall, this audit demonstrates a need for improvement in the addictions prevention and recovery services available to Northwest Territories residents. Addictions services are important in the Northwest Territories because addictions can have a far‑reaching impact on the lives and well‑being of individuals, families, and members of the broader community.
Although we found that the department and the 3 health authorities had taken steps to improve addictions services, they need to do more to provide residents with accessible, coordinated, and culturally safe addictions services.
For example, neither the department nor the 3 health authorities had determined how, in practice, they would fulfill the commitment to providing equitable access to addictions services for all residents across the territory. Therefore, it was not clear to us whether the differences in the availability of addictions services were deliberate or the result of deficiencies in the health and social services system.
We also found that neither the department nor the 3 health authorities did enough to ensure that addictions services were culturally safe for Indigenous residents. Given the legacy of colonization, having culturally safe services is critical to facilitating equitable access to services for Indigenous residents.
In addition, we found that aftercare services were limited. Many of the files we reviewed showed that individuals who had attended a treatment program in a facility did not get the aftercare services they needed to support their recovery goals once their treatment ended and they returned to their communities.
We also found that gaps remained in the coordination of addictions services, even though it has been 20 years since the department committed to better coordinating the health and social services system to improve access to services.
This is important because various organizations provide addictions services and because individuals can enter the system at different points. The system needs to be well coordinated to help individuals move through it.
Lastly, the audit found that neither the department nor the 3 health authorities knew whether their addictions services were effective in helping residents achieve their desired outcomes. We found that client outcomes were insufficiently measured and that data was not used to analyze trends to improve services.
The Department of Health and Social Services and the 3 health and social services authorities have agreed with all of our recommendations.
This concludes my opening statement. We are happy to answer your questions.