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Funding cut (to National Addictions Awareness Week).

ST. ALBERT, Alta.

Within three years, National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW) organizers expect the program to have gone cold turkey on government funding. By that time, two funding programs -- one dealing with First Nations on-reserve and Inuit communities and the other with off-reserve Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities -- will be completely discontinued. Organizers sent out an open letter in late August detailing the cuts and strategies to keep the program alive in the face of them.

The core funding for the week has already been drastically cut, with the latter program cut to zero for the fiscal year 1996-97. The on-reserve and Inuit program will be cut by 10 per cent in 1996-97, 33 per cent in 1997-98, 50 per cent in 1998-99 and completely discontinued the following year.

Week organizers have made some difficult decisions to keep the program alive. While materials will be provided to all at no cost for the 1996 campaign, which runs up to the week of Nov. 17 to 23, materials for next year's campaign will be provided gratis only to on-reserve communities and Inuit communities; off-reserve Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities will have to pay for them in 1997.

"We've outlined the worst case scenario in the letter," said Louise Mayo, assistant director of the Nechi Institute responsible for their health promotions and publications division, "and it may be that, with corporate sponsorship or donations, we won't have to charge them fully for the material, but we couldn't count on that, and still can't."

Mayo holds out hope that corporations will step up when they're needed.

"One of the realities that we're faced with -- along with dozens of other agencies -- is that Health Canada, from whom we've received funding for the last eight years, is going through a decentralization," Mayo said. "More authority is going to the regional and provincial levels, and national programs are going to have to negotiate with each of them for funding in the future."

The National Addictions Awareness Week has dodged an immediate and complete cut to funding because federal authorities felt that the program was very positive, so it has been given a three-year weaning period or sunset clause, during which time the funding will be progressively cut, eventually to zero. Nechi therefore has three years in which to replace the government funding with money from other sources.

"The first six months of the year [1997], we're going to strategize," Mayo said. "This year, we decided to give everyone notice, and to use the three-year sunset clause to approach individuals and corporations for sponsorship. We've experimented with some services for a fee, but no decisions have been made. We will strongly support the materials continuing to be available but some may necessarily be on a fee-for-service basis.

"The sunset clause, which has been agreed to by all nine regions, will allow NAAW to keep going while negotiating with the provinces and regional offices to see if they can contribute to the continuation of NAAW," she continued. "The National Native Role Model Program is in the same situation. The reality is that the federal government is facing broad funding cuts."

Those funding cuts have hit NAAW's other component more severely. The funding for off-reserve and non-Aboriginal communities has been cut to zero this year, but it came from a different source.

"That funding came from Canada's Drug Strategy and the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy," Mayo said, "and it's been re-filtered into a new department called Population Health. We've had an almost even balance between on-reserve and off-reserve services, but the funding to off-reserve has always been on a year-to-year basis. We've been unsuccessful in getting a continuation in the funding."

This in spite of other federal agencies going out of their bureaucratic way to help out, in terms of support and efforts to secure better funding.

"This year -- they, too, have seen the tremendous impact that NAAW has had -- the federal government has been terribly supportive," Mayo said. "They haven't been making this an us-against-them situation. It's been very positive in that they've given us time to react and maybe solve the problems we have with funding."
COPYRIGHT 1996 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:R. John Hayes
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Nov 1, 1996
Words:687
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