In the midst of what is being called a “public health epidemic,” $40 million is being dedicated to upgrade First Nations treatment centres throughout B.C.
It is hoped the money, provided equally by the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and the provincial government will revitalize First Nations-run treatment centres.
The funding was announced by Grand Chief Doug Kelly, Chair of the First Nations Health Council (FNHC), and Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, at the First Nations Primary Care, Mental Health and Wellness Summit in Vancouver.
“This treatment centre upgrade allows us to upgrade our facilities and upgrade our service delivery in the midst of one of the most urgent public health epidemics in recent memory,” said Kelly. “The extra beds will create hope, save lives and give people help on their healing journey. We must combine traditional healing with the best of western medicine.”
The province and FNHA are contributing $20 million each to build two new urban treatment centres and to renovate others. These centres provide mental health and substance abuse services for First Nations members.
Elders and traditional healers are directly involved in patient care, in First Nations led facilities, working alongside doctors, nurses and addictions specialists. The new and updated centres will also feature programs for women and those who identify as transgender.
“I have heard from First Nations across B.C. about the urgent need for culturally safe treatment centres in urban and rural communities to support people on their healing journeys,” said Darcy. “Our partnership with the First Nations Health Authority is about ensuring that First Nations are in the driver’s seat with the resources to support mental health and wellness.”
As well as this funding, $30 million was announced by the Government of Canada, B.C. and the FNHC in May 2018, last year, to support Nation-based approaches to the design and delivery of mental health and wellness services.
“This is the first significant investment in First Nations treatment centres for a generation,” said M. Colleen Erickson, chair, FNHA Board of Directors. “These upgrades are critical to the health and wellness of our communities, especially in the midst of the opioid epidemic. The trauma of colonialism continues to affect us deeply, and these centres are a big part of the solution.”
The shifting sands of drug abuse, have impacted the type of care required, and the money is seen as providing facilities able to meet the current needs of patients.
“With the onset of the opioid crisis, our programming model has had to change,” said Marlene Isaac, Executive Director, Round Lake Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centre. “Individuals with concurrent addictions and/or long-time drug use require longer treatment and recovery programs. Fentanyl and carfentanyl may make it unsafe for them to go home after just five or six weeks of treatment. Therefore, we now offer a 12-week treatment program. The additional time allows us to offer a much more intensive program.”