Communities and organizations in the Northern Health region now have extra support to expand local overdose response and awareness efforts through a provincial grant program.
“People living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities are best equipped to address the overdose crisis on the ground in their communities,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I’m grateful for the wisdom and expertise of community leaders whose innovative projects are making a difference during two public health emergencies.”
The grant recipients are Unlocking the Gates, Coalition of Substance Users of the North, Fort Nelson First Nation, Tsay Keh Dene Nation, Niislaa Naay Healing House Society, McLeod Lake, Takla Nation, Society for Narcotic Opioid Wellness, Dudes Club Society, and Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society.
People in rural and remote areas face obstacles when it comes to accessing substance-use services. Geographic remoteness may mean longer travel distances to access health care and treatment, and access to Naloxone and harm reduction services can be limited in areas with low populations.
Through the grants, actions such as connecting people to life-saving supports, reducing stigma, developing harm reduction policies, relationship building and knowledge sharing will be funded.
First Nations people and Indigenous communities are over-represented when it comes to overdose deaths and an increasingly toxic drug supply has magnified the impact of the overdose crisis. Data from January to October 2020 shows First Nations people died from overdose at a rate 5.5 times higher than other residents in B.C.
These funds are intended to address these inequities by supporting community groups, service providers and Indigenous-led organizations to carry out local actions specific to the needs of their community. More than $1 million in grants are being distributed to 23 rural, remote and Indigenous communities and organizations throughout B.C.
Equitable access to culturally safe and effective substance-use care is a key component of A Pathway to Hope: B.C.’s roadmap to creating a system of mental health and addictions care that works for everyone.
The funds are being administered by the Community Action Initiative and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The grants build off the work done at the 2019 Rural and Indigenous Overdose Exchange to address the overdose crisis at the local level.
Jennifer Rice, MLA for North Coast –
“Indigenous people and those who live in rural and remote areas will now have more overdose and addiction supports close to home. This funding will help reduce the barriers people often face when trying to access substance use services.”
Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –
“Intergenerational trauma stemming from a history of colonization and racism has given way to a terrible reality that Indigenous peoples continue to be disproportionally impacted by the overdose crisis in the province. This crisis has only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new funding will help those struggling connect with community-led, culturally appropriate programs, which is vital to support recovery and promote healing.”
Mel Bazil, alcohol and drug counselor, Dze Ḻ K’ant Friendship Centre Society –
“Persons who use substances and alcohol, and people in their circles, will greatly benefit from the Rural & Remote Indigenous Overdose Grant from the Community Action Initiative because the opposite of addiction is connection, and the physical restrictions from this global pandemic impede that need. Our people require connection in this time and this grant can help that happen. A peer-run Peer/Client Space that will provide counselling space for patrons and two confidential soundproof meeting pods to conduct Zoom, Skype, telephone, voicemail and email for the purpose of encouraging connection.This opportunity will also support the work being done to end stigmas and pressures on people who use substances. A Peer Lead space that ensures confidentiality and self regulation will encourage the longer-term changes needed to end the stigmas on people who choose to use substances.”
Roberta Dendys, health director, Fort Nelson First Nation –
“Our community has mourned the loss of too many loved ones in the last year to overdoses. The grant will significantly impact our journey to healing as a community with the ability to provide extra supports; we will be empowering a Fort Nelson First Nation community member to provide outreach services. We are grateful for the opportunity and hopeful of what may come.”
Jo-Anna Johnston, grant and proposal writer, McLeod Lake Indian Band –
“We are overjoyed to receive funding for the Rural, Remote and Indigenous Overdose Grant for our outreach project, and we are hopeful for the strong impact this can make on our community. This support person will be of great assistance to help us to increase our services to our Band members in the areas of overdose prevention services, acute overdose risk case management, treatment and recovery, cultural safety and humility, and addressing stigma and shame. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit our Band and we have lost three precious Elders since the time we submitted this application. And though the vaccinations are increasing in the community, the unknown future of the pandemic remains a major stressor for many Band members, especially those with pre or existing addictions. This funding is vital for us to increase our ability to serve those suffering from addictions. Please accept our gratitude for these funds and the difference they will make to our current program and the increased capacity to support expanded services, spiritual and Indigenous healing practices and new creative solutions.”
A Pathway to Hope – B.C.’s roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better for everyone: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/initiatives-plans-strategies/mental-health-and-addictions-strategy/bcmentalhealthroadmap_2019web-5.pdf
Building Pathways Forward Together – report from the 2019 Rural and Indigenous Overdose Exchange: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/overdose-awareness/rural-indigenous-overdose-action-exchange.pdf