BLACK PRESS FILE PHOTO The province has responded to the Overdose/Opioid Public Health Emergency.

Province gives FNHA $20 million to combat overdose emergency

The funding will support community-driven solitions

The Province of B.C. will provide the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) with $20 million over three years to support First Nations communities and Indigenous Peoples to address the ongoing impacts of the overdose public health emergency.

The funding will be administered by FNHA and provided to frontline service providers and First Nations communities to support work already underway, and develop new community-driven approaches and solutions.

“In my role as Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, I have heard from people about the heartbreaking toll that the overdose crisis is taking on First Nations communities throughout B.C,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “ We know that these devastating losses are part of a much larger problem that has roots in colonization, dispossession of lands and resources, inter-generational trauma, racism and stigmatization. Together with the First Nations Health Authority, the funding announced today will help us to build a seamless and coordinated system of mental health and addictions services.”

Funding includes $4 million in 2017-18 to support activities falling within the four goal areas of the FNHA’s Framework for Action on Responding to the Overdose/Opioid Public Health Emergency for First Nations.

The funding will support immediate initiatives including: expansion to naloxone training for First Nations communities; peer to peer engagement to support persons using substances with better health care access and stigma reduction; increased access to opioid agonist therapy in rural and remote communities; and telehealth services to increase access to culturally safe pharmacy services.

$2.4 million of year one funding is supporting community-driven, Nation-based innovative and culturally relevant responses to the overdose public health emergency, both on- and off-reserve through FNHA Indigenous harm reduction grants.

An open call for projects grants was issued in December 2017, which resulted in 183 applications. Out of those applications, fifty-five community projects have been approved for First Nations communities and urban service providers.

Successful projects are supporting a range of non-judgmental approaches and strategies to enhance the knowledge, skills, resources and supports for individuals, their families and communities to make informed decisions to be safer and healthier.

The funded projects support the four goal areas and include a range of cultural and medical interventions and include back-to-land camps, development of Urban Aboriginal harm reduction services, enhancing client care for hard to reach populations, promoting utilization of local harm reduction services including safe injection sites, community-based educational campaigns and more.

“Our people are deep in pain. The way forward to achieving mental wellness in our families and communities requires new approaches,” said Grand Chief Doug Kelly, Chair of the First Nations Health Council. “Listen, learn and act is what our leaders and Elders have told us. I’m grateful that our partners are working with us to address and resolve the historical legacy of the residential schools and assimilation policies.”

In August 2017, the FNHA and provincial partners released preliminary data that showed overrepresentation of First Nations peoples in the overdose public health emergency in B.C. A subsequent patient journey mapping session held in Vancouver October 2017, illustrates that intergenerational trauma and racism continue to be barriers for First Nations accessing mental health and treatment services.

– Gazette staff

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