Federal investment of over $2.6 million to support NAN Mental Health and Addictions Pandemic Response Program
Tim Brody - Editor
The Government of Canada has announced $2,657,560 to support the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Mental Health and Addictions Pandemic Response Program, described as, “a unique First Nation-led initiative responding to the specific health needs of community members in northern Ontario.”
A July 10 news release from Indigenous Services Canada explained that, “Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) eHealth and Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) will run the program, which is designed to provide community members with equal access to high-quality, culturally safe substance use treatment and mental health services with direct input from communities. The services will be coordinated, delivered and promoted by the Regional Health Authorities, Tribal Councils, and community organizations within the NAN region, and will offer access to 24/7 culturally appropriate crisis supports, triage and live service navigation, improved usage of tele-mental health supports, and will help eliminate duplication in existing mental health and problematic substance use services,” the news release stated.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) ehealth will receive $1,666,185 and the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority will receive $991,375 to run their components of the program.
The initiative, “grounded in community leadership and First Nations approaches to Mental Health services”, will also bridge existing gaps, “so that every individual can have access to culturally safe and community based mental health services when needed.”
“COVID-19 has affected nearly every facet of day-to-day life, and in particular the lives of people in remote and isolated parts of the country. First Nations communities and organizations such as NAN, KO and SLFNHA worked tirelessly and with great leadership to address the COVID-19 crisis and its effects on the mental health of the peoples they represent. Their actions are saving lives. We will continue to support and work collaboratively with these partners on this First Nations-led and distinctions-based approach to meeting the specific health needs of their communities and members,” commented Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller.
“Our First Nations are taking extraordinary measures to keep safe, and many community members are experiencing heightened feelings of isolation and uncertainty, which has understandably resulted in increased levels of anxiety and depression. Without proper supports, people in these circumstances often turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, and we need to ensure they receive the support they require. This innovative program sets out pathways to access mental health and addiction services and incorporates 24/7 rapid-access emergency and crisis support for members on and off reserve. I congratulate everyone involved in its development, and I thank the government for their quick action to fund these much-needed services,” stated NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
“SLFNHA greatly appreciates the focus on mental health and addictions at a time when there is increased difficulty accessing services because of COVID-19, this will help some of the most vulnerable members of our communities,” added Dr. John Guilfoyle, Public Health Physician for Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority.
“Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) eHealth Telemedicine Services and KNet is pleased to be a partner with the NAN Mental Health and Addictions Initiative along with our partners, the Ontario Health-Ontario Telemedicine Network and Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority. We strive to provide quality health services utilizing video-conferencing. From the beginning of the KO telemedicine initiatives, the main goal has been to provide access to services for First Nations that otherwise would not be available in the communities. We believe this project will alleviate stress and anxiety for youth and other vulnerable populations during this challenging time,” informed William Hutchison, Acting Executive Director for Keewaytinook Okimakanak.