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Additional dollars announced for Batchewana First Nation mental health, addictions programs (3 photos)

More money for mental health, addictions, a key part of ending hallway medicine, Health Minister Elliott says

Sault MPP Ross Romano, accompanied by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo, announced $1.2 million in additional provincial funding for mental health and addictions services provided by First Nations and Indigenous organizations Friday.

Elliott told an audience, gathered at the Indian Friendship Centre, the funding is part of the government’s overall plan to end hallway health care.

“A hospital isn’t always the best place for a person to receive healthcare, especially when this is a time that many of our hospitals are already operating at over 100 per cent capacity.”

“Early intervention support (is important) to help keep patients healthier and out of hospital, unless the hospital is where they need to be...the emergency department should not be the only place that a person can go when they reach a (mental health) crisis,” Elliott said.

$260,000 of the funding announced Friday will go toward Batchewana First Nation programs.

“These monies are for front line prevention and outpatient supports, for aftercare,” said Dean Sayers, Batchewana First Nation chief, speaking to SooToday.

The funding will provide for a wellness clinician, counsellor, coordinator, outreach official, promotional items, workshops and community events, Sayers said.

“It’s part of the continuum of care.”

On a seperate note, Sayers said plans are coming along for a BFN-operated opiates-focused residential mental health and addictions treatment centre, to be located approximately 75 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie on the grounds of the former Salzburger Hof Lakeshore Resort.

The property was purchased by BFN in Nov. 2019, as reported earlier by SooToday.

The centre will be able to accommodate up to 24 residents at a time and the model of recovery will be based on the holistic Ojibway water teachings of Lake Superior.

“We put out an RFP (Request for Proposal) for a developer that has the Indigenous insights as far as the overall model is concerned, and that closes this week or possibly next week. Then they’ll start to get it rolling...renovations and program design should be completed by the summer and we’ll open by mid-summer. That’s the goal,” Sayers said.

“There needs to be some renovation but we’re not going to be tearing anything down. Everything can fit. Everything will have a purpose."

The balance of the funding announced Friday will go to: 

  • Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority to establish a team of specialized mental health professionals including counsellors, an expressive arts therapist and clinical psychologist, to provide care to First Nations youth in northwestern Ontario with acute mental health needs.
  • The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres to expand mental health and wellness programs that will serve more community members.

“It’s (part of) an overall plan for a connected, comprehensive plan for mental health and addictions across the province, and we’ve started with it in the sense that the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence was established through legislation just before the holidays in December,” Elliott told SooToday.

“That’s really important because it’s going to collect the data which hasn’t really been measured very well in the past. It’s going to be able to adopt best practices and we’ll be able to establish a core basket of services that can be delivered in every community across Ontario to deal with the inconsistency of services that’s happened in the past.”

The Centre, Elliott explained, will not be a bricks and mortar office in the GTA, but rather “a group of people that will come together, not a big bureaucracy, it’s going to be a small group of people that are going to get together in the way Cancer Care Ontario started originally to develop best practices for cancer care. We need one for mental health and addictions to make sure we can deliver high quality services across the entire province.”

“There are more details to come (regarding the Centre) because it’s a multi-Ministry project...we will be further consulting with Indigenous communities to understand what works best, what needs to be continued and what needs to be enhanced.”

"The entire plan will be announced within the next month or so,” Elliott said.


Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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