Kashechewan First Nation Chief Gaius Wesley always wanted a land-based detox treatment program in his community.
A seven-day program offering land-based detox treatment to up to 12 people has been running near Kashechewan since January 2021. In addition, there’
When land-based treatment programs are located closer to the community, people are open to getting help as opposed to going to a treatment centre in the south, Wesley said.
“When they don’t have that family support around them is when they start breaking again because nobody is there to see them graduate the program,” he said. “It’s very important we have these treatment centres closer to our communities so we can have more people take part in them.”
The detox treatment camp, located about 20 kilometres upriver, is only accessible by boat in summer and fall and by snowmobiles in winter.
“The intake is usually pretty good. I think three times we had a full intake, and in other months, we had seven to 10 people,” Wesley said.
Some people went through the program two or three times.
“It shows how much these people are willing to get help when they get a chance,” Wesley said.
A detox treatment healing camp was one of the six camps built by Kashechewan Health Services last summer. Wesley worked as a health director at the time.
In early November 2020, Kashechewan declared a state of emergency due to the opioid crisis. The team wanted to secure funding for operational costs but their proposal was denied by the federal government.
“We were not too happy about it because we had to get this land-based detox treatment going,” Wesley said.
Eventually, Wesley received a call from Garry Best, a regional executive for Ontario at the First Nation and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB), inviting him to appeal the denied proposal.
The local health services staff along with Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA), Mushkegowuk Council and Dalton Associates developed an appeal that included a community treatment manual to ensure aftercare programming and a nurse on-site 24/7.
By mid-December, the proposal was approved. The program secured about $570,000 in federal funding.
Wesley said the team submitted a proposal for about $1.5 million for this fiscal year.
“That’s the amount that’s required to ensure the land-based detox program is successful throughout the year,” Wesley said.
The team is also preparing to submit another proposal for the same $1.5 million amount for the next fiscal year starting in April 2022.
“We continue to lobby at the government level to have these infrastructures, the funding supports in terms of operational costs so that we can help our people right at home,” Wesley said.
The program, developed in partnership with various partners including Jules Tapas and his team, is based on the same model that used to run in Constance Lake from 2015 to 2020.
“This is something that I had always wanted for our community,” Wesley said.
Some people didn’t realize they were carrying past traumas until they went through a land-based detox program, the chief said. That's when they learned their addictions and traumas stem from intergenerational trauma caused by Canada’s residential school system, he added.
“There’s a lot of healing required in our community in terms of traumas that took a toll on our lives,” Wesley said.
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com