After two years of construction — and years of advocacy before that — the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) celebrated the grand opening of its Woodland Wellness Centre on Tuesday.
The new treatment facility, located near La Ronge, Sask., was designed to support the “emotional and psychological well-being of our people here in the North,” said LLRIB Chief Tammy Cook-Searson.
This includes people seeking treatment for mental health issues, including addiction, who would benefit from western and traditional Indigenous approaches to healing and recovery.
The facility includes 24 beds, outdoor spaces, a place for sweats, as well as offices for counsellors, health workers and other employees.
In 2019, Cook-Searson had said a facility like this one was desperately needed in her community. At the time, people in the La Ronge area had access to a short-term detox centre at the local health clinic, but needed to travel as far south as Prince Albert or Saskatoon to get more support. Often, she said, people went without the care they needed.
She called the wellness centre “a crucial solution to our need for better access to health and addiction services, and one that will be key in helping our communities in need to reach their full potential and, ultimately, achieve a better quality of life.”
Now, the $16.1 million project has become reality.
To fund it, the federal government made an $11.6 million commitment, while the province contributed $2.5 million and the LLRIB contributed $2 million.
Cook-Searson said the federal government has also committed to funding the centre’s maintenance and operations through its first year.
On Tuesday, Saskatchewan Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Everett Hindley was present at the grand opening.
“Our government is pleased to provide capital funding for this project,” he said. “This contribution is an opportunity to participate in an innovative model of care that is community-driven and culturally responsive.”
Cook-Searson also expressed her thanks to all of the funders and community partners who have participated.
“We now have a beautiful facility that will provide care for youth and adults,” she said. “We want to establish one-of-a-kind programming where the best of Western medicine coexists with traditional and land-based healing to incorporate our Cree language, practices and values.”
Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix