British Columbia’s overdose Mobile Response Team has provided critical incident support and training to more than 6000 individuals who are working on the front lines combating the province’s overdose crisis. (Black Press files)

British Columbia’s overdose Mobile Response Team has provided critical incident support and training to more than 6000 individuals who are working on the front lines combating the province’s overdose crisis. (Black Press files)

Two North Island Indigenous organizations receive grants to address overdose

Communities and organizations in the Vancouver Island Health region now have extra support to expand local overdose response and awareness efforts through a provincial grant program.

“People living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities are best equipped to address the overdose crisis on the ground in their communities,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I’m grateful for the wisdom and expertise of community leaders whose innovative projects are making a difference during two public health emergencies.”

The grant recipients in the North Island are the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation and the Kwakiutl District Health Council.

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk welcomes the grants for communities to deliver mental health and addictions supports locally.

“Accessing supports in a timely and culturally safe way is so important for people working through mental health or addiction challenges,” Babchuk said. “Supporting and funding local services providers helps breakdown barriers and provides people in rural and remote communities with the services they need, when they need them”.

Other Island recipients are Indigenous Women’s Sharing Society, Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre, Dudes Club Society, West Coast Community Resources.

People in rural and remote areas face obstacles when it comes to accessing substance use services. Geographic remoteness may mean longer travel distances to access health care and treatment, and access to Naloxone and harm reduction services can be limited in areas with low populations.

Through the grants, actions such as connecting people to life-saving supports, reducing stigma, developing harm reduction policies, relationship building and knowledge sharing will be funded.

First Nations people and Indigenous communities are over-represented when it comes to overdose deaths and an increasingly toxic drug supply has magnified the impact of the overdose crisis. Data from January to October 2020 shows First Nations people died from overdose at a rate 5.5 times higher than other residents in B.C.

These funds are intended to address these inequities by supporting community groups, service providers, and Indigenous-led organizations to carry out local actions specific to the needs of their community. More than $1 million in grants are being distributed to 23 rural, remote and Indigenous communities and organizations throughout B.C.

Equitable access to culturally safe and effective substance-use care is a key component of A Pathway to Hope: B.C.’s roadmap to creating a system of mental health and addictions care that works for everyone.

The funds are being administered by the Community Action Initiative and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The grants build off the work done at the 2019 Rural and Indigenous Overdose Exchange to address the overdose crisis at the local level.

Campbell Riveroverdose crisis