Federal Budget 2021: New funding can't come soon enough to address First Nations opioid and methamphetamine crisis
CHATHAM-KENT, ON, April 30, 2021 /CNW/ - Thunderbird Partnership Foundation says details from last week's 2021 federal budget can't come soon enough for First Nations communities and treatment centres to address substance use, addictions and mental health issues compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thunderbird's Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Carol Hopkins, welcomes the proposed investment of $597.6 million over three years for a distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategy. It's certainly a step in the right direction.
"Communities know what they need to build their capacity to address opioid and methamphetamine use at the local level," says Hopkins, "but those solutions need investments that are equitable and sustainable to address the acuity of need."
The following are some of the community identified solutions:
- adequate wages to sustain the workforce responding to addictions and substance use dependency, including those First Nations on the frontline of the opioid and methamphetamine crisis through outreach
- harm reduction supplies
- capacity to distribute safe supplies
- overdose prevention safe consumption spaces
- access to naloxone
- emergency shelters for homeless people who use substances
- training for the workforce
Hopkins adds that solutions also require a committed response from provincial and territorial health officials who also carry responsibility for mental health and primary care for every citizen, including First Nations communities. Every relevant solution must ensure services are delivered where people live in remote and rural communities in Canada and that services are relevant through the inclusion of land, language and culture. Funding and other resource allocations must be prioritized towards the right to health and the right to life for First Nation individuals, families and communities, who without adequate resources, do everything they can to ensure life for people at risk of death due to the contaminated illegal drug supply.
Equitable and sustainable funding support continues to be a priority for the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP) and National Youth Solvent Abuse Program (NYSAP) workforce, who work in communities and treatment centres. First Nations addictions workers earn 45% less than their provincial counterparts yet exceed standards of excellence through accreditation, and the workforce consistently maintains core competency certifications.
Hopkins says despite stark funding inequities, this workforce continues to respond to the needs of First Nations with quick innovation during the pandemic. Some are maintaining in-person services at reduced capacity for safety, while others are seeing new virtual treatment services reach far more people than ever before. They also continue to demonstrate the value of land-based programs and remain committed to collecting data through standardized assessment tools to show the efficacy of their services during the pandemic.
"What more can be expected of this workforce unless their First Nations employers have capacity to retain them with meaningful wages and clear funding allocations that enable effective operational planning instead of maintaining the instability created by year-to-year funding promises," says Hopkins. She's hoping the new federal investments will honour the strengths of First Nations and provide parity for substance use and addictions workers because low wages make it impossible to retain a qualified workforce to ensure a response to the opioid and methamphetamine crisis many communities are experiencing.
Studies show the social return on capacity investments in First Nations treatment centres are significant with returns of $4 for every $1 invested and in some instances as much as $25 return for every 1$ invested.
SOURCE Thunderbird Partnership Foundation