New housing for Indigenous community members with complex mental health and substance use issues has been announced for Bella Coola, Jennifer Rice MLA for the North Coast said, on May 25.
The 12 “complex-care housing” units are to decrease the potential of homelessness for those at risk. Construction on the new homes is set to start by late 2022 once suitable locations have been found.
“Indigenous people in Bella Coola with complex mental-health challenges will soon have access to the supports they need, right in a home of their own,” Rice said.
Comprehensive support services in the complex-care housing units will include traditional wellness workers, Elders, healers, knowledge holders and land-based healing programs. The spaces will offer a variety of other supports, depending on individual needs, for example, mental-health workers, overdose prevention services, medication management, peer support, skills training and cooking and meal support.
“We are honoured to be partnering with the Nuxalk Nation and Vancouver Coastal Health … to serve people with overlapping mental-health and substance-use challenges and traumatic and acquired brain injury,” Rice said.
The complex-care accommodation initiative is a first-of-its-kind housing program initially announced in January 2022 by the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions (MMHA). Since the program’s winter introduction, the Province has announced more than 250 complex-care spaces in communities across B.C. Funding for the housing program is through Budget 2022 with a government investment of more than $164 million over three years to support up to 500 people, MMHA stated.
Unique to Bella Coola is a Nuxalk-led project, Nukw’pstayctalsim, which means a place to regain health and well-being. This partnership between the Province, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Nuxalk Health and Wellness responds to the recommendations in the report “In Plain Sight for local, culturally focused health-care solutions,” MMHA stated in a media statement on May 23.
“For too long, people with complex mental health and addiction needs were left behind, often leading to a cycle of eviction, homelessness, emergency rooms and sometimes jail,” Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said. “Our partnership … is a crucial step towards reconciliation. These new complex-care housing spaces for Indigenous people in Bella Coola will provide culturally safe and respectful support and help break the cycle of homelessness.”
Samuel Schooner, chief councillor of the Nuxalk Nation, said, “The complex-care housing plan is an example of the innovative service-delivery models that can be created when Indigenous communities are brought to the table as equal partners, and we are looking forward to beginning this important work.”
Leslie Bonshor, vice-president of Indigenous Health, Vancouver Coastal Health said they are fortunate to have such great partners.
“We will continue to collaborate with our partners to build a culturally safe health-care system that provides the best health outcomes for Indigenous patients and residents.”
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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