Provincial Minister of Mental Health and Addictions announced grants for six communities and organizations on Vancouver Island to address overdose response and awareness efforts. (Black Press file)

Provincial Minister of Mental Health and Addictions announced grants for six communities and organizations on Vancouver Island to address overdose response and awareness efforts. (Black Press file)

Six Vancouver Island communities and organizations receive overdose response grants

Rural, remote and First Nations communities face obstacles, province points out

Six communities and organizations on Vancouver Island that are receiving grants from a provincial program to expand overdose response and awareness efforts.

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

The recipients are Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations, Indigenous Women’s Sharing Society, Kwakiutl District Health Council, Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre, Dudes Club Society, West Coast Community Resources. More than $1 million in grants is being distributed to 23 rural, remote and Indigenous communities and organizations throughout B.C.

“Trust is an important part of mental health supports, so it’s important that people be able to access culturally appropriate supports in their own communities,” said Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard. “These First Nations and community organizations are doing great work getting people the care they need close to home, and I’m glad to see them being supported.”

People living in rural and remote areas face obstacles such as longer travel distances to health care access, and limited supplies of Naloxone and harm-reduction services. The aim of the grants is to better connect those people to life-saving supports, reduce stigma, and develop harm-reduction policies.

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, the press release noted. 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.

“Intergenerational trauma stemming from a history of colonization and racism has given way to a terrible reality that Indigenous peoples continue to be disproportionally impacted by the overdose crisis in the province,” said Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin. “This crisis has only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new funding will help those struggling connect with community-led, culturally appropriate programs, which is vital to support recovery and promote healing.”

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