As the opioid epidemic continues in Lethbridge, Indigenous populations struggling through the crisis will soon see more local support with the help of provincial funding.
The friendship centre in Lethbridge, Sik-Ooh–Kotoki Friendship Society, is receiving a portion of a $400,000 grant that will be split between itself and similar centres in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie.
Although only recently awarded, plans are already in the works to set these new support systems in motion.
“We’re only in the beginning phases right now,” said Joanne Mason, executive director with the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association (ANFCA). “So we’re working with the communities to find what issues need to be addressed most and what services already exist that we can work with and add on to in each area right now.”
Although each centre will mainly focus on its own specific needs, Mason said the idea behind the funding is to provide each city with the means to hire navigators to better connect populations with support services and treatments. She added Lethbridge is currently seeing one of the highest rates of opioid addiction across the province.
The Lethbridge centre is also hoping to incorporate an approach that encompasses traditional cultures to help Indigenous people within the city affected by substance abuse.
“The Indigenous community is over-represented in the opioid crisis and so it’s extremely important that the community has access to resources and services that are developed with a cultural mindset,” Mason said.