As many forces work to grow and profit from the opioid crisis, there are also many others at work trying to combat this issue, including one man named Alvin Mills.
Born and raised on the Blood Tribe reserve in southern Alberta, Mills was addicted to opioids and alcohol for the majority of his life. But after going through detox and treatment, he has completely turned his life around and is now helping those going through similar challenges.
Fed up with lack of support, he started an organization called the Foundation of Hope, in which he and others reach out to the at-risk and vulnerable population. He provides those in need with a meal, words and support, and when needed, help.
Helping those during his spare time, Mills wants more done. He hopes for the government’s support with the creation of an aftercare facility, which he says is crucial for recovery and which he wants his organization to spearhead.
He says knowing from experience, many who make it out of treatment need that extra boost and direction to make the transition back into society and the working world. He said the option is currently not available. He’s looking for community and government support.
Meanwhile, back on the reserve, there are also calls for government support from officials at the detox centre. Under the previous NDP government, the centre was granted funding for two years, with no promise of continued support.
“I am worried that the safe withdrawal site will be shut down. We have another 18 months to prove ourselves. We’re working as hard as we can to show that we can make this work, and we can offer something different for our people,” said Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, head physician at the Blood Tribe detox centre.
After the United Conservative Party won April’s election, questions arose about the future of the centre. Premier Jason Kenney announced in June his government is freezing funds for proposed supervised consumption sites.
Tailfeathers said she is worried:
“If this closes down, our overdose rate is going to go back up. It’s going to go higher than 45 a month.”
Watch below: In Part 1 of the Blood Tribe killer series, Global News delves into what led to the opioid crisis on the southern Alberta First Nation
Global News reached out to the associate minister of Mental Health and Addictions, whose response came in the form of a visit to the facility.
“I’m so pleased that I took time to really tour the site and talk to so many people,” Jason Luan said.
During his visit, the associate minister met with the leadership and took part in closed-door meetings. He made no specific commitments for funding or to keep the centre open, but he did say he is interested in working with area partners.
With a visit from the associate minister, the tribe is still not positive it will result in the help it needs — help that will determine the future of the Blood Tribe.
“If we close down, we’re going to see more overdoses, we’re going to see more broken families, we’re going to see more children in care, we’re going to see the funeral homes making lots of money off of us, we’re going to see children who have not a mother, not a father — nobody to guide them through life. We’re going to see a major impact on our population and possibly the life expectancy of our whole tribe,” Tailfeathers said.
Funding for the detox centre runs out in December 2020. In the meantime, all officials can do is wait and hope that the government will provide continuous funding.