Province and First Nations respond to Terrace, BC overdose crisis

a woman is posing for a photo in a studio. She is facing the camera and smiling wearing a white blazer and black top.
Minister Jennifer Whiteside is the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in BC. Together with the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health and First Nations Alliance, they will work to address the toxic drug overdose crisis happening in Terrace BC. Photo courtesy of the Ministry
Pamela Haasen - CICK - SmithersBC | 24-11-2023
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Terrace BC has one of the highest rates of deaths in the province due to the toxic-drug crisis, with 98.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2023 and Indigenous people are almost six times more likely to die from illicit drug poisoning.

In response to this crisis, the First Nations Health Authority drafted a proposal for a detox facility in Terrace in June of 2023 which they presented to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. Together, the Northern First Nations Alliance, Northern Health Authority, First Nations Health Authority and Province created The Working Group, a task force whose main job was to address this health crisis in the north head-on.

Minister Jennifer Whiteside is the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in BC and represents one of the four partners in The Working Group. Minister Whiteside commented on the need to address the toxic drug overdose crisis and how working with the FNHA and NFNA informed those plans using culturally appropriate care.

"In the best interest of designing indigenous-lead healthcare services that will provide a culturally appropriate care, I think it is an example of what we can accomplish when we work together. The foundation that's being created in the relationships are so important to be able to provide better care and to see better outcomes and to build healthier communities."

Breanna Innes is the chair of the Northern First Nations Alliance and elected councillor for the Gitxaala Nation. She told CFNR's Sabrina Spencer about the services that were needed which aim to address the disproportionate healthcare crisis for Indigenous people in the north.

"Currently our members, or anybody in the northwest region, if they want detox services, they have to go to Prince George which is really a concern because we know how the roads are during the winter time. We know the length of time it takes just to get there and for people that are living with barriers t's just not feasible for them to have to travel all the way to Prince George for detox services.

And we just felt that the need is here in the Northwest. So [with] Terrace being the central location to all the communities that are representative in the Northern First Nations Alliance, we just felt that having the services in Terrace would be more appropriate than having to send their people all the way to Prince George."

The Northern First Nations Alliance represents people from the four communities of the Anishinaabe Nation, Haisla, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Gitanyow and Gitxaala nation.

Listen to the full interview with Minister Whiteside and Breanna Innes in the link below.