New Indigenous Mental Wellness and Substance Use Counselling Agency

April 25, 2018

LogoThe newly formed Metro Vancouver Indigenous Services Society is taking direct aim at addressing the underlying root causes of substance misuse and mental wellness challenges for Indigenous people.

With the announcement of successful funding from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, a community advisory committee had set the criteria for a Request for Proposals. 

Metro Vancouver Indigenous Services Society (CNW Group/Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council). A full opportunity now exists to firmly establish healing approaches that use Indigenous cultures as the intervention.

The initiative is lead by the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council, a coalition that advocates for and represents 25-member agencies that serve close to 70,000 urban Indigenous people in Metro Vancouver.

Twenty-eight partnership letters were secured outside the coalition's membership. Additional funding was secured from the City of Vancouver, Vancity Credit Union and the Provincial government.

"An important shift in how Vancouver Coastal Health approached this funding was by asking the community to determine what our priorities were," says Kevin Barlow, CEO for the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council.

In the past, requests for proposals were decided internally by the health authority.

The opioid crisis is having a major impact on Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Vancouver. Using Indigenous culture is a way of reaching Indigenous people who may have challenges seeking help from non-Indigenous agencies.

Ken Clement, Chair of the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council states "The Indigenous community needs locally controlled Indigenous led services, who know how to reach people facing mental wellness and substance use challenges."

Job postings have been circulated seeking nine staff to build this new agency. Indigenous Elders and Cultural Workers will be key to the program design and delivery.

Rod Jeffries, an Indigenous Trauma-Informed Specialist with over 30 years experience and Chair of the International Indigenous Council for Healing Our Spirit Worldwide says "The impacts of trauma are devastating. When we do not address these impacts, we are doing a great injustice to our people."

This new agency will train all staff in a culturally-based, trauma-informed practice model which is at the heart of these new services. Beyond one to one counseling, group healing work will address issues like sexual abuse, residential school related traumas, and cumulative loss.

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