Local First Nation chief says it will take a community approach to address opioid crisis

Kettle & Stony Point First Nation Chief Jason Henry at a provincial funding announcement in Watford. 14 August 2020. (BlackburnNews.com photo by Colin Gowdy)

Efforts to help those with opioid and drug addiction will ramp up this week at Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation.

Chief Jason Henry said the North Lambton Outreach Community team will start to deliver harm reduction supplies to residents on Wednesday, October 13.

“We’re starting at 1 p.m., across from the car wash in Kettle and Stony Point. We’ll be beginning from there and it’ll be kind of stationary,” he said. “We’ll be putting calls out for people if they would like us to stop by more discreetly and bring safe supplies to their home.”

Some of the supplies being offered will include Narcan, which is used in opioid overdose emergencies. Social service and housing support will also be offered.

Henry said it will take a whole community to address the ongoing addiction crisis.

“This isn’t a political issue, this isn’t a healthcare issue, it’s not a social issue, it’s not an enforcement or judicial issue, this is a whole community issue. It affects every person in every community directly or indirectly,” he said. “As the global pandemic of COVID-19 winds down, we’re left with another pandemic, and that is opioid abuse.”

Henry said over the past 18 months, the pandemic has exacerbated the drug issue.

“The stressors on mental health and the ability for people to move around freely has been tough,” he said. “I think that there have been people reaching out for help but also more people are struggling. So that’s part of the reason why we’re moving towards a whole of community approach and seeking out partnerships to bring every tool in the toolbox when it comes to harm reduction, trauma, and grief counselling, and community-based supports.”

To further strengthen support services within the community, Henry said the Southwest Regional Healing Lodge, which closed a few years ago, will be revitalized through a joint partnership.

“We’ll be restarting operations on behalf of the southwest regional communities which is Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point, Aamjiwnaang, Chippewas of the Thames, and Munsee-Delaware. Those operations will be done in partnership with Atlohsa [Family Healing Services] from London,” said Henry. “Along with that, we’re working to try and bring withdrawal management to the community.”

Programs through the Southwest Regional Healing Lodge are expected to be available in the spring of 2022.