A coalition of northwest B.C. First Nations is looking at setting up a detox and wellness facility in Terrace.
The proposed treatment centre will be the Northern First Nations Alliance’s (NFNA) first major project since it was established as a coalition in 2020.
The NFNA consists of representatives from the Haisla, Gitanyow, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Gitxaala and the four Nass Valley Nisga’a Nation villages of Gitlaxt’aamiks, Gitwinksihlkw, Laxgalts’ap and Gingolx.
The facility aims to address the growing need for facilities offering holistic detox and wrap around mental health services in the northwest, said representatives from the health and wellness subcommittee of the NFNA.
Kitselas councillor Lynn Parker and Gitxaala councillor Brenna Innes said the NFNA leadership met last July to address the issues such as mental health, homelessness, addictions and overdose deaths that were affecting their members.
They realized there was a gap in the northwest with not enough centres providing full detox and continuing supports in the same facility.
“The only detox centre is in Prince George and that is several hours by road for people to get there,” said Innes.
“We want to take responsibility for our members and get them started on their healing journey,” said Innes about NFNA’s combined strength of 12,000 members.
The proposed facility at Terrace will be open to all clientele seeking detox services and will also include Indigenous cultural components such as traditional medicine and healing practices distinctive to the northwest First Nations.
“As far cultural protocols are concerned we will have elders to help people who seek these services,” said Parker.
The need for a culturally safe environment was a necessity after reports of high rates of racism in B.C.’s healthcare system emerged last November, according to Parker.
Terrace was chosen as a location for the facility as it is central to most First Nations in the northwest region. And with existing services and programs in Terrace, the proposed detox centre will complement these programs and partner with them, added Parker.
The project discussion is at a preliminary stage with the alliance having submitted a statement of readiness to the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). Financing would also be needed.
The next step includes moving towards conducting a feasibility study and the group is working with Terrace-based Big River Analytics consultancy.