New crisis program for First Nations aimed at reducing suicides and overdoses
TIMMINS -- NAN Hope is a new way for people dealing with mental-health issues or addictions to get help when they need it.
Organizers say it is a way of delivering services to First Nations people who have limited access to confidential counselling due to the pandemic and a lack of housing.
NAN Hope welcomes people to call, text, chat or connect through Facebook Messenger.
In a video interview with CTV News, Carl Dalton, of Dalton Associates in Fergus, Ont., said they're able to have private conversations with clients who otherwise wouldn't be able to have a confidential consultation.
"So we're able ... (to) make sure that people are safe, but also just feeling heard and not alone," said Dalton.
With already high rates of suicide in some First Nations, health officials said the pandemic is making the situation worse.
"We're getting a couple of things," said Mae Katt, a nurse practitioner in Thunder Bay, in a video interview. "One is a higher rate of suicides, as well as a higher rate of overdoses with the toxic drug supply. So the fact that we can have a service for members that live off-reserve as well, is one of the key services that we're able to provide."
Dalton said since Aug., when the federally-funded program launched, about 100 people have accessed NAN Hope and they know more people are in need.
"We use councillors that speak Cree, Ojibway, Oji-Cree ... we have ... clinical counsellors from up north and down south that are also available 18 hours a day, and crisis services 24-7," said Dalton.
"Nobody is turned away," said Katt. "So if you're not a NAN member, we're still going to provide care to you because I think it's life-saving, the work that we're doing. And then, it's really important for the communities to know that they can make referrals -- family members can make referrals to this program."
She said more than 600 youth have died by suicide in the NAN region since the 1990s.