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First Nations Health Authority VP says mobile overdose vans needed in more northern communities

(Files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)

“We have to learn how to be compassionate with others,”

That’s from Julie Morrison who is the VP of Regional Operations for the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) following a three-day Addictions Engagement and Exchange Forum that wrapped up yesterday (Thursday) in Prince George.

The three-day event was capped off by a keynote speech by former NHL player Jordin Tootoo.

One of the presentations centered around Mobile Overdose Vans that are being utilized in Fort St. John and Terrace – a partnership between Northern Health and the FNHA.

Morrison would like to see bigger communities like PG pick up the service.

“When we work with anti-stigma and harm reduction, teaching people about how important that is and to have those vans available so people can use in a safe manner and having someone there to watch and make sure they are OK.”

She added solutions like these can be a valuable stop-gap before someone makes the decision to enter a treatment facility.

“It’s all really important in keeping people alive until we can work with them and decide they want to make a change. We heard from James Harry who works on the Downtown Eastside and the go work that he does going out on the street and helping people. There are so many ways of helping people and so many people doing good things.”

In addition, Morrison stated ending racial discrimination in the health care system also remains a high priority.

“When someone comes in and wants help, we need to be able to hear them, see them, and give them that help without any judgment and learning about the processes we’ve been through with residential schools and colonization. We didn’t just start out this way – this is a process and people need to understand that.”

“The anti-stigma is huge because when people are going through addictions we need to understand they need help, not judgment. It’s not hitting one part of the population it’s hitting all spectrums and people need to keep that in mind.”

“We need to learn how to be compassionate with others and with ourselves. One of the common themes throughout the past three days has been about forgiveness and being able to forgive yourself for things that you may have done or said that maybe picked your brain or brought you down when you don’t need that.”

In November of 2020, the province unveiled a review stating major steps are needed to curb racism in BC’s health care system.

According to the province, over 9,000 Indigenous patients, family members, third-party witnesses, and health-care workers, the review found clear evidence of pervasive interpersonal and systemic racism that adversely affects patient and family experiences for Indigenous peoples.

The report, In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care concluded this problem is widely acknowledged by many who work in the system, including those in leadership positions.

In addition, 24 recommendations were made to address the problem.

In June of that year, the Addressing Racism Review was launched by Health Minister Adrian Dix after allegations were made about an organized “Price is Right” game involving guessing Indigenous patients’ blood alcohol levels in B.C. hospital emergency rooms. A detailed examination of those allegations found no evidence of an organized game occurring as originally depicted.

The review found anecdotal and episodic evidence of multiple activities that resemble these allegations in some fashion, but none of them could be described as organized, widespread, or targeting only Indigenous patients.

The FNHA will be hosting a three-day Healing Through Connection workshop from April 18th to 20th from the Conference and Civic Centre.

It will be geared toward youth and young adults.

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