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Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibolo announces $2.6 million in funding for NAN communities to address the mental health crisis (Adam Riley/Acadia Broadcasting)

$2.6M in crisis support for NAN communities

By Adam Riley Feb 5, 2024 | 3:31 PM

A little over $2.6 million has been directed by the Ontario government towards mental health and addictions supports for Indigenous communities in the far North, specifically in Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities.

To a degree the money constitutes as emergency funding according to Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford.

“These resources were identified as recently as a month ago. Budgets are wrapping up and we were looking across ministries to try to understand what resources could be targeted.”

Included in the funding is:

  • $1 million for Keewaytinook Okimakanak, which leads the NAN Hope program
  • $623,5000 for NAN mental health supports in First Nations schools in both Thunder Bay and Sioux Lookout, which is in response to the Seven Youth Inquest.
  • $500,000 for NAN IHWS Crisis Teams to provide an effective and coordinated approach to crisis response in communities
  • $500,000 for NAN to purchase vehicle and further develop mobile crisis response teams

This comes following weeks of crisis in several Treaty 5 and 9 communities amounting to a number of deaths due to substance abuse poisonings, a homicide, a motor vehicle collision which injured nine people and resulted in the death of one person, three missing persons, one house fire which claimed a life and six suicides all under the age of 30 and as young as 12.

All of those incidents occurred, according to Keewaytinook Okimakanak’s mental health program coordinator Armanda Parkinson, between Dec 18th and Sunday.

The funding is a good start however, Parkinson says stability would be able to keep any positive momentum going.

“This funding here today is an amazing announcement and we greatly appreciate the support but definitely having an agreement where we have continued lasting funding is when we’re able to build programs.”

The NAN Hope program provides community driven, culturally appropriate services and supports to address urgent mental health and addictions needs.

Also on hand for the announcement was Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibolo says there has been neglect on this front for years, noting a pandemic in mental health before Covid, which has been exacerbated.

“There are crisis that are occurring and we need to address those issues quickly, but it’s also sending a signal to KO and to other organizations we’re here to work in partnership to ensure that we get these systems in place to ensure these types of emergencies don’t happen again.”

Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibolo, KO ental health program coordinator Armanda Parkinson, Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford, KO executive director Cory Meekis and KO director of ehealth Roxanne Perkins (Adam Riley / Acadia Broadcasting)