First Nations Perspective on Mental Health and Wellness, Culturally Safe and Trauma-Informed Harm Reduction: Collaborative Response to the Impact of the Opioid Crisis on First Nations

Research co-leads:

  • Amanda Ward
    First Nations Health Authority
  • Will Small
    Simon Fraser University

Research user co-leads:

  • Warren Clarmont
    BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres
  • Kora Debeck
    BC Centre on Substance Use
  • Michelle Degroot
    First Nations Health Authority

Team members (FNHA):

  • Harmony Johnson
  • Namaste Marsden
  • Shannon McDonald
  • Jennifer Murray
  • Patricia Vickers

The current opioid crisis in British Columbia (BC) has been devastating to First Nations individuals, families and communities, who continue to be disproportionately affected compared to other BC residents. The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) provides health programs and services throughout BC to all First Nations and has collaborated with BC’s Ministry of Health, and provincial, regional, and community partners over the past year to develop strategies and solutions toward reducing harm and preventing death due to opioid use. Despite this work, the crisis is showing no signs of slowing without the adoption of multi-faceted and collaborative approaches designed to strengthen community and nation-based responses. A dramatically enhanced collaborative approach for First Nations is needed, grounded in the First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness, addressing root causes of drug use including intergenerational trauma, and guided by people who use drugs.

FNHA will form a network that includes First Nations people who use drugs, community members, Elders, provincial stakeholders, and service providers from across BC. The proposed “First Nations Mental Health and Wellness Opioid Use Network” will focus on four priority areas grounded in the First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness, community-informed Mental Health and Wellness Service Model, and the priorities of people who use drugs:

  1. Strengthening service delivery.
  2. Addressing social determinants of health and root causes of opioid use.
  3. Enhancing strategies for culturally safe and trauma-informed engagement, prevention and harm reduction.
  4. Informing and strengthening strategic directions for First Nations.

FNHA will convene a workshop for Network members and invited guests to collaboratively work toward a community-informed approach, implementation plan, and develop research and knowledge exchange activities. We aim to build enduring partnerships between organizations and individuals involved in First Nations health and wellness activities across BC seeking to prevent further death and harm due to opioid use and misuse.