Six Nations Health Services • 1745 Chiefswood Rd • Ohsweken ON • N0A 1M0
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(L-R) Mental Health Services Supervisor Crystal Burning, Health Services Director Ruby Miller, Brantford Native Housing's Pete Isaacs & Dr. Al Jones address questions from the audience
Transitional, Supportive Housing for Addiction Recovery
03/11/13 - Jill Fraser was frank about her experience in moving away from addictions and moving on with her life. She shared her compelling story at the March 11, 2013 community meeting. “We are looking for help,” she pointed out.

Described as a brave woman by Health Services Director Ruby Miller, Jill, who experienced physical abuse, said she doesn’t want to hurt people anymore and is on a stable path to get better. She got off drugs and is staying on track. “It’s about finding that strength,” said Jill.

Councillor Melba Thomas acknowledged that some have fears about the housing project in the community. “We blame each other. There’s a lot of abuse connected to alcohol and drugs and the (housing) unit could reduce the problem,” she stated. “Our identity is important.”

Director Ruby Miller told an audience of 50 that her department very little time to put this housing project in place. Department employees looked for appropriate housing but could not find anything suitable. Instead, they found an eight-unit building for supportive housing in Ohsweken. The building is called Sogyohogye which means I’m Coming Home and is the first of its kind in a First Nations community. Director Miller noted that if this is successful, the program could expand.

At the March 12 General Council meeting, Chief William Montour spoke about a community petition that called for supportive information, security, too close to homes and a school and lack of a public tender among other issues. Health Services staff got things up and running and four people received contracts for this process.

At the meeting, a petition prepared by Health Services was set aside to avoid confusion with another petition circulating in the hall. When the meeting ended, people were welcomed to sign the Health Department’s petition. A total of 85 signatures were gathered. The community petition had 50 signatures. A letter was sent to the principal of Emily C. Jamieson School but was notified that the superintendent of education would not allow it.

Councillor Dave Hill said this program is off to a good start in coming clean from addictions. Councillor Roger Jonathan noted that Barb Harris wanted a centre like this but people did not want it in their backyard. “This is needed in the community. We are talking about our own people,” he added noting that it had to come some day.

Mental Health Team Supervisor Crystal Burning noted that many people in the community struggle to recover and to move away from their addictions. The new supportive housing will provide a healthy space for women and men over 18 who are committed to achieving recovery. Housing apartments must be filled by April 1, 2013 to keep provincial funding. “We received $36,600 for rent supplement for the entire units (from the Ministry of Health),” Ms Burning stated. “We also received $84,000 to cover the full-time case manager and program expenses.”

In March 2008, Ontario committed $80 million over three years to improve mental health and addiction services. Funding was approved for the Supportive Housing for People with Problematic Substance Abuse Program in 2009. Funding will subsidize rent and pay for programs and staffing. Only Six Nations community members, who have no police criminal record, will be considered.

In November 2012, Six Nations Mental Health received funding for the new housing building at 1626 Chiefswood Road which offers easy access to nearby agencies and services in Ohsweken. The Case Manager will provide support services to reduce re-admissions to addictions programs, to increase housing stability and tenancy, to reduce contact with the criminal justice system and to reduce repeated use of emergency and acute care systems plus help with life skills.

The Case Manager will be on site during the day along with the building manager who has an office. Clients that completed a treatment program can set goals to accomplish their recovery plan. “The overall goal is to enhance their quality of life by supporting them through their transition into a healthy lifestyle,” noted Ms Burning. Housing for people on the road to health is important and can benefit from Six Nations Elected Council’s support. The idea of placing people in an isolated location was outright rejected. The property will not be fenced and no concerns about the building were received.

Jerica Kennedy, Supportive Housing Case Manager, said technology will be used to monitor the building including security cameras. The Case Manager will do scheduled and unscheduled home visits. An eviction process is in place and can begin if a person relapses. Overall the goal is enhancing one’s quality of life. Next comes physical, emotional, physical, mental, cultural and spiritual components, noted Ms Kennedy.

At the March11 meeting, some community members shared safety concerns in their quiet neighbourhood. Director Miller said she was following a process, has put together the documents and criteria, and then brought this information to the community. One woman said she did not want that building in her neighbourhood. Director Miller pointed out that addiction is in the community’s backyard, in the village and other places.

Ms Burning stated that a standard police check is required from possible tenants. “This is a program to help people,” she continued. “This is about trying to trying to come forward as a community.”

A woman recognized program as a wonderful opportunity to see the community get better while some were against it. Ms Burning knew how prevalent addiction is but when people are not in the program, it is more of a threat. An elder wanted to see an end to drug dealers and crack houses in the community but was supportive of the housing project. People mentioned struggling with their issues and a young man said everyone is addicted to something. He was glad to see a step forward in helping people and hoped it will continue.

Director Miller acknowledged people conquered their addiction and her department will work hard to help people heal. Four addiction counsellors will assist individuals on their path. Anyone can be impacted: sons, daughters, parents and friends. People work hard to get them back. Another woman wanted to see this new program and its services that come with it. Another wondered about safeguards. Ms Burning said when recovery is on its way, a new set of people will call the building a home for continued healing.

Dr. Al Jones, who works at a Methadone Clinic, spoke about addiction, oxycontin, opiates and morphine. Some people just can’t stop using heroin which only lasts six to seven hours in a body before they want more. To get off the drug, he advised people to taper use by 10% a week and to continue this 10% reduction to wean off of heroin’s 7 hour window. Methadone lasts for 24 hours in the body but takes a long time through withdrawal. Two new drugs will show up soon, he added emphasizing that shooting anything into veins can push bacteria into them. Drug use can lead to high blood pressure or diabetes that can’t be fixed. Some people just stay on drugs rather than stop.
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