When someone kicks an addiction only to relapse, First Nations University professor Carrie LaVallie sees a gap in treatment, especially in cities.
To fill that gap, she’s started a project in Prince Albert aiming to include traditional healing practices that are typically only available in rural settings and on First Nations. The idea, subject to community input, is to offer 24-hour service access where people can find community supports and traditional treatment.
“We need to bring in all different ways of knowing to create new answers. Because right now, the answers we have aren’t working, or aren’t working 100 per cent,” she said.
The first stage of the process is surveying residents and local organizations for their thoughts, asking what they want to see and where gaps in treatment are. By next April, LaVallie hopes to finish that phase, before adding new partners, finding funding and doing more research to move the project further later that year.
She’s not alone in identifying a need for more treatment services in Prince Albert.
Aftercare, after hours care and transitional housing all need more capacity in the area, noted Angela Impey, the regional director for the Metis Addiction Centre Council of Saskatchewan in Prince Albert.
“We provide aftercare and followup with our clients. However, often they’re going back into the community and don’t have that support network in place,” she said. Without that network, there’s a high chance of relapse.
That’s partly why LaVallie hopes to contribute more treatment services.
The model that sparked her interest was the healing centre in Fort Qu’Appelle, which is about 70 kilometres northeast of Regina and offers traditional practices like a sweat lodge for those in recovery.
LaVallie noted urban healing centres are under-researched, but said their more rural counterparts like the one in Fort Qu’Appelle are encouraging. Their focus on relationships and cultural context make for a more holistic approach, she said, as opposed to focusing solely on personal thought processes and shortcomings.
That’s because Indigenous perspectives emphasize healing together, rather than more individualized Western approaches, she said.
“We’re all in this together and we all should be supporting each other in healing, whether we’re using or not. That’s the biggest gap that I see.”
Subject to community input, LaVallie sees access to elders, smudging and traditional medicine as part of potential treatment in Prince Albert. She said a more collective healing process reduces feelings of shame for people in recovery, increasing their chances of success.
“That lessens shame. When we lessen shame, we lessen the chance of relapse,” she said.