The six First Nations communities of Madawaska, Tobique, Woodstock, Kingsclear, St. Mary’s and Oromocto and the Vitalité and Horizon Health Networks are proud to announce the signing of the Wolastoqewi Addiction and Mental Health Services Memorandum of Understanding on April 22nd during a ceremony held at the Maqiyahtimok Centre in St. Mary’s.
Under this agreement, the two regional health authorities have committed to maintain addictions and mental health services offered within the First Nation communities as well as work with the First Nations to increase addiction and mental health services provided to each First Nation based on a demonstrated need and the availability of resources, which will be identified through First Nations-led community needs assessments.
“We are happy to partner with the province’s two regional health authorities to maintain our current level of addictions and mental health services as well as work to increase the addictions and mental health services that our communities so desperately need,” said Chief Allan Polchies of St. Mary’s First Nation. “With the help of our partners, we will be able to bridge the gaps that exist between these services once they have been identified.”
By signing this agreement, Vitalité and Horizon confirm their commitment to carrying out addictions and mental health services to Wolastoqiyik without prejudice to other healthcare services that may be in place, as well as acknowledging that providing these supplementary services are a part of their mandate.
“Our Health Networks agree to sustain current levels of community-based mental health services, provided in each First Nations community, and are committed to addressing gaps within the spectrum of mental health and addiction care in each partnering First Nations community. Strengthening service integration between regional health authorities and First Nations communities / organizations is an important step towards reducing First Nations service gaps and health status disparities”, declared Dr. France Desrosiers, President and CEO of Vitalité Health Network.
“With this MOU, we will strengthen our relationship and work together with our First Nation community partners and enhance our addictions and mental Health services, cultural competency and safety,” said Karen McGrath, Horizon President and CEO. “This will continue to enhance and broaden our efforts together.”
Chief Ross Perley of Tobique First Nation acknowledged that this partnership is a step in the right direction of reconciliation by addressing some of the issues our people face within the healthcare system when accessing addictions and mental health services.
“There is still much, much work to be done, however,” Chief Perley said. “But providing these services under the oversight of First Nations health officials to help guide our people back on the right path, many of whom deal with depression and the lingering effects of intergenerational trauma, will hopefully begin to help address some of the issues.”
Vitalité and Horizon have committed psychiatry services to each community, as well as consideration of resources, scope of practice and allocations on an annual basis, with the agreement automatically renewing every two years on the anniversary date.
“This relationship comes at a crucial time for our people, who over the last year have been feeling the effects of COVID-19 pandemic and the isolation that comes with government mandated regulations,” said Chief Shelley Sabattis of Oromocto First Nation. “We hope that our communities’ members do not hesitate to access these services if they are feeling as if they are in crisis.”
With the signing of this MOU, the partners will collaboratively implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action #19, #22, #23 and #24, all of which refer to the better delivery of health care services for Indigenous Peoples.