Outreach centre opens on main street in Kamsack to address needs of people with high risk lifestyles

            An outreach centre, funded by Health Canada and managed by a board assembled by Cote First Nation with the objective of helping to create a healthy community, was officially opened in Kamsack on Monday.

            The centre, which is to be named following a competition among clients, is located in the former Glass Door Jewelry store on main street in Kamsack.

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            The current plans for the centre are for six months with future ongoing funds pending evaluation of the overall program, said Darlene Bryant, the Cote First Nation health director, who with five members of the Cote First Nation council will oversee the project.

            On Monday, a ribbon was cut by Chief George Cote of Cote First Nation to mark the opening of the facility. Speaking at the facility, in addition to the chief, were: Kamsack Mayor Rod Gardner; Chief Isabel O’Soup, the tribal chief of the Yorkton Tribal Council (YTC); Dr. Ibrahim Khan of Regina, Health Canada’s regional medical health officer for Saskatchewan First Nations; Brett Dow of Saskatoon, the HIV-AIDS co-ordinator for Health Canada; Raymond Shingoose of Yorkton, the director of child and family services for the YTC, and a representative of Sunrise Health Region.

            “Our goal is to help address the immediate needs of people struggling with mental health issues and life challenges related to grief, loss, abuse, depression, anxiety and poverty which have contributed to increased addictions and has negatively impacted the health and lives of all age groups,” Bryant said.

On a tour of the building last week, Bryant explained that the large front room, equipped with comfortable seating, a worker’s desk, tables and chairs is the reception area and will be the place where various workshops or seminars will take place. The building includes a small kitchenette where light lunches may be served to those in need; washroom facilities, and two private offices where one-on-one meetings can be held with counsellors.

She added that the centre, still somewhat bare, is still looking for additional furnishings.

In June, a health alert was issued relating to an increased incidence and risk of HIV infection within the Sunrise Health Region, Bryant said. Dr. Khan met with the Cote chief and council to discuss strategies to deal with the crisis that is in the Aboriginal communities.

A result of that meeting is this outreach centre, she said. “Cote First Nation wants to be prepared to deal with all potential outcomes from testing and provide support for individuals, families and the community members as we move forward to address this crisis and the future well-being of the community.

“The first approach we will be taking is to provide the support, education, awareness, prevention and harm reduction services for all clients,” she said. “This outreach centre will have an onsite full-time co-ordinator who clients could meet with.

“The clients will be provided with a safe space to access services and get referrals to appropriate resources that are currently available. Cote First Nation will provide additional support services such as the NNADAP (National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program) workers, community health representatives and councillors who would be onsite at scheduled times to provide a lunch and snacks to clients to ensure that some form of proper nutrition is available to them.

“The outreach centre will provide mental health support for individuals, families and the entire community, both through the outreach centre and through the Cote First Nation Health Clinic. This mental health support will include services such as individual counselling, family counselling and community workshops.”

Wanda Cote has been hired as the centre’s co-ordinator, Bryant said. She will be co-ordinating daily events and ensuring that the needed services provided meet the needs of the people.

When Bryant was asked why the centre is being located in Kamsack rather than at Cote, she said that experience has shown that prospective clients at Cote choose not to visit such centres and because so many of them are in Kamsack each day, it is believed that a site in Kamsack would be more effective in attracting the people who need the help.

Representatives of Cote First Nation health department have been in contact with other organizations to work in partnership to assist and ensure the success of this venture, she said. Resources of Health Canada, Sunrise Health Region, YTC, Saulteaux Healing and Wellness and Child and Family Services will be available at scheduled times to provide the needed contacts, referrals and provide education and awareness.

“This joint effort is vital and the organizations are urged to work with us so we can enhance the services provided through the outreach centre,” she said.

Bryant said that she envisions a two-month wall calendar that would outline upcoming activities, including seminars and other learning sessions.

“Although we’re concentrating on Cote First Nation band members, we will not exclude anyone needing help,” she said. “We’re going to try our best.

“We’ll offer the service, but we will need everyone’s positive attitudes and help to combat these issues. We all have to work together and remember to treat each and every person with dignity and respect.”

Additional information regarding the opening ceremony will be carried in next week’s issue.