BONNYVILLE – Local organizations who go above and beyond for those who need extra support are getting a helping hand from the provincial government.
The Bonnyville Friendship Centre received $50,000 through the Community Grant Funding Program, while University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills was approved for a grant in the amount of $75,000.
The program is part of the Government of Alberta’s $53-million COVID-19 Mental Health Action Plan that aims to support the mental wellness and addiction recovery of Albertans during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
Janet Gobert, community initiatives coordinator at the Bonnyville Friendship Centre, noted the funding they received will go toward introducing the position of mental health navigator to their team to ‘lessen the impact on their client service group.’
“As we adapt to a ‘new normal’, the Bonnyville Friendship Centre has seen an increase in services requested due to mitigating factors, such as job losses, increased family violence, and loss of relationships directly or indirectly linked to the present pandemic,” Gobert expressed. “The ramifications of this crisis will be long-term in regards to mental health well-being and the possible introduction of addiction.”
The mental health navigator, or peer support worker, will deliver culture-based, holistic healing and wellness programs and services, Gobert stated, which includes family violence prevention and safety plans, wellness initiatives that will foster improvements in the mental well-being of indigenous and non-indigenous individuals and their families mid- and after the pandemic.
“With the implementation of this position, the Bonnyville Friendship Centre will be able to encompass a wrap-around approach to provide clients with culturally yet relevant coping skills in addition to positive reinforcement in relation to the present pandemic,” Gobert explained.
Knowing what both organizations offer to their communities, Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson didn’t hesitate to support them receiving the money.
“The COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 has affected a lot of people and there’s a need for mental health (services) as well as the food banks in our area,” he told Lakeland This Week. “The good work that those folks are doing, will (the money) be enough? It’s probably never enough but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Hanson offered his appreciation to the friendship centre and Blue Quills for all that they offer to the communities.
“The local education system that runs through Blue Quills and their support of the indigenous community up here in the St. Paul area, as well as the surrounding area, is second to none and I know that the native friendship centre in Bonnyville rises above even other organizations in the area. I’m very impressed with the work that they do in the Bonnyville-area.”
The provincial government plans to continue offering support to evidence-based funding programs in order to ensure that resources are there for those struggling with addiction issues.
At Blue Quills University, president Sherri Chisan says the post-secondary institution, which is located just a few miles west of St. Paul, is grateful for the additional funding.
The funds have allowed Blue Quills University "to increase our supports for students during the pandemic, addressing mental health issues related to the multiple stresses of isolation, limited access to Elders and ceremony, the transition to online classes for our students and their children, and general pandemic fatigue," says Chisan.
"We also anticipate a need for ongoing support as we work to reknit our social fabric when we can resume classroom delivery," she adds.
With files from Janice Huser