Minister of Indigenous Services Announces $ 82.5 Million for COVID-19 Mental Health Needs

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Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller on Tuesday announced $ 82.5 million in new funding for Indigenous communities to address increased mental health needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The funding is intended to expand “culturally appropriate services” such as field services, community programs, mental wellness teams, virtual counseling and addiction treatment.

Miller said pre-existing intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities – as a result of residential schools and the current child welfare system – has been “exacerbated” by the pandemic.

“It has caused and increased mental health problems for individuals and communities as a whole,” Miller said.

“Before the pandemic, the demand for mental wellness counseling and support was already on the rise.

Miller said Indigenous Services Canada’s Hope for Wellness helpline received 10,000 calls and conversations between January and April, a 178% increase over the same period last year, which received 3,602 calls and cats.

The First Nations Health Authority, which provides health services to First Nations in British Columbia, also reported that overdose deaths doubled between January and May 2020 compared to the same time the year before.

“The full impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of Indigenous peoples and communities is unlikely to be fully appreciated until long after the pandemic is over,” Miller said.

Miller said the $ 82.5 million will be divided among regional First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations, which will determine how the new money will be used.

Miller also said the ministry will also continue to support young people in the child welfare system who have aged during the current pandemic period, until March 2021.

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To date, 437 cases of COVID-19 have been reported on reserves and 411 have recovered.

Miller said the department was also preparing to support communities in planning to reopen schools – providing non-medical masks for children and hand sanitizing stations in schools.

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