Two major funding announcements were made for the Blood Tribe that will help tribal members battling with opioid addiction and to help alleviate the work load for the Blood Tribe Police Service (BTPS). The Blood Tribe Department of Health (BTDH) detox site “Bringing the Spirit Home” began in partnership with Blood Tribe Chief and Council and Alberta Health Services in the Fall of 2018. To help battle the opioid crisis, the program was created to help tribal members struggling with the addiction to receive much-needed help to access into detox, then into treatment and access to other health resources.
From this program, the Blood Tribe saw a decrease in overdose calls, the innovative wholistic approach was a first in the province and applauded by Jason Luan, Alberta’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Luan was on hand to announce that the “Bringing the Spirit Home” detox site will receive a total of $6.6 million for the next three years, to help aid in the treatment and recovery of those suffering with opioid addiction on the Blood Reserve. This will see an increase in the number of beds provided for treatment from six to 24 in the safe withdrawal management site.
“This program is the answer to the opioid crisis that will lead people to getting off drugs and eventually being reintegrated into society,”said Martin Heavy Head, BTDH Board Chair and Council member.
From January 2019 to February 2020, more than 500 clients accessed the site. Of those who accessed the site, more than 190 were successful in their detox and 77 progressed into treatment. The program included 14 youth and a few expectant mothers who were able to gain the stability they needed and eventually move into their own homes.
The second part of the announcement detailed increased funding for existing policing services on the Blood Reserve. The Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Doug Schweitzer, announced a commitment of $1.4 million for Indigenous police services across the province, resulting in an increase of five new officers for BTPS. In policing one of Canada’s largest reserves, the Chief of Police, Kyle Melting Tallow, said that being under resourced resulted in the police services doing more with less causing long delays and lack of follow up in investigations. He further described that the increased funding will see an enhancement in policing services that will give community members a sense of safety and security.
“We’ll continue working with the Blood Tribe, the Province of Alberta and Public Safety Canada, ensuring that the Blood Tribe Police are viewed as an essential service and not as a funded program, thus ensuring long term sustainability of the culturally appropriate service supplied for the community,” said Melting Tallow.
Also, two members of the BTPS will be integrated to take part in the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) which was established by the Government of Alberta to combat organized and serious crime, creating safer communities for all Albertans including Blood Tribe members.