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Federal funding supports Indigenous harm reduction program in Kelowna

The city has received $662,433 through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program
$662,433 has been set aside for a Kelowna program aimed at Indigenous harm reduction. (File photo)

More than $660,000 in federal government funding will support an Indigenous harm reduction program in Kelowna.

The city has received $662,433 through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program(SUAP).

It will support a new program that seeks to grow cultural safety within harm reduction services and reduce the stigma and racism faced by Indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities.

READ MORE: Advocates say the federal government can do more to address opioid use stigma

“The ongoing effects of colonialism are intricately linked to the disproportionate impact that overdose and other substance use harms have on Indigenous Peoples,” said Carolyn Bennett, minister of mental health and addictions.

In 2021, 7,560 Canadians died from opioid overdose-related causes. B.C. First Nations people are dying due to toxic drugs at a rate more than five times that of non-First Nations people.

READ MORE: ‘I don’t want to die’: Kelowna’s ‘tent city’ Mama calls for drug reform as 6 lives lost per day in B.C.

“We are in the midst of challenging times,” said Mayor Tom Dyas. “We see it here in Kelowna and across Canada. Action is needed on this issue, so I’m happy to see federal funding for the Indigenous-led Knknxtəwix̌ program coming to Kelowna.”

Knknxtəwix̌ will create an Indigenous Harm Reduction Team (IHRT), made up of a nurse, a social worker and two Indigenous Peer Navigators. The IHRT will deliver harm reduction services, supplies, and cultural support to people who use illicit substances. Knknxtəwix̌ will also pilot a decolonizing substance use day program, with local Indigenous Elders, Peers, and specialists contributing to its Indigenous-informed substance use recovery curriculum.

“We’ve worked with the City in the past on a similar Peer Navigator project and found a lot of success,” said Wes Zawertailo, program manager with the PEOPLE Lived Experience Society. “Our main goal is to find employment opportunities for people with lived experiences, so this program is a perfect fit for us.”

For more information about the city’s social wellness initiatives, visit the City of Kelowna website.


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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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