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Filling a need

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“Long overdue” was how Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services executive director Calvin Morrisseau put it during Friday's grand-opening ceremony for the new Mino Ayaa Ta Win Healing Centre located in the former Ivik building on Mishkiki Miikan Road off Highway 11, about 10 minutes east of Fort Frances.

Billed as a new residential treatment and medically-supervised detoxification centre for members of the 10 Fort Frances area First Nations and others within the region, it took just 16 months between when the proposal was submitted in July, 2016 to the first intakes being accepted this past Monday.

In reality, though, it took decades of advocating and negotiating to bring this facility to fruition, which features eight beds for its 28-day residential treatment program and another two for detoxification, as well as offices, a boardroom, kitchen, dining room, and lounge.

Clearly it's a much-needed one here. It's no secret alcohol misuse is a problem in Northwestern Ontario, with the Northwestern Health Unit saying more than three-in-five people (61.7 percent) in its catchment area exceeded Canada's low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines in 2013-14, which was well above the provincial rate of 45.3 percent.

In 2015, the incidence rate of emergency department visits from alcohol misuse in the health unit's catchment area was 287.7 per 10,000 people—a whopping six times higher than the provincial rate of 44.0 per 10,000.

And this isn't even touching on the abuse of illicit drugs, including the current opioid crisis ravaging the country.

Kudos to all those involved, and Mr. Morrisseau, in particular, for the tireless work over the many years to ensure area First Nations receive the same services as others in Ontario. The importance of having access to culturally-appropriate care close to home cannot be understated.

The collaborative effort between the FFTAHS and federal and provincial partners to create this new centre also should serve as a shining example of what can be accomplished by working together towards a common goal.

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