OTTAWA—Health Canada said yesterday it will fund two additional mental health workers and a case manager for youth in Attawapiskat to assist with the Northern Ontario reserve’s suicide crisis.
It’s a move that comes after the federal government came under fire by the region’s MP and the community’s chief.
The department has yet to indicate when the workers will be on the ground in the troubled community and what level of training will be required.
Outside the House of Commons, Health minister Jane Philpott only could say an update will be provided once more information is available.
“We are working on a long-term plan for responding to the needs of Attawapiskat, as well as other communities that are facing similar concerns,” she noted.
“We’re very pleased to be able to announce that we will make the resources available to make sure that there are long-term solutions, and we’ll work with our partners to make that happen,” Philpott added.
NDP MP Charlie Angus cancelled a high-profile trip to the United Nations earlier this week to visit the beleaguered reserve instead to highlight the lack of federal support for youth.
He was baffled by the fact the Liberal government didn’t seem to know the reserve’s permanent mental health worker wasn’t available to residents under 18.
Angus said he was pleased there now will be additional resources for the community, but he remains upset false information was provided about what is available to address a crisis so severe it garnered global attention.
“What really concerns me is 30 days into a serious suicide crisis, they either didn’t know what was on the ground or they were making facts up,” Angus charged.
“Either way, that’s really not credible behaviour given the severe risk we are facing with young people,” he stressed.
After multiple requests from The Canadian Press for information, the department confirmed yesterday there is a permanent mental health worker in the community from the Weeneebayko Health Authority who focuses on adult services.
A youth wellness worker and family intervention worker with a provincial children’s aid agency—Payukotayno Child and Family Services—also are in the community.
The Ontario government announced Monday it will keep an emergency response team on the ground to assist with the crisis.