OGOKI POST, ON --- September 19, 2011 --- Marten Falls First Nation is one of many northern First Nations who are dealing with an unprecedented rate of opiate addiction attributed to a misused prescription drug known as OxyContin. In 2009, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Chiefs-in-Assembly unanimously passed a resolution declaring a State of Emergency as a result of the prescription drug epidemic. In a statement made earlier this year to Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, Chief Eli Moonias said: “This drug’s effects can be highly destructive when misused. It debilitates the whole community”. Marten Falls is north east of Thunder Bay.
Marten Falls First Nation Chief and Council today welcome members of an independent Treatment Team and Health Canada’s First Nation and Inuit Health representatives to initiate the planning for a community-based clinical withdrawal management program to help community members with opiate addiction. They are joined by Joe Gaboury, Director of Aboriginal Affairs for Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., an international mining company, who will cover the costs for the first program. Joe Gaboury stated, “We are so concerned that we have decided to invest some of our money in having a healthy, capable workforce coming from this northern community. We have made this a priority for our business.”
The Team of health professionals will use a substitution drug known as Suboxone and taper the drug over 30 days until clients can be taken off completely or continue on short-term low-dose maintenance. This approach has been successful in other programs in Nishnawe Aski territory and is well-documented and used in other parts of the world.
Benedikt Fischer, one of Canada’s top opioid misuse and intervention researchers and Senior Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, and CIHR/PHAC Applied Public Health Chair at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, also joins the meeting with the Chief and Council today. He continues his connection with Chief Eli Moonias that began at a NAN “Think Tank” where he and other experts in opiate addictions and community health committed to helping the Chiefs address this problem. He says, “One of the most effective interventions for treating opioid dependence is Suboxone as it’s effective in facilitating short-term opioid withdrawal, as well as reducing illicit opioid and related key harms including drug injecting, possible overdose and drug-related crime.”
Liza Moonias, the community’s Drug and Alcohol worker says, “We are concerned about the Health of our community members. We will be having 3 treatment sessions in the coming months to treat 63 people in total. Community members are anxious to participate in the program. We can show our children and grandchildren that this goal is not impossible. We are hoping that other communities follow. With Humility, Love and Respect, Meegwetch.”