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3 Saskatchewan First Nations declare mental health emergency

Concern is growing in three aboriginal communities in Saskatchewan after a string of drug-related deaths in the last month on the Cote First Nation.

Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations calling on a meeting with the prime minister

FSIN Vice Chief Kimberley Johnathan and FSIN Senate Chair Ted Quewezance from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations are calling on three levels of government to help support Saskatchewan First Nations deal with a mental health crisis. (FSIN)

Three Saskatchewan First Nations have declared a mental health state of emergency after a rash of drug-related deaths and they're calling for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

On Monday the Fort Pelly Agency of Chiefs representing Cote, Key and Keeseekoose First Nations, said the three communities saw about 100 combined deaths in 2015, and they're asking all levels of government to intervene. The Key, Cote and Keeseekoose First Nations combined have a population of less than 2,000.

"We have to get the ear of every level of government, our health region, our province and our federation," said Ted Quewezance, senate chair with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN).

"We got to do something and this is our first step."

FSIN Senate Chair Ted Quewezance spoke in Saskatoon about three Saskatchewan First Nations' struggle to cope with a mental health crisis. (FSIN)

The call to action comes after four deaths in one day on the Cote First Nation on Feb. 27. Three people died from prescription drug overdoses and one person was killed in a homicide. 

"You know we have over 100 people on methadone and we have people falling like flies from overdoses, mixing prescription drugs and narcotics, you name it," Quewezance said.

"A normal person goes to about seven to 10 funerals in his lifetime, and you know what? I've been to 400 funerals in my three communities." 

The chiefs of the three First Nations say most of the deaths can be attributed to addictions and mental health issues. They're calling on the prime minister, the federal health minister and the provincial government to sit down and discuss how to deliver a health care strategy to First Nations that works. ​