New Brunswick

St. Mary's First Nation opens addictions after-care centre

St. Mary's First Nation hosted an open house on Tuesday afternoon for a new after-care treatment home for people making the transition back into the community from addictions rehabilitation centres. 

Apatawsuwikuwam recovery house aims to have residents living in it by September

Apatawsuwikuwam, which means "come back to life house", can hold up to four residents on a 90-day after treatment cycle. (Logan Perley)

St. Mary's First Nation hosted an open house on Tuesday afternoon for a new after-care treatment home for people making the transition back into the community from addictions rehabilitation centres. 

Apatawsuwikuwam, which means "come back to life house" in Wolastoqey, can house up to four patients at a time, two women and two men, for up to 90 days.

"The home is a vision of the community's, in terms of wellness and after care, something that we haven't had here in our community," Chief Allan Polchies said. "And we being an urban community, iI's necessary that we have these services available."

Apatawsuwikuwam is already running pilot programs and hopes to have the residency program open in September.

Polchies said the aftercare house will serve the Wolastoqey community, which has close to 2,000 registered members. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Polchies said that the after-care house will serve the Wolastoqey community in Fredericton, which has close to 2,000 registered members.

"In addition to our health centre, these are additional services," Polchies said, "We want to make sure that our people are healthy and that they have a place within the Indigenous community, compared to going to the outside community."

Polchies said he hopes the community will be able to build a much larger facility in the future, but this is a good start.

A place to heal

Evan Sacobie, St. Mary's First Nation council member, said he knows the struggles that people go through on their road to recovery because he has walked that road as well. 

Sacobie said he wishes he had a place where he could have stayed while transitioning from a rehabilitation centre himself.

"Having a place to come every day to be around like-minded individuals, who are thinking the same way, who are trying to live the same life or are on the journey."

The two-storey house has a residency area on the second floor. The main floor has a board room and offices for counselling staff to run programs for the residents of the house.

"To complement the residency program, [there are] the programs and services that we're collectively working at developing and creating," Sacobie said.

"We have partnerships with counselling services. We have counselors coming in doing presentations on grief, self-esteem, communication, anger, responding to anger, healthy relationships. Anything that has to deal with mental health."

Evan Sacobie said he hopes the recovery house will help community members on their road to recovery. Sacobie wishes he had a facility available to him like this one while he was recovering from addiction. (Logan Perley)

The community wants to partner with Horizon Health Network and Victoria Health Centre to expand on their addictions services.

Sacobie said they do sweat lodge ceremonies for the residents twice a week. And the cultural aspect of the recovery house is also important.

"Long before residential schools happened, long before intergenerational trauma happened, our ceremonies and our language were existing and our people were strong," Sacobie said.

"That's what we're trying to connect with. That's what's making our cultural program different and unique is that we're taking our cultural approach."

Sacobie said connecting with his own Wolastoqey culture and practices helped him with his own recovery, and eventually led him to graduate from St. Thomas University's Wolastoqey Immersion program. 

Addiction can feel 'hopeless and scary'

He said they are also working with the instructors at the language immersion program to develop a language curriculum for the residents of the house.

"At times in addiction, it can get very hopeless and scary but when you can identify with another human being and when you can see transformations happen right before your eyes, there's magic there,"  Sacobie said.

Polchies said he is in discussions with other Wolastoqey communities on how they can partner on developing more recovery houses like Apatawsuwikuwam in their communities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Perley is a Wolastoqi journalist from Tobique First Nation and a reporter at CBC New Brunswick. You can email him at logan.perley@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @LoganPerley.

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