U of R researchers look to help rural communities access addictions counselling

The University of Regina will receive $937,000 from the federal government to further two projects focused on health research.

University gets $937K in federal funding for 2 projects

Shauna Lafontaine (left) and Randy Johner will be working on an app that could help people dealing with addictions in isolated communities. (Kendall Latimer/CBC News)

Researchers at the University of Regina have received $451,000 to develop an app that helps people in rural and isolated communities access culturally informed addictions counselling.

Two projects at the U of R were selected to receive money from the federal governments program through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

"We're hoping it will make a big difference but we won't know until we've developed the app and tested the app," said project lead Randy Johner. 

Work on the app is set to begin this summer. An eight- to nine-month trial of the app is slated once it has been completed so the team can iron out any issues and get feedback from users. 

Johner said the app would be an aide to someone going through addiction recovery. She said the app will be like sitting with a "counsellor without having a counsellor in front of you."

Randy Johner says the app will be like having a counsellor there with you no matter where and when you need it. (iStock/Getty Images)

Shauna Lafontaine, executive director for Métis Addictions Council of Saskatchewan (MACS), said the app could help address access to medical care for people in northern Saskatchewan. 

"With the app we're excited that you're going to get access to somebody at all times or to get information that will better assist you and let you know where your journey needs to begin," said Lafontaine. 

She said the farthest north her organization currently operates is Prince Albert, Sask.

"For us to have a way or mechanism or tool that we can access into the north, it's very important," said Lafontaine. 

MACS offers culturally informed sessions to its clients, like teepee teachings, learning the medicine wheel concept and spirituality lessons. 

Shanthi Johnson and her team also received $485,000 for their work trying to enrol the elderly receiving home care and their care workers in a home exercise program.

Johnson hopes the program will lower the number of falls experienced by the elderly and lower the number of musculoskeletal disorders for care workers.

With files from Kendall Latimer