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Mushkegowuk Council aims to set up 'holistic' street patrol as opioid crisis ramps up

The opioid crisis in Timmins is hitting Indigenous people hard, particularly those who are living away from their communities — and a member of the Mushkegowuk council wants to organize a front-line team to help.

Fire Keeper Patrol to be 'like a warm blanket' that offers connection to Indigenous culture, values

Mushkegowuk Council is asking the province and federal government for more than $1 million in emergency funding to put together their team, which would be called the Fire Keeper Patrol. Linklater says she hopes to hear soon about their request, as winter is fast approaching. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The opioid crisis in Timmins is hitting Indigenous people hard, particularly those who are living away from their communities — and a member of the Mushkegowuk Council wants to organize a front-line team to help.

Alison Linklater says she wants to assemble a group of people who can offer a holistic approach to care, based in First Nations teachings. It would involve social workers, mental heath workers, elders, nurses and traditional healers — all of whom would help people get to the root cause of their problems.

"Why are they using drugs? What are their addictions? What's causing the homelessness? Things like that," Linklater said.

"[Workers would bring] that perspective into our outreach program. We'll wrap them around with the services — what they need to move forward in a healthy way."

Mushkegowuk Council is asking the province and federal government for more than $1 million in emergency funding to put together their team, which would be called the Fire Keeper Patrol. Linklater says she hopes to hear soon about their request, as winter is fast approaching.

Linklater says the Fire Keeper Patrol will be like a warm blanket that offers a connection back to First Nations culture and values, or what some call "the traditional way of living."

"They've lost their identity as an Indigenous person. Even with the trauma that they experienced, personal trauma, grief or intergenerational trauma that's been passed down," she said.

"[We'll be] looking at [it] from that perspective, you know, kind of just working with them." 

Linklater has been personally affected by the opioid crisis as well.

"We've had some family members affected with addictions, even overdoses. They passed away. A lot of our community members know of someone that passed on or is dealing with addiction. So it is a very personal issue that everybody's dealing with here."

The pandemic has exacerbated the problem as well.

"It's been very challenging for communities dealing with the opioid crisis, because some of them are in lock down [and] the drugs are still getting in," Linklater said.

"[And there's] very limited access to detox services, withdrawal services, treatment. The communities are going through a very challenging time. A lot of our people are suffering in the community. It's really disheartening to hear the stories of what's going on in the communities."

She remains hopeful that funding will come through for the Mushkegowuk Council program, noting that a similar program in Kenora has received funding.

The Mushkegowuk program would serve the Timmins area at first.

"And then from there, we're hoping, if we're successful with our program, to make it like a hub system or make it grow into the communities, where the communities would manage their own programs. There's so much potential with this," Linklater said.

The Mushkegowuk Council wants to set up a street patrol for its members in Timmins dealing with the opioid crisis. Alison Linklater is the health policy advisor for the Mushkegowuk Council. She joined us with more details about the plan. 7:43

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