Canada’s First Nations people experience a number of healthcare inequalities when seeking treatment for substance use. This includes differential treatment and discrimination by healthcare professionals, such as being talked down to, having their concerns dismissed, and being threatened by staff (Goodman et al., 2017). Additionally, inequalities in healthcare outcomes greatly impact specific populations of Indigenous people, like women, youth, the homeless, and members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community since they contend with dual marginalization. The covid-19 pandemic has added further challenges for First Nations people already dealing with inequality in healthcare. The Thunderbird Partnership Foundation is the leading culturally centered voice advocating for collaboration, integrated, and holistic approaches to healing and wellness. Thunderbird is funded by the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM) to develop drug replacement therapy guidelines for First Nations communities, community-based programs, and residential treatment programs to respond to opioid and methamphetamine use. Through engagement with First Nations treatment centres, and supported with current literature, several important findings can be used to build capacity for those working with Indigenous clients or partners. First, collaborators in healthcare must understand the role stigma plays in creating healthcare disparities for First Nations people, particularly specific populations of Indigenous persons. Second, when this stigma is understood, knowledge about First Nations individuals, families and communities, and their history, lifeways and on-going life experiences can be integrated into health program and service standards, policies, practices and attitudes. Third, this leads to the adoption of a two-eyed seeing approach where Indigenous culture and ways of knowing and being are incorporated into treatment, alongside Western medical practices to address opioid and methamphetamine use. Consequently, Elders, knowledge holders, and traditional healers must be included to support the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of First Nations people. Finally, the covid-19 pandemic has led to alternative methods in service delivery for Indigenous populations in areas such as virtual Access to Addiction Medicine (RAAM), telehealth and harm reduction. When delivered in a culturally safe and competent manner, these measures can support healing among First Nations people. Furthermore, virtual methods can also be used to facilitate traditional healing practices and activities, like virtual gatherings or ceremonies, which are otherwise unsafe to conduct in-person during a pandemic. This work has the capacity to influence policy in community-based and residential treatment centres serving First Nation people across the country by working with partners to navigate the dual challenge of racism in healthcare and barriers to treatment because of the pandemic.
- Identify the ways in which stigma and racism impacts Indigenous people seeking help
- Discuss the different approaches to addressing wholistic wellness for Indigenous people who use drugs in a harmful way
- Describe the way technology has facilitated opioid and methamphetamine treatment during the pandemic for Indigenous people seeking help