The governments of the Ktunaxa Nation have declared a State of Emergency regarding the mental health crisis within ʔamakʔis Ktunaxa.

Shawna Janvier, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chief Administrative Officer said ongoing challenges have been compounded by both the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are many challenges facing vulnerable Ktunaxa citizens in our areas,” said Shawna Janvier, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chief Administrative Officer. “Many of these challenges stem from the impacts of past and present post-colonial trauma and these effects have been compounded by the current opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Primary care providers have consistently noted that mental health intakes are the top reason for visits to primary care facilities yet the gap in services remains large. It is vital to the health of Ktunaxa Citizens that other governments meet us at the table with the mindset we are working from a government-to-government relationship,” added Janvier.

“It is too often we are seen as solely a service provider when in fact we are the Ktunaxa governments and we have fiduciary obligations and responsibilities to care for the health and well-being of our citizens regardless of where they reside.”

In a press release, Ktunaxa Nation officials said vulnerable Ktunaxa Citizens are at an increased risk of overdose and death from exposure as winter nears and the temperature drops.

Ktunaxa Nation officials said many of the vulnerable citizens are unable to access mainstream services due to outdated or culturally misaligned program requirements, or because the programs simply don’t exist.

“The Ktunaxa governments are proud of our work on the frontlines during these crises and we are doing the best that we can, with the resources we have, and with the support of our local health authority and local community partners,” said Debbie Whitehead, Ktunaxa Nation Council Social Sector Senior Manager.

“However, our region continues to have a shortage of psychiatrists and it is time we work together to look at ways we can meet the immediate needs of vulnerable people, through exploring the transfer of the function of duties or increasing the scope of practice of nurse practitioners, similarly to what was done to address the pandemic and opioid crisis,” added Whitehead.

“Many of our vulnerable adults have complex needs but the capacity is not there to support them. The need for holistic, culturally-relevant and culturally-appropriate care is not just apparent, it is an urgent priority.”

Yaqan Nuʔkiy Nasuʔkin (Chief) Jason Louie said this is a call to all local, provincial and federal governments to stand with them and to recognize this is a shared State of Emergency.

“A commitment to government-to-government planning and to making investments in immediate interventions that are culturally appropriate, sustainable and effective and that address the determinants of health is vital to assure the safety of these vulnerable Ktunaxa Citizens,” said Louie.

“The mental wellness of Ktunaxa youth and young adults is a particular concern as issues experienced by our young people have been compounded by the pandemic and lack of access to adequate support services,” added Louie.

“We need to act now otherwise the cycle of addictions and trauma will continue to perpetuate itself.”