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First Nations advocates in Vancouver say the region needs more -based addictions healing treatment options. (Shutterstock) Metro Vancouver First Nations advocates want an Indigenous-focused addiction treatment centre in the region because they say the province’s opioid crisis is disproportionately affecting the region’s urban Indigenous population.

According to data from B.C.’s First Nations Health Authority, First Nations people are disproportionately affected by the overdose crisis, which has seen an average of nearly four people in the province die each day .

The health authority says First Nations people are five times more likely to overdose on illicit drugs and three times more likely to die from an overdose. It estimates Indigenous people account for one third of fentanyl deaths, even though they make up only five per cent of B.C.’s population.

Kevin Barlow, the CEO of Metro Vancouver’s Executive Council, says many Indigenous people turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with years of unhealed trauma, for example, from residential schools.

"Those things don’t go away overnight," he explained. Trust an important factor

Barlow said there is a need for culturally sensitive programming — like Indigenous healing practices and support from elders — to complement Western addictions treatment.

Furthermore this work needs to carefully consider issues of trust, he said.

"If someone has grown up in the system, whether they’ve been in the foster care system, there’s a lot of mistrust because they don’t stay in one foster home for example.Their attachment capacity is limited."When they finally reach a point where they’re reaching out for help, trust is a clear factor, especially when the system has been led by non-Indigenous people taking [them] out of their home or that type of thing. These things stay with people throughout their life."When they go and see an Indigenous person who’s offering a service, they’ll connect to that […]

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