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Three days of dialogue and decision-making: Leaders gather for the Northern Regional Caucus in Lheidli T’enneh Territory

​​Northern Regional Caucus was a balance of strong dialogue blended with the good medicine of laughter.

More than 175 participants attended the three-day Northern Regional Caucus from April 9-10 on Lheidli T'enneh Territory in Prince George. Forty-three of 54 Northern communities were represented by Chiefs, Hereditary Chiefs, Chief Councilors and proxies.  

Darlene McIntosh of the Lheidli T'enneh welcomed everyone to the territory and provided the opening prayer, and the Khast'an drummers provided three traditional songs from the territory. 

FNHA key priorities: Ensure no community is left behind

FNHA Chief Operating Officer Richard Jock began his presentation with a snapshot of FNHA's 2018/2019 Summary Service Plan, an overview of feedback processes for health services for First Nations, and emergency response policies and plans with a focus on the wildfire crisis that took place last summer. 

Richard also outlined the budget highlights from the federal and provincial governments, highlighting new fiscal relationships and potential impacts for BC First Nations. The allocation of the funds was presented through the guiding principles of a multi-year strategy, sustainability, core service standards and needs-based distribution.

Community leaders had the opportunity to provide feedback on their service priorities by text polling, with the following results:

• 43% ranked a need for Addiction Workers as first priority,

• 33% ranked a need for Nursing as second priority,

•​ 33% ranked a need for Home Care Resources as third priority.

Richard closed with dialogue on the Nurse Practitioner Strategy and Cultural Safety and bettering quality care for First Nations. 

Attendees addressed challenges that community members experience within the health care system, and the development of a more effective evaluation system and process.

Programs and services: Support the exchange of ideas and community-based solutions

Sonia Isaac-Mann, FNHA VP of Programs and Services presented on mental health and wellness, the opioid public health emergency, and Jordan's Principle. 

Information was shared on FNHA's implementation of Jordan's Principle and the role of the FNHA Child and Youth Health and Wellness (CYHW) Systems Navigator. Each region has a CYHW Systems Navigator that ensures there are no gaps, delays, denials, or disruptions of services and programming. 

The conversation then shifted to overdose and opioid public health emergency for BC First Nations. Sonia outlined the framework for action on responding to the crisis with four actions to slow and stop overdose. The framework included: prevention, safer usage, treatment, and supporting people with their healing journeys.

Sonia presented on the Harm Reduction grants and shared a map showing the 13 Northern communities that received a total of $650,000 to support community-driven, Nation-based innovative and culturally relevant responses to the opioid crisis.

Health Benefits: We are committed to doing better!

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(L-R: Jackie Green, Dianne Shanoss, and Krystal Jack of Gitanmaax)

John Mah, VP of Health Benefits and Darren McKnight took to the podium to discuss Health Benefits Plan W and the next phase in the transformation of the FNHA Health Benefits program.

They shared the experiences and lessons learned around the October 2017 PharmaCare transition and shared FNHA's commitments to improving services. Some of the lessons learned were regarding the communications efforts to reach urban populations and to better educate service providers of the transition.  

Darren discussed the creation of the community relations team within FNHA's Health Benefits department that will deliver a community engagement function and provide information and support closer to home. They are currently recruiting and the roles should be filled soon.  

FNHC social determinants of health: Everything is connected

Genevieve Martin and Patricia Hoard, members of the First Nations Health Directors Association Board of Directors, presented the Health Directors' perspective on social determinants of health. Health and well-being is connected to education which is connected to individual and family lifestyles—a cycle that must be strengthened for future generations. 

Following the FNHDA presentation, a panel of FNHC members, including Warner Adam, Bev Lambert and Grand Chief Doug Kelly, discussed how the social determinants of health support First Nations to achieve wellness priorities.

Day Two: Northern Regional Update and Mental Health

FNHA North Regional Director Nicole Cross acknowledged that there may be new leadership in the room and reflected on the journey BC First Nations have experienced to take over management of health services and programs.

As part of this journey, and based on community feedback, the North has further refined its14 regional goals to focus on four priorities that include: primary care, maternal child health, population public health, and mental wellness and substance use. 

Following Nicole Cross' presentation, Caucus Chair Warner Adam called upon members of the FNHA Northern Regional team to share their work or to introduce themselves, including Carla Lewis as the new Traditional Wellness Specialist and Henry Morgan as the new Coordinator for Men's Health and Wellness.

Three of the Community Engagement Coordinators shared updates on their communities as well as best practices and past and upcoming project, events and activities.

Sharing best practices: Providing knowledge regarding community needs!

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Brooke Boswell of the Northern Biobank Initiative was invited to present an update on the consultations with First Nations in Northern BC. Brooke explained why a First Nations Biobank is needed in the North. The main reason being to "close gaps in health status requires improving equity in access to health research and innovations" and that the health status is a moving target.  

Dr. Travis Holyk (pictured above) from Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) then provided a presentation on research and development. The presentation had a focus on CSFS efforts to develop a sustainable, high quality and community-based model of service delivery support driven by best practice and research.

Members of the Provincial Health Service Authority (PHSA) then presented an update on correctional health services. Executive Director Andrew MacFarlane informed the caucus on the changes to correctional health services being shifted to PHSA on October 1, 2017. The strategy now is to eliminate barriers for accessing health care for inmates and to improve reporting and accountability at all correctional facilities.

Mental health and wellness: Increase access to comprehensive, integrated and place-based services

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A panel including FNHA's Regional Mental Wellness Advisor Karla Tait, Crisis Response Advisor Julie Morrison, Northern Regional Director Nicole Cross, FNHC's Grand Chief Doug Kelly, Bev Lambert and Warner Adam presented on regional priorities and opportunities in mental health and wellness.

The panel reviewed opportunities for investment, partner support and additional community-directed efforts.

The region shared that the FNHA is recruiting and training a Northern Crisis Response team. The team is currently undertaking Aboriginal Focusing Oriented Therapy and will be included in a regionally-sponsored Critical Incident Stress Management training - this will empower them to support to community members and responders after a critical incident.

Lastly, there was a discussion to increase traditional wellness and healing to revitalize the traditional healing practices.

Day Three: We must prepare young people to be the change we are working towards

Satsan Herb George of the Centre for First Nations Governance presented on the Transformational Governance for rebuilding our Nations. Satsan described the inherent right to self-governance, including the history of inherent rights and an approach to transformational governance.

Satsan called for the community leaders to invite the youth to join the transformative journey and create more opportunities to be more involved.  

Honouring Warner Adam: Elvis has left the Building

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After more than 13 years of dedicated service to the process and configuration of the FNHC and the FNHA, it was announced that Warner Adam will be stepping down from his role with the FNHC. Richard Jock began his presentation with some light humour, by revealing the nickname given to Warner Adam was Elvis when he joined the FNHC table.  Five of Warner's friends and work colleagues shared words of gratitude, including Nicole Cross, Grand Chief Doug Kelly, Ann Howard, Sandra Teegee, Mary Teegee and Bev Lambert.

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