The First Nation's Health Authority (FNHA) launched the Medication Return Event (MRE) grant program in 2018. This funding supports eligible First Nations communities within British Columbia (BC), by providing $500 to use towards hosting an event to dispose of expired or unused medication.
Candy-Lea Chickite, Project Analyst at the FNHA, works directly with communities to organize and deliver MRE funding for the safe disposal of medications. Over the past two years, the FNHA has funded over 60 events across BC. K'omoks, Ktunaxa, N'Quatqua, Seabird Island, and Squiala First Nations, are amongst the communities that have used the funding to hold their own MRE. One of the community partners is Tami Compton, Health Manager at K'omoks First Nation. In a conversation about the most recent MRE, Compton stated that, “Removing expired or unused medication is very important- especially if you have young children, teenagers and elderly with dementia- it helps keep your home safe."
Chickite also noted that these events are important not only to keep community members safe, but also to protect the environment. She stated, “The idea was that if there are expired medications, including opioids, it's important to have a place for disposal for community members and environmental safety." Compton echoed this sentiment: “It's also about the environment. A lot of people in the past have flushed medications but that's not a safe way to dispose of them." The funding helps create a process for safe disposal and preventing exposure to potentially harmful medications.
Chickite said that some communities have combined the MRE grant funding with another event. From Chickite's own experience, “These events are really fun, while also being educational and keeping community members safe." Compton added that K'omoks has now held three events, and at the latest one, they turned it into a mini health fair where people could return their old medication and have their current medication reviewed by pharmacists. She stated that, “Now that the community is educated about the importance of safe disposal, I have members asking me about when the next events are." By creating these educational events where health care providers and community members can connect, it allows people to take an active role in their own health and wellness journey.
In the midst of the toxic drug crisis, removal of medication is more important than ever. Ktunaxa Nation Health Clinic, which serves the four Ktunaxa communities and other Indigenous folks in the East Kootenays, also hosted their own MRE. The community shared that their event was a "Snack, Learn & Return" day that included an information booth about medication safe return, FAQs, and how this relates to harm reduction and environmental stewardship. The organizer wrote, “We had a lot of the FNHA Indigenous Harm Reduction handouts/info sheets available and these were good conversation starters."
Chickite says that through her work in organizing these events, communities have reported overwhelmingly positive responses. Several communities shared their own stories of success including, Squiala First Nations' event, which brought in 25 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter medication for safe disposal. Kristina George at Seabird Island First Nation shared feedback from a community member: “I would have never known how to safely dispose medication. Thank you! Now in the future I know what to do." Similarly, N'Quatqua First Nation also hosted an MRE. They saw the majority of the returned medication from relatives that have lost Elders in the community. Adele Fletcher, Community Wellness Coordinator at N'Quatqua First Nation, shared that “the medication return program made a positive impact on our community. Just knowing that we as a whole have made a positive way to get rid of old medications. The whole community came out and brought everything that they had." After holding on to the medication for some time, the event was seen as a great opportunity to dispose of it.
In sharing a message to communities, Chickite said, “We want people to know that the funding is available and that these events can be a really fun opportunity to connect, while also being informative." Compton concluded that, “It's all about our future generations and bringing them up in a healthy and safe environment."
For more information about the MRE grant, please visit: https://www.fnha.ca/what-we-do/health-system/medication-return-event-grant
You can apply for a grant application here
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