TORONTO, ON – The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) is launching a new harm reduction toolkit to address the growing opioid crisis in urban Indigenous communities.
“Opioid related deaths and infection rates are a growing concern for Urban Indigenous communities,” said Gertie Mai Muise, the CEO of the OFIFC. “We are equipping Friendship Centres across Ontario with a toolkit designed to give workers the harm-reduction tools and best practices they need to help save lives.”
Some Friendship Centre communities are also dealing with rapidly increasing HIV infections, largely attributed to needle sharing and the limited availability of harm reduction and treatment services. Last year the Northwestern Health Unit reported nine cases of new HIV infections in Kenora – more than in the previous eight years combined.
But Ne-Chee Friendship Centre in Kenora, believes these numbers are much higher and are not capturing new infections in the Urban Indigenous Community.
“We are deeply concerned about the safety of our community as the opioid pandemic grows,” said Patti Farfield, the Executive Director of Ne-Chee Friendship Centre. “This toolkit will help ensure our programs and services are safe for community members and equip our staff with harm-reduction best practices.”
“Friendship Centres are at the frontline of the opioid crisis and leading the way for addictions and mental health programs for Urban Indigenous people,” said Muise. “We also recognize that there is a great need for more investments in harm reduction and treatment services for Urban Indigenous communities.”
All 29 of the OFIFC’s member Friendship Centres offer a combination of mental health and addictions programming, and coordinate services with other community service providers where available.
Founded in 1971, the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) advocates for 29 Friendship Centres across Ontario. Friendship Centres are places for Indigenous people living in urban communities to gather and receive culturally based programs and services. 88 per cent of all Indigenous people in Ontario live off-reserve in cities, towns, and rural communities. Learn more about the OFIFC and Friendship Centres at www.ofifc.org.