New addiction treatment clinic in Winnipeg will be Indigenous-led, province says

Winnipeg will see its first ever Indigenous-led RAAM Clinic open this spring. Mike Albanese has the details, and reaction from Indigenous Elders.

By The Canadian Press and Mike Albanese

The Manitoba government is putting up close to $900,000 to set up the province’s first Indigenous-led Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine clinic.

There are already six such clinics, which provide assessments, counselling, medication and referrals to treatment programs.

The government says the new Indigenous-led one will open in the spring in central Winnipeg and will offer culturally relevant programming.

The clinic will be open five days a week, have a mobile outreach vehicle and provide up to 2,300 patient visits per year.

“I’m so grateful for this,” said Indigenous Elder Billie Schibler while holding back tears. “My spirit sores, I almost lost two sons through addictions in this city who waited and waited and waited to get into the RAAM clinics, and so many times they were turned away.

“We know what didn’t work, and we know what can work and I’m so grateful. Miigwetch (thank you).”

The clinic will be run by the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre, which says the staff will be largely Indigenous and will have experience in helping people with addiction.

“Addiction disproportionately affects our Indigenous community. More people are struggling with their mental health, more people are struggling with their addiction, and more must be done to help,” said Monica Cyr, the centre’s director of research

Elder Belinda Vandenbroeck, a residential school survivor, says her son also benefitted from seeking help at a RAAM clinic, and hopes the city’s first Indigenous-led clinic will benefit others.

“After he did that, he chose to go into treatment, and he did for three months. For this to happen here, I’m so grateful that it’s going to be there.”

Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Sarah Guillemard says the province will fund the clinic with an additional million in the upcoming fiscal year.

“It’s not just a matter of encouraging individuals to get various substances out of their system, it’s also addressing what caused the need for self-medication in the first place,” said Guillemard.

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