Plans underway for La Ronge wellness centre
- Linda Mikolayenko | May 13, 2016
It has been talked about for years, but now, plans for a wellness, healing and recovery centre in La Ronge are gaining momentum.
“Once it’s a reality, I think it’s going to make a big difference,” says Miles Ratt.
Ratt is the Chair of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) Advisory Council on Mental Health and Wellness. The council, consisting of representatives from the six LLRIB communities, contributed to a mental health strategy and feasibility study completed last summer.
After consulting with hundreds of stakeholders and visiting similar centres in western Canada, a 100-page report with 20 recommendations was prepared by Dr. Margaret Kress White in July, 2015.
The report states, “All stakeholders participating were unanimous in the support of a healing centre focused on recovery services and outreach wellness programs, addictions counselling, cultural services and land-based initiatives.”
“There’s a high need for mental health services,” says LLRIB Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, noting that the proposed centre would also provide addictions services that would complement not duplicate, existing detox services. She emphasizes that one of the main messages they heard in their community meetings was the need to focus on the younger population.
Two phases of facility development have been proposed. The first would be a wellness and healing centre with an attached recovery unit for young adults; and the second a leisure and recreation centre with an indoor pool that could potentially service the entire community and surrounding area.
Cook-Searson says that $2.3 million has already been set aside for the project by the Band’s Health Services. The first phase alone could cost upwards of $17 million. While the gap may appear daunting, Cook-Searson is optimistic that once a location has been confirmed and a coordinator is in place, there will be significantly more progress.
One of the options being considered is to construct the facility on the Kiskinwuhumatowin (Urban) Reserve on La Ronge Avenue, where the Anglican Mission School and the La Ronge Hospital once stood.
Health Canada has provided funding to hire a project coordinator, whose duties will include working with partners to fundraise for the centre. Potential funders include governments, corporations and individuals.
“We’ve been really patient,” says Cook-Searson, “but everything takes time. I guess it will be up to the will of the people, and also the will of the decision-makers that will help us support our project in moving it forward.”
Cook-Searson has already had the opportunity to present the report to the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and to the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety. Cook-Searson said that when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Saskatoon on April 27, he expressed interest in the project, observing “he seemed to genuinely care”.
While Cook-Searson recognizes that there is still more work to be done, working with officials and building partnerships, she has always maintained her belief that the centre will be built.
“I know that it’s possible, and we can do it.”