Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Logo

On Monday, June 26, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Chief and Council declared a State of Emergency related to the opioid crisis impacting Nawash citizens residing on and off the reserve. In a June 29 media release from the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, opioid-related harms, overdoses and deaths have reached crisis proportions with Nawash members as addiction rates have increased rapidly over the last few years and as the growing presence of fentanyl and carfentanyl in the unregulated drug supply has infiltrated Canada.

"Overdoses with Nawash citizens, on and off the reserve have increased markedly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to be a complex health and social issue that has devastating consequences on individuals, families, friends, front-line workers and the community," read the release. "With the nearest hospital a 30-minute drive from Neyaashiinigmiing, individuals that have overdosed are often unable to receive treatment in time," the release said.

"Fortunately, Naloxone kits are readily available on the reserve and have frequently been administered by community members which has been a critical component in saving many lives," the release added.

Chief and Council, Neyaashiinigmiing Police, Chippewas of Nawash Health & Wellness, Social Services, and Native Child Welfare programs are making an emotional plea to acquire more services, resources and access to support and funding to help with this crisis impacting their community and members.

“We are tired of going to funerals,” said Councillor Anthony Chegahno, “We are tired of continually mourning. We need access to more resources and are in dire need of more experts to come to our community and help with our distressing opioid crisis. We are tired of seeing our loved ones die.”

Despite increased efforts in social and outreach programs, harm reduction strategies and education in Neyaashiinigmiing, the overdose and mortality rates continue to be much higher than the rest of the population in Ontario. Nawash Health and Wellness staff have seen a surge in client caseloads and the urgency of individual needs has exponentially risen throughout the community. Staff are performing daily wellness checks on clients to prevent crises, and are providing crisis intervention and management, medical intervention, multidisciplinary case conferencing and family support. The long hours and prolonged stress are taking a toll as staff are experiencing emotional, physical and mental exhaustion.

Outside the reserve, Grey Bruce has established support services for the immediate area including a Mental Health Crisis Line, Withdrawal Management Clinics, Addiction Treatment Centres, as well as Mental Health and Addiction Services which on and off-reserve members in the area has access to.

The opioid crisis constitutes a danger of major proportions for Nawash citizens and requires substantial resources, support and funding. Nawash has also issued a declaration letter to the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC). PEOC is tasked with facilitating the provision of the appropriate services to emergency situations that are impacting communities.