Youth healing lodge welcomes its first cohort 

By Dariya Baiguzhiyeva

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A youth healing lodge providing mental health and addictions treatment through a cultural lens opened doors to its first intake last week.

The Ka-Na-Chi-Hih Specialized Solvent Abuse Treatment Centre, located in Thunder Bay, is running the Wakenagun Youth Healing Lodge in Timmins. It’s located on Highway 101 West at the former Tembec site.

It offers a 12-week residential program to youth aged 12 to 17 from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) area.

During the program, the lodge accommodates six youth who all have private bedrooms.

The trauma-informed program includes land-based healing methods, traditional and cultural activities like smudging and ceremony, group therapy, anger management, life skills, grief and loss counselling, and relationship building.

Youth can also practice and gain their language skills at the lodge.

“I see it as the ability to have that connectivity through belonging, meaning and purpose. To allow our youth to have some positive skills and ability that will allow them to be successful in their communities,” said Angela Carter, Ka-Na-Chi-Hih Center’s CEO.

The first cohort for males started last week. The organization is now accepting applications from females and males for future intakes.

In total, there is also about 15 staff at the lodge.

The funding for the treatment centre came from the Ministry of Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social services.

The proposal process started in 2019 but the pandemic delayed the opening, Carter said.

She said the lodge gives youth an opportunity to develop positive coping mechanisms.

One of the program’s primary purposes was to give youth a chance to get treatment without having to travel far from their home communities, she said.

“Most treatment centres are located in other provinces or down south. This way, youth only have to travel a plane ride away to be able to access services, that stability to maintain the connectivity with the family,” she said.

An individual treatment plan is developed for each youth based on their needs and strengths, according to the client handbook.

During the program, youth are expected to continue studying and take part in educational teachings. The lodge’s classroom operates in conjunction with the youth’s community school allowing them to earn course credit for completed work, according to the handbook.

The need for the lodge came from the high suicide rates across the NAN region and a lack of resources for Indigenous youth.

“The primary purpose was to have two central locations for NAN community members so there would be less travel and there would be more familiarity with the youth having connections to Sioux Lookout and Timmins instead of culture shock,” Carter said.

Another treatment centre in Sioux Lookout isn’t open yet as the organization is waiting for an operating license to open, she added.

For more information about the program, visit the website or Facebook.

 Dariya Baiguzhiyeva  is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the TIMMINSTODAY.COM . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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