Traditional western medicine can do wonders, but only when it’s trusted and part of a process to overall wellness.
Indigenous People in Niagara will soon have another path to achieving that overall wellness, thanks to the expansion of the De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre (DAHC). The agency, which has been providing mental health services in the region since 2017, will now offer primary care options for Indigenous People.
“It really involves considering western medicine and the importance of that, but also keeping that strong focus on Indigenous and traditional ways of health and healing,” said Bryanne Smart, board chair for DAHC.
The centre already operates similar services out of Hamilton and Brantford, and between their experiences in those regions as well as the success of the mental health programs that have already been offered in Niagara, Smart said they saw a need to bring culturally sensitive primary care to Niagara.
“We have wait lists. So we know that that means that people are looking for this type of service,” she said. “We have a number of people who want to be a part of this. They’ve had maybe poor experiences in mainstream health care centres. And … having that culturally directed service is really important.”
DAHC merges western medicine with Indigenous practices and thoughts on wellness, Smart said. Appointments are usually longer, and Smart said there’s a focus on building a relationship with the patient and creating a safe space.
“It’s important to access services that are culturally safe, and that are relationship based and that are very welcoming because the reality is that’s not what our folks and our Indigenous People experience in the health care system and quite frankly, other systems as well,” Smart said.
Previously, DAHC’s St. Catharines site offered counsellors and outreach workers for child and youth mental health, as well as counsellors and support for adult mental health. They also run a Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine clinic, an Aboriginal patient navigator program, as well as a traditional healing program.
With the expansion they’ll be hiring a physician, nurse practitioner and registered practical nurse.
“As an Indigenous physician and past member of the Board of De dwa da dehs nye>s, I celebrate the infusion of much needed resources to support the health and well-being of Indigenous People in Niagara,” said Dr. Bradley Johnson, a chronic pain specialist.
Smart said they’re hoping to fill some gaps that exist in Niagara, such as around diabetes education. And further expansion will be considered as they continue to grow.
For more information on the centre, including application forms, visit aboriginalhealthcentre.com or call 1-877-402-4121.