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  1. BitterSweet
    19785.jpg Michele Solomon, White Cedar Health Center’s manager, told a story during White Cedar’s grand opening open house on June 19.

    One of the health center’s first patients was a Anishinabe woman in her 50s, Solomon said.
    The woman had suffered from pill addiction for years, and Solomon wondered why she had not reached out for help before. It was because she felt ashamed of her addiction, the woman told Solomon, but when she found out about White Cedar’s programming, and the fact that Anishinabe people are involved in all aspects of the center, she said she felt comfortable coming for help.

    For Solomon, a member of Fort William First Nation, the woman’s story exemplified exactly what makes White Cedar special.

    “Most people who work here know someone personally affected by opiod addiction,” Solomon said. “I’ve personally witnessed many, many people battle with this addiction. So the services we offer are client centered, and they’re holistic, designed to meet clients where they are at.”

    White Cedar opened its doors two weeks ago at its new treatment center in Thunder Bay’s south side. The facility features a production pharmacy, medical care rooms for nurses and doctors to see patients, and gathering spaces where clients can visit with each other, talk to White Cedar’s First Nations Elder or see councillors on site.

    The idea is to bring all the medical services under one roof for people wanting to get off of prescription drugs.

    And while Solomon noted that the medicine wheel has four colours, and the facility accepts clients of all ethnicities, the décor of the facility as well as the staff and approach all speak strongly to White Cedar’s Aboriginal focus.

    “The colour scheme, the art on the walls, the grandfather teachings in the entrance way, all of these things are the centre of our building and they are key to how we would like our clients to feel when they come here,” Solomon said.

    White Cedar’s business model is also unique. The production pharmacy is not only able to fill prescriptions and provide methadone for clients. It has been created to fill prescriptions for entire northern communities who partner with White Cedar.

    Travis Boissoneau, White Cedar’s vice president of Community Relations, has been working on setting up arrangements with First Nations communities – both remote and road-access – to provide prescriptions to the communities.

    He said that instead of communities faxing their prescriptions to a corporate pharmacy, the plan is to have First Nations fax prescriptions to White Cedar’s pharmacy and have White Cedar send the filled prescriptions back to the community.

    The benefits are three-fold, Boissoneau explained. On one hand the communities will be supporting a facility that has First Nations investors and First Nations ownership. On another, White Cedar plans to designate a portion of the success of its business back to its community partners. And perhaps most importantly, profits from the pharmacy are being reinvested into White Cedar’s health centre to cover the costs of having an Elder on site, providing a breakfast program for clients and paying for counsillors for clients.

    “We’re not a corporation coming in to service and supply the communities,” Boissoneau said. “We’re a First Nations company developing business partnerships with the communities, so each community has an economic interest in White Cedar.”

    The facility is currently accepting referrals from other medical institutions. It also welcomes clients who want to refer themselves into the programs.

    And as Solomon explained, every person who walks through the doors will be treated with respect and compassion.

    “All the services our clients need will be available under one roof, so they will not have to go into other institutions where society has expressed concern about these clients,” Solomon said.

    Author: Wawatay News
    Date: June 27, 2013


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