Moose Cree Health Services is opening its first land-based withdrawal management facility for post-treatment support this January. The program, dubbed Bim Bij Joo Wuk (meaning “going together”) Healing Facility, aims to ease participants back into the community by spending their time deep in nature.
“The land to us has always been a nurturer, a healer, a provider, a caretaker,” said program coordinator Victor Linklater. “We’re coming back to that again.”
Located in a secluded region in northern Ontario, the facility is only accessible by a 14-kilometre journey by boat or snowmobile. Near the mouth of the North French River, six cabins are provided for sleeping and socializing, with one main lodge for large gatherings. Four are on the main site and two dedicated for youth programming activities are located closer to James Bay.
The program is inspired by the Gwekwaadziwin program on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. It is an innovative land-based residential program to help participants in aftercare, stabilization, treatment and transition back into their community. “It’s a wonderful program,” remarked Linklater. “I was inspired and wanted to carry that torch up here.”
The support is entirely based upon the needs of the individual. Participants are invited to voluntarily attend the program once they finish their time at their treatment centre. The healing process is a “fleshing out” of how participants want to proceed, whether they want help with their career, family, or simply to spend more time in the care system.
Participants are welcome to take as much time as they need to further work on themselves, manage their thoughts, or make plans for the future.
The abuse of drugs and alcohol in Indigenous communities is part of a larger systemic problem that seeps through generational trauma, and is commonly sourced all the way back to residential school. “Drug use is the symptom of the problem,” said Linklater.
Linklater joined the development team for the program in February 2019. Prior to that, the Moose Cree First Nation had been in long talks about committing to land-based support for post-rehabilitation and reintegration.
“It’s been growing over the last 15 years,” noted Linklater, when asked about the use of illegal substances.
It was the increase in drugs and opioid abuse across the region that prompted the band office to act. They secured funding for the Bim Bij Joo Wuk program between 2018 and 2019 through Moose Cree Health Services and the Local Health Integration Networks.
There are few aftercare facilities of this type. Typically, a person would finish their six-month treatment program and return to the same environment that contributed to their addictions, noted Linklater. “Often, it would trigger them right back into their old ways.”
Currently, there is no similar post-rehabilitation treatment program in Eeyou Istchee. However, program coordinators hope that their news will spark interest and spread beyond their community.
The Bim Bij Joo Wuk program is open to both Cree and non-Cree people, noted Linklater. “It’s nondenominational and is open to everyone who wants to use the land and make it a healing place.”
While more facilities are planned for 2020, all that’s left to do before opening is to hire a few more program organizers.
For more information, call the Moose Cree First Nation band office or visit moosecree.com.