Minister Philpott announces expanded mental wellness teams in Northern Saskatchewan

News Release

Reconfirms commitment to increasing access to mental health and wellness supports for First Nations

April 19, 2017                    La Ronge, Saskatchewan                                          Health Canada

The Government of Canada recognizes the scope and seriousness of the mental health issues that are facing First Nations communities and is committed to supporting these communities overcome the difficulties they are facing.

Today, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, announced the expansion of mental wellness teams that will support First Nations communities in northern Saskatchewan.

The Government of Canada will invest $1.2 million over two years to develop two mental wellness teams in the communities of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and Lac La Ronge Indian Band. This funding will help increase capacity building and training to ensure services are provided in a culturally safe manner.

The mental wellness teams are community-driven and have proven successful in increasing access to culturally safe mental health and addictions services and supports in First Nations communities. Over the past year, Health Canada has doubled the number of mental wellness teams in Saskatchewan to a total of 10. Each team adopts an integrated approach to service delivery, blending traditional, cultural and mainstream clinical approaches, and enhancing the continuum of care from prevention to after-care.


"We are committed to working nation-to-nation with First Nations leaders and support their efforts to foster hope among their youth, their families and communities. In my many discussions with First Nations across Canada, I have heard loud and clear that community-driven solutions are key to enhancing the mental, physical and spiritual health of communities. These investments represent another critical step towards ensuring that long-term, sustainable mental wellness support is in place for all First Nations in Saskatchewan."

Jane Philpott
Minister of Health

“The crises we have faced in our communities has taken a toll on many of our families, and we recognize that healing process will continue on for some time. The Lac La Ronge Indian Band is pleased to receive this additional funding, which will address an urgent need and enable us to build our capacity of Mental Health professionals.  However, the trauma runs deep and there is still much more work to do ahead. As we work on our larger mental health strategy, we look forward to continuing our discussions with the federal government to advance our plans for a holistic wellness centre that can have lasting change for this generation and those to come.”

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson
Lac La Ronge Indian Band

“We do welcome this additional support and appreciate the recognition of the crisis in our northern communities this funding brings. I believe that it will help to expand our local wellness teams and support our priority of building capacity at the community level.  Although this is a positive step toward acknowledging and addressing the needs of our northern First Nations we hope to continue discussion on long term strategies.”

Chief Peter A. Beatty
Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation

Quick Facts

  • The Government of Canada continues to invest in mental health programs and services for First Nations and Inuit. Budget 2017 has pledged $828 million over five years to improve Indigenous health. This includes $118.2 million over five years in community-driven mental health programming led by First Nations and Inuit. The Government of Canada will be engaging with First Nations and Inuit leadership and communities to determine how these new investments will be used to improve mental health.

  • In June 2016, the Government of Canada announced $69 million in new funding over three years to implement interim measures, including crisis response teams and to increase the number of mental wellness teams available to First Nations and Inuit communities.

  • Individuals who are in distress and need help are also encouraged to call the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310. This is a national, toll-free, 24-7 culturally appropriate crisis intervention line. Counselling is available in English and French, and upon request in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktut.

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Andrew MacKendrick
Office of Jane Philpott
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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