By Haley Grinder
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A state of emergency has been officially declared regarding the looming mental health crisis within Ktunaxa Territory (?amak?is). The governments involved with the executive call are Ktunaxa Nation, Yaq?it ?a·knuq?i?it, ?akisq?nuk, Yaqan Nu?kiy and ?aq?am

“The Ktunaxa governments are proud of our work on the frontlines during these crises, and we are doing the best that we can, with the resources we have, and with the support of our local health authority and local community partners,” said Debbie Whitehead, Ktunaxa Nation Council Social Sector Senior Manager in a press release. “However, our region continues to have a shortage of psychiatrists and it is time we work together to look at ways we can meet the immediate needs of vulnerable people, through exploring the transfer of the function of duties or increasing the scope of practice of nurse practitioners, similarly to what was done to address the pandemic and opioid crisis. Many of our vulnerable adults have complex needs but the capacity is not there to support them. The need for holistic, culturally-relevant and culturally-appropriate care is not just apparent, it is an urgent priority.”

The reasoning for declaring a Mental Health Crisis is due to the aftermath and continued effects of COVID-19. The pandemic-inspired mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, combined with the continuing opioid crisis is especially risky with winter approaching.  This is a particularly big problem regarding Indigenous peoples, as many mainstream services are inaccessible or culturally misaligned.

“The mental wellness of Ktunaxa youth and young adults is a particular concern as issues experienced by our young people have been compounded by the pandemic and lack of access to adequate support services,” said Yaqan Nu?kiy Nasu?kin (Chief) Jason Louie, expressing the importance of all governments coming together to acknowledge the issue at hand and make change. “We need to act now otherwise the cycle of addictions and trauma will continue to perpetuate itself.”