A decade long dream of a year-round mental health and addictions recovery center serving multiple First Nations in northern B.C. could soon be fulfilled.
Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) is seeking approval of a community care facility at the Tachick Lake Resort located within the traditional territory of the Saik’uz First Nation southwest of Vanderhoof.
“COVID-19 has brought challenges in itself, but there have been many social issues in terms of substance and alcohol use affecting community members’ wellbeing,” Saik’uz First Nation councilor Jasmine Thomas said.
Due to a lack of local health and wellness services, members often have to leave their homes for Vancouver Island or the Lower Mainland.
“That doesn’t help support our healing journey,” Thomas added.
Echoing those similar concerns is Saik’uz elder Marilyn Vickers.
At a Nov. 9 Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako public hearing, Vickers confirmed the community had recently lost several members due to the proliferation of illicit drugs amid the pandemic, helping fuel it.
“A year-round facility in Saik’uz traditional territory would be a huge gift to our people,” she said, where elders could teach the Carrier language, culture, customs and traditions to individuals hoping to heal and have a healthy, stable life.
CSFS director of health and wellness Marilyn Janzen said it has been a vision for the past 12 years to have such a facility.
An addiction recovery program at the Nadleh Whut’en fishing camp on the shores of Ormond Lake is only operational during the spring and summer months. Over the last 27 years, the program has used “on the land” cultural philosophy combining cultural practice with modern-day counseling in the natural setting to support wellness and recovery from addiction.
“The proposed facility would allow for a six-week treatment program resulting in little traffic most days,” Janzen said.
A rezoning bylaw to allow a community care facility to operate on the property passed third reading by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako on Nov. 19. Because the subject property is in the agricultural land reserve, the zoning bylaw must be amended to add “community care facility” as a permitted use.
CSFS also needs the approval of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), to which the regional district agreed it would then consider adopting the rezoning bylaw.
If the rezoning amendment and ALC approval are successful, CSFS will engage Unison Architecture in Vancouver to design and construct the 25,000 square foot facility. CSFS will likely retain the existing lodge for staff quarters.
Consisting of a lodge, nine cabins and 33 campsites, the Tachick Lake Resort was initially constructed in 1969.
(Correction: CSFS’s purchase of Tachick Lake Resort is subject to the adoption of the rezoning amendment and ALC approval)