By Tim Kalinowski on June 12, 2021.
The Blood Tribe Department of Health is addressing criticisms made by community members at a rally in Standoff held earlier this week over its handling of the opioid crisis, and is denying specific allegations of drug dealing going on at Bringing the Spirit Home Detox Centre.
“The Blood Tribe Department of Health has been made aware of certain allegations made to the media on June 9, 2021 relating to overdose deaths in the Blood Tribe Community,” a statement released late Thursday reads. “The Department of Health recognizes the important voice of our community members in trying to address the addiction crisis facing our community and communities across Canada.
“However, the suggestion that drug dealing takes place at Bringing the Spirit Home is inaccurate and we are disappointed that community members would make such an allegation when this could not be further from the truth.”
The Department of Health says the detox centre is in compliance with all regulations.
“Bringing the Spirit Home is a licensed facility that complies with strict regulations to ensure the health and safety of its clients,” the statement goes on to say. “The facility operates with detailed policies and procedures. If there was ever any evidence that a staff member or patient was selling drugs in the facility, it would be dealt with immediately. This would include reporting the matter to police, or any other applicable authorities.”
The Herald spoke with the Blood Tribe Police Service about any potential investigations pertaining to drugs going on at the Bringing the Spirit Home Detox Centre. Community Policing Division Acting Inspector Rayan Najjar says the BTPS has responded to “multiple occurrences” at the detox centre for a variety of different reasons, but only one of those calls for service was related to allegations of drugs being trafficked at the site in the past year.
“That was the one file that was reported to us,” he confirms. “All the other cases, we responded about 58 times based on our stats in the last year for a variety of different concerns, but that was the only time where there were allegations of drugs being brought in.”
In that instance, he says, it was determined by investigators there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges.
Najjar also confirms his officers have not been called in to investigate any other allegations of drug trafficking occurring at the detox centre since that time, and there are no current open investigations related to drug trafficking going at the detox centre.
The Lethbridge Herald also sought comment from the office of Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan, who has announced funding for a 75-bed unit expansion at Bringing the Spirit Home Detox Centre, if the Minister is satisfied these allegations pertaining to drug trafficking have been thoroughly explored, investigated and dealt with? And that the detox centre is fully accountable and compliant with his office’s expectations should the funding go ahead as planned?
“Alberta’s government has no comment at this time,” said the Minister’s press secretary Justin Marshall in a response released to The Herald Friday morning.
The Blood Tribe Department of Health, which administers the Kainai Wellness Centre, also rejects accusations from its former employee, Roger Prairie Chicken, leveled during Wednesday’s rally that he was dismissed for speaking out about the housing crisis on the Blood Tribe First Nation.
“With respect to the assertion that a Department of Health employee was terminated for ‘speaking out’, this is not accurate,” the statement reads. “Human Resource matters are private and confidential and the Department of Health cannot comment on decisions related to matters of this nature.”
As for the broader criticisms leveled by community members on Wednesday that Blood Tribe leadership as a whole is not doing enough to combat the opioid crisis at the grassroots, the Department of Health says it is doing the best it can given the broad scope of the crisis.
“Our leadership and health professionals continue to work very hard to address this opioid and addictions crises and our frontline workers are exhausted but continue to work over and above to combat this continuing crisis,” the statement reads: “by dealing directly with emergencies, creating a task force, involving families and communities, implementing harm reduction measures, operating the life-saving detox centre and developing a 75-bed unit to deal with this crisis. We look forward to continuing to work with our community members to address this crisis.”
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