April 22nd, 2024

Client intakes steady for new recovery camp

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on September 13, 2022.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke Elder John Wolf Child blesses the Healing and Recovery Camp on Friday at the Kii Mah Pii Pii Tsin campsite on the Blood Reserve.

The Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin (Kindness to Others) Healing and Recovery Camp operated by Alvin Mills and administered by the City of Lethbridge has been up and running for a month, seeing a large growth in recovering addicts coming to the camp to seek healing. To honour the work being done on Blackfoot territory Mills invited Elder John Wolf Child to the campsite on Friday, blessing the space across from the Thunder Chief Gas Bar along the Oldman River.

Members from Levitee Labs in Lethbridge attended the ceremony, working with Mills and camp participants to help in the recovery process. Levitee works with recovering addicts at the camp to prescribe methadone and suboxone, medication used to assist treatment by helping people reduce and quit opioids.

The camp mixes traditional healing through Blackfoot culture and teaching, along with modern medicine, bringing a new approach to how recovery is done.

“We are in our third week of intake here at the camp and we are seeing our numbers go up as high as 14. We can currently accommodate 16, and we take in anybody, Indigenous or non-Indigenous. We have gone through around 30 to 35 individuals. With the camp, recoveries are based on Blackfoot tradition and beliefs. We accept anyone, as Blackfoot people, we are very accommodating to others in the neighbouring communities,” said Mills.

Partnering with Levitee, Mills drives his patients into the clinic where they get the medication to help detox while at the camp.

“I am very encouraged with the partnership we’ve established with Levitee. We get our medical needs which is only ten minutes away. We have been able to start addressing trauma and start towards the grief recovery, which is the biggest challenge. People facing addictions and how they deal with that, the drugs numb it. Here at the camp, we are going on the right path of helping others who struggle with addictions,” said Mills.

The medical relationship is proving successful for the camp.

“Alvin came to us a couple weeks ago and told us what he was doing and asked if we’d be able to help. He brings participants into our clinic and we get them a doctor to help with medications. Typically, we use methadone or suboxone, which help people not use and help them feel better through withdrawals,” said Ashleigh Lippa, a nurse at Levitee. “Methadone helps to fill those opioid receptors in you brain, so you’re not wanting to use as much. Suboxone blocks the opioid receptors, it’s great because it protects people from overdosing, which is really important. Because we are losing people left, right, and centre from overdoses.”

Mills hopes to expand his outreach working with the city and Levitee to continue the growth of his recovery camp.

“This partnership was huge,” said Mills. “I am hoping the Blood Tribe could help with the camp, since the participants are also from the Blood Tribe. But up to this point, we’ve had zero support from the Blood Tribe. I remain hopeful that they could help us, as it is our people, that are participants of this camp.”

Mills is constantly looking to grow the camp and the areas in which it delivers recovery, while hoping to set up another site for long term recovery after participants go through the initial process currently offered.

“Supporting one another by coming to the recover camp is important. We have a healthy environment here. You don’t have to worry about anybody trying to do anything illegal. It’s secluded and tranquil. You can feel the spiritual significance of the land out here,” said Mills.

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