A “state-of-the-art” health centre to better meet the needs of the urban Indigenous community in Hamilton is closer to becoming a reality with the announcement of a $10-million injection from the provincial government.
The funds will be used to redevelop the De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre.
According to the organization, which announced the new funding earlier this week, the current facility on Main Street East has not been able to meet community needs for years. It says the facility is “severely outdated and undersized.”
“Right now, the De dwa da dehs nye>s is in a building that is not accessible, we’re not able to provide all of the current services that the community would need,” Pat Mandy, past chair and capital lead for the centre, told CBC Hamilton.
“We’re very excited that this has happened,” Mandy said about the new funding. “We’ve been working on this project since 2014.”
Mandy says the announcement means the new space will happen. The new building, called the Biindigen Well-Being Centre, will be built in the city’s McQuesten neighbourhood, further east from the current site.
“This funding will enable us to build a new state-of-the-art building, a building that would be built into an environment that’s welcoming for the Indigenous community, that would be a celebration of our culture and a deep respect for our traditions,” she said.
“So, in connecting with the community, we will be able to have a building in which we can provide nurses, doctors. We are the only organization in the Greater Hamilton Area that provides both Western and Indigenous traditional medicine, so we will have a place where we’re able to do that and in an environment that’s welcoming,” Mandy added.
De dwa da dehs nye>s describes itself as an integral part of the health-care and social service system in Hamilton for urban First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. It says it has been successfully providing culturally safe programs and services that are relationship-based, welcoming and individual-directed since 1998.
The organization said health access barriers were identified in a survey of the Indigenous community in the city, with waiting lists and lack of trust in health-care providers emerging as priorities to address.
Amy Montour, a Six Nations doctor and member of the local Indigenous Health Practitioner Task Force, says she’s happy to celebrate with De dwa da dehs nye>s the infusion of resources to support the health and well-being of Indigenous people in the area.
“These types of collaborative efforts by Indigenous organizations and governments demonstrate that we can move forward together to address inequities in the system and improve the experience of Indigenous people accessing health services,” Montour said.
New centre to be completed in 4-5 years
De dwa da dehs nye>s said a circle of partners has come together to help establish the Biindigen Well-Being Centre.
Biindigen means welcome or come in, in the Anishinaabemowin language. The new community centre will include integrated health, family, social and housing services and supports.
The new centre should be completed in four to five years, and Mandy says De dwa da dehs nye>s will continue to provide services from its current location until then.
“We do need to have a culturally safe space and a welcoming space for our Indigenous communities in Hamilton and this is a good start and a foundation for the broader bub,” Mandy said.