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Winterizing camp will make for more help for more people with addictions

Expanding the Muskwa Lake Wellness Camp to be able to operate year round means they can service 90 people annually.
Pinehouse Lake
With an extra $337,000 in funding from the province, the Muskwa Lake Wellness Camp will be able to help an additional 30 people with addictions by upgrading its camp near Pinehouse Lake to a year round service.
PRINCE ALBERT - Demand for addiction services is growing and it is growing amongst younger people hooked not on alcohol but on meth and with different expectations when it comes to treatment. 

That is a trend noticed by staff at the Muskwa Lake Wellness Camp and one of the incentives to make their land-based camp able to handle the increased workload. 

“There’s a huge need with the drugs that are coming in and filtering through the North. We’ve never seen so much need for it as we did this summer,” said Kimberly Smith, Health and Wellness Manager with the Kineepik Métis Local #9, which operates the wellness camp.

“It’s mostly crystal meth that we’re seeing. We’re professionals when it comes to dealing with alcohol, but crystal meth is a whole new ball game for us.” 

With the change in addiction and the age of those addicted, Smith said how they work with people has also had to change. 

The same amount of workers can’t work with same amount of clients. 

“They need more one on one time and oversight than we normally have to give with alcohol. Everything is immediate and they want now what they’ve been asking for. It’s a little trickier group,” said Smith. 

Expanding the camp to be able to operate year round means they can service 90 people annually, an increase of 30 from where they are now. 

The province of Saskatchewan announced on Dec. 7 that it would give the Kineepik Métis $337,000 to winterize the existing cabins, build a few more and add a water source, boiler system and electricity to the area. 

"It's vital that people have access to culturally-sensitive addictions support that meets their recovery needs," Mental Health and Addictions Minister Everett Hindley said in a statement. 

Combining western ways with traditional indigenous ways is how the camp operates. 

“The participants run the camp. They do the water and the wood. They do the chores and they’re part of the camp while they are there,” said Smith. 

We combine western ways, such as anger management, parenting, looking at addictions and blend that with the indigenous way where we teach them core cultural competencies.” 

Those cultural competencies include skills such as making bannock, setting a net, cutting up a fish and making a meal. The camp brings in local elders and speakers as needed. 

Local support is what has kept the facility operating for a very long time with financial help from the community and from sources such as the Métis local, the Northern Village of Pinehouse and the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan. 

Last year, the University of Saskatchewan also got some money to conduct a study into how the Muskwa Lake camp works with its residents. 

After preparation and with some more funding needed still, the official first year of a four-year project will start in 2022. 

“The University of Saskatchewan got approved funding to come and do research for this program,” explained Smith. “It’s going to really legitimize indigenous ways of doing things, putting power and control back into the communities.”

Gauging success is also now more than looking at whether former residents stay sober or not for the camp operators and the researchers. It is looking at how well they live. 

“This year, we’re looking at other factors in terms of; are they employed? Did they keep their job? Are their children in their care? Are they keeping a home? Are they establishing relationships with their family?” said Smith. We’re trying to look at other factors and not just whether they are clean and dry.”