Regional Chief Isadore Day
is the AFN portfolio holder for health.
Mental Wellness remains a key priority for the AFN. Key activities over the past year have included working with the AFN Youth Council in developing a response to youth suicides, addressing the emerging challenge of opioid addiction including fentanyl, and advocating for the implementation of the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework (FNMWCF), among others.
The work of the AFN-FNIHB Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Joint Review continues and is expected to be completed in 2017. The Joint Review is intended to enhance client access to benefits, identify and address gaps in benefits, streamline service delivery to be more responsive to client needs, and increase program efficiencies.
For Budget 2017, the AFN put forward a budget ask of approximately $1.6 billion in new funding annually. The advocacy of the National Chief and the portfolio holder was a key factor in securing new health investments in Budget 2017, including $828.2 million over five years. Minister Philpott indicated that these Budget 2017 investments represent a “downpayment” on investments to come.
With direction from the CCOH, the AFN Health Sector is currently developing a First Nations-specific action plan to address the ongoing opioid crisis, supported by Resolution 82/2016. Elements of the action plan will include prevention, treatment and harm reduction activities. Related to the implementation of the FNMWCF, the AFN is working with partners in developing service delivery models for Crisis Response & Prevention and Land-Based Programs.
Related to NIHB, the immediate work of the Joint Review will be completed in 2017. In December 2016, the AFN was mandated by Resolution 126/2016 to secure the necessary resources to support communities and regions in exploring alternative governance options for the delivery of the NIHB program based on First Nations self-determination in health, population growth, inflation, geography and need. This includes exploring/developing legislative and legal options based on Treaty and Inherent Rights. This work will continue alongside the implementation of Joint Review recommendations. Budget 2017 included funding to support a number of key recommendations from the Joint Review including the use of traditional healers and Elders in the NIHB mental wellness benefit and the provision of maternal escorts in medical transportation.