STANDOFF, ALTA. -- With overdoses and deaths on the rise on the Blood Tribe over the last few months, members of a local company called Blackfeet Health want to bring attention to the dire situation facing many families and what they plan to do to deal with the crisis.

In October and November of this year, there were 84 drug overdoses on the Blood Tribe and five deaths as a result. Per capita, that equates to among the highest of any area in the country given the population of Standoff is around 13,000 people.

The impact is being felt by many, and it’s led the members of Blackfeet Health to step up and try to help solve the problem.

“What we’re trying to do here is we’re going to build a clinic, an accredited clinic, using Ibogaine and other natural remedies to help our people who are having problems with opioids,” said founder and longtime farmer Eugene Fox.

Ibogaine is a psychoactive drug that has been touted as a potential solution to devastating addiction problems for a few years now.

Blood Tribe

Fox says when safely administered can give individuals between two to five months of drug free periods, which will allow the Blood Tribe the opportunity to use First Nations traditional and other plant medicines that are made locally.

The process is still in the early stages of getting the necessary financing and approvals to start building the clinic, but the pain persists.

In addition to the clinic, they’re planning to set up a treatment program as well, because too many people are falling through the cracks.

Former chief Chris Shade, who is a part of Blackfeet Health, says they are a community is a constant state of mourning.

“Families are being impacted, all different types of families. Big families, small families, young families… I mean children are being impacted by this. We’re going to be helping that as concerned members of the community,” Shade said.

It’s been said many times on the Blood Tribe over the last few months that on top of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re battling the ongoing opioid epidemic as well.

The former has made the issues related to the latter even more difficult to manage.

“The COVID situation is exacerbating the opioid use because people find themselves isolated, they find themselves scared, and they find themselves in a bad state so the drug use and alchol abuse all goes up,” Shane Pulak, the research and development coordinator for Blackfeet Health, explained.

Natural remedies

Blackfeet Health has been offering various natural remedies made from hemp and mushrooms for a few years now, but with little to no fanfare.

Now, with the situation getting worse, they want to spread the word to let members of the community know, as well as other agencies, to try and work together.

“The whole process could take another two or three years, but we wanted to get it started so we could have definite plans,” Shade continued. “To align all the right professional people to be there as part of the team that’s going to be running the place.”

The major part is getting all the right approvals in place. They could start off as a sovereign nation and their own authority, but Shade says they want to meet all the standards of Canada.

Once they’re up and operational, Fox believes that the natural remedies could be a benefit for anyone in Canada battling addiction.

“We realize the problems in First Nations communities all over the country, but we’re opening the doors to anybody else who wants to help themselves overcome addiction. There are a lot of people who want to quit but it seems almost impossible, we can give them that head start.”

The clinic will be staffed with professional nurses, phycologists, and counsellors that will help every individual, according to Fox.

“All the people that an accredited clinic needs, because a 28 day program doesn’t work if there’s nothing else to go to after that,” Fox stated.

Members of Blackfeet Health will be hosting a ‘Top of the Crop’ cannabis and hemp fundraiser competition the weekend of June 18 this summer to raise money to help stop the opioid crisis on the Blood Tribe and other tribes around the country.

“All of the proceeds will be donated to help create our accredited facility, and we’ve already received a lot of interest,” Pulak said.