Many Indigenous young people who live in remote northern communities are required to relocate to larger urban centres to pursue their secondary education. These youth have often experienced significant hardships that are exacerbated by the stresses of relocation. When seeking help for these struggles, it can be complicated to navigate complex systems in an unfamiliar city and difficult to engage with services that may not be designed to address these unique needs. The question then becomes: what would happen if those specialized supports were easily accessible and provided in a space where the youth felt safe and valued? A unique program providing holistic and culturally sensitive mental health and substance use services has been developed through a partnership between the Matawa First Nations Management and St. Joseph's Care Group in Thunder Bay, ON. The Oshkibiimaates Wiidoogakewin program has eliminated barriers to accessing service, reduced stigma and met the individual wellness needs of hundreds of students since its inception, with continuous improvements to serve students better. Creativity, flexibility and collaboration are at the heart of this program's success, as well as a shared vision of building a community that helps youth thrive.
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