The Federal Minister of Addictions and Mental Health visited Penticton on Friday, March 17, to announce $3 million in funding for organizations including the South Okanagan Women in Need Society.
SOWINS will be receiving $341,000 over 26 months, funding that will be used to expand the hours their mobile outreach program will have available.
“Every day, seven lives in B.C. are lost from toxic drugs, said Liz Gomez, the acting executive director of SOWINS. “Being a grant recipient allows us to significantly increase the service hours of our mobile outreach program. We can now offer its services throughout the South Okanagan for up to five days per week.”
SOWINS previous funding agreement with Interior Health, which was renewed, previously funded just two days a week for the outreach program.
The mobile outreach van provides service across the South Okanagan and the Similkameen, from Summerland down to Osoyoos and as far out west as Princeton.
“Our outreach workers will be able to provide the necessary lifesaving supplies to the most vulnerable residents in our community,” said Gomez. “Our team of staff also offers basic need supplies and assists with advocacy resources and referrals to Interior Health, BC housing and other services as required.”
The grant funding will also go to provide a part-time substance use counsellor at SOWINS.
The most recent announcement is said to build on the previous federal funding announcement from February for health care services across Canada.
No one really, chooses, to be addicted,” said Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “It’s the drugs are addicting, and so whether or not somebody fell off a roof and ended up on painkillers and ended up needing to numb the physical pain and then got cut off their drugs and then had to go to the street for their drugs or somebody who’s been abused as a child residential school survivor and is, and ended up numbing that psychic pain, with drugs or alcohol, we have to be compassionate.”
The work that SOWINS and other organizations do are being used to argue for further support, beyond the $100 million that was included in the federal budget in 2022, as the Canadian government heads into deliberations for this year’s budget.
“I think we’ve made a good case for how important these dollars are,” said Bennet.
SOWINS and the other two organizations are only the most recently selected recipients, chosen through point-based criteria, with the goal of allowing more organizations from across the South Okanagan, B.C. and Canada to get the funding they need to save lives.
The other two recipients of the current grant funding are the Wellness Podcast Project for Men Working in the Trades, run by the Fraser House Society in Mission, and the home-based addictions support and detox program by the Options Community Services Society in Surrey.
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