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Free counselling cut for non-status residential school survivors in B.C.

Health authority says mental health care only offered to those with First Nations status going forward
A sign of an orange shirt is attached to a fence during a Truth and Reconciliation walk in Saskatoon, Sask., on Friday, September 30, 2022. In B.C., residential school survivors and their family members will no longer have mental health care covered as of April 15, 2024, unless they have official First Nations status. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

Non-status residential school survivors and their family members will no longer have certain mental health care covered in B.C., come May.

Funding for up to 22 hours of counselling a year has been provided as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement for years, but that legal obligation ended in March 2021. Since then, B.C.’s First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) says its federal counterparts have been helping to fund the care, but that they can no longer cover the cost.

Beginning this month, mental health programs and services are being cut back to only include Indigenous people with official First Nations status, who currently live in B.C.

People who aren’t registered under the Indian Act – which could be the case for a number of reasons, including discriminatory historic policies or personal choice – will no longer qualify. The FNHA says those people can get another four hours of counselling up until April 30, but will have to find supports elsewhere after that.

The mental health criteria now aligns with that of all other FNHA health benefits and services, which also require that a person have First Nations status and have lived in B.C. for at least three months.

FNHA said in a news release that the decision came after an evaluation of the program usage and available funding. Black Press Media has reached out to the health authority to request the exact number of people who will be losing coverage.

A list of other crisis lines and supports is available on the FNHA site.

READ ALSO: First Nations leaders hold emergency meeting in Ottawa on mental health crisis

READ ALSO: Growing residential school denial ‘the last step in genocide’: report

About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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