By Nicole O’Reilly
The De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre is looking for new homes in Hamilton and Brantford after outgrowing its existing facilities.
The centre, which offers a mix of traditional healing and western medicine, officially launched its capital planning campaign at events in the two cities Tuesday.
Community members, centre employees and representatives from partner agencies gathered in prayer, song and dance and with a traditional lesson at Honouring the Circle on Rosedene Avenue in Hamilton in the afternoon.
Details of where the new health centres will be located and what they will look like are yet to be decided, but board chair Pat Mandy called the launch of the campaign — with the slogan “Building on our roots” — a major step forward.
The plans are a “new beginning” said the centre’s executive director, Constance McKnight. She described De dwa da dehs nye>s, which means “taking care of each other amongst ourselves,” as a place of community, refuge, learning, healing and sharing.
It’s a long path forward, said project leader Susan Conner, a consultant with PRISM Partners Inc. The key will be building a compelling case for funding to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, she told the crowd, later adding that the price tag will be in the millions.
They are planning a community feedback session for late June and expect to submit a proposal to the ministry as early as the end of July, Conner said.
The centre services roughly 1,500 clients a year in everything from primary health care to spiritual healing and mental health and addiction services.
Hamilton’s site at 678 Main St. E. is an aged, three-level brick building with significant space and structural issues.
Architect Brian Porter of Two Row Architect told the crowd they will have to prove to the province that simply renovating the spaces is not an option.
“It’s like your favourite pair of blue jeans in high school that you just can’t fit into anymore,” he said.
Clinical services manager Angela Naveau says when she started with the centre about 11 years ago, they were operating out of a trailer at the site on King Street in Brantford.
In an interview, she said she’s excited to see how far they have come.
Naveau was part of a team from Aboriginal Health Centres across the province who visited a centre in Anchorage, Ala., about a year ago.
That centre, the Southcentral Foundation, is heavily client-driven, Naveau said, adding that this is the dream for the new facilities in Hamilton and Brantford.
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