Constance McKnight is executive director of the Aboriginal Health Centre. (Brian Thompson / The Expositor)

 

Aboriginal prayer, drumming and dance officially marked the planning of a new home for the Aboriginal Health Centre.

Those connected with the centre gathered on Tuesday at the T.B. Costain/SC Johnson Community Centre for a “capital launch” of the proposed building.

A proposal for the project — and a similar one to be built in Hamilton — will soon be prepared for the Ministry of Health in the hope of securing funding.

There has been no potential site selected for the new Brantford centre and executive director Constance McKnight said the cost has yet to be determined.

Consultants have been hired to assess needs, determine costs and draw plans for a new facility. A fundraising campaign also will be launched.

“We’re at the pre-capital stage,” said McKnight.

“We’re creating a proposal. It will be a three- to five-year process before construction begins.”

McKnight said the centre, which provides western and traditional medicine and services, has outgrown its current space at 36 King St. where it has been located for about six years.

“The building is more than 100 years old,” said McKnight. “We’re at the stage that we can’t retrofit it any further.”

McKnight said they have about 1,000 patients and provide service to nearly 3,000 people who are of aboriginal descent, First Nations, Metis and Inuit. The centre provides “culturally appropriate” health-care programs, offering clients a choice of traditional healing or Western medicine, or a combination of both.

Physicians and nurse practitioners provide primary health services, along with mental health support, advocacy, outreach and health promotion, and education services.

Lack of room at the King Street centre forced the organization to rent space on Colborne Street for health promotion activities. Another health centre staff member works from the Brantford Native Housing building on Colborne.

McKnight said a new facility would allow everyone to be under one roof. It would also enable the centre to expand the programs it offers, some of which were discontinued when Pine Tree Native Centre of Brant closed about a decade ago.

“At the end of the day we’d like to have a facility that makes aboriginal people proud to own it and the people of Brantford proud to house it.”

michelle.ruby@sunmedia.ca

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