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New bus to bring dental and mental health care to First Nations

A new bus will soon be helping provide better access to dental and mental health services for Indigenous children and youth in Saskatchewan.

A $3.3 million pilot project launched by Synergy 8 will fund a bus to travel to the seven First Nations communities of the Saskatoon Tribal Council five days a week.

Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation is partnering with Synergy 8 to provide $200,000 in funding to support the important project.

“We are proud to be a part of this new innovative project, which will help increase access to mental health and dental services for children and teens in Saskatchewan First Nations communities. We know this will be an invaluable service for keeping kids healthy; both physically and mentally. Our Foundation is dedicated to connecting our province’s kids to care, regardless of postal code, and this program aligns perfectly with that vision,” said Brynn Boback-Lane, President and CEO of Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation.

The bus will be outfitted with a fully functional dental clinic and a team of health care workers onboard, including a dentist, a dental assistant, a paramedic, and a mental health worker.

“More importantly, we’ll have somebody there to listen, so we’ll have a mental health worker as that first step so when kids are having a tough time, or elders or residents in these communities, they will have a path. We want to help guide them in that path to make sure they are successful,” explained Troy Davies, Synergy 8 Board Chair.

The Saskatoon Tribal Council member nations that will be visited by the bus include Whitecap Dakota First Nation, Mistawasis First Nation, Kinistin Saulteaux Nation, Muskoday First Nation, Yellow Quill First Nation, Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and One Arrow First Nation.

“This bus is going to pull right up to our schools. It’s going to pull right up to elders’ homes and the biggest thing for me is the mental health piece. The mental health piece is where we see a lot of suicides and people not dealing with their trauma, so this is going to be an opportunity to hopefully limit those negative circumstances that are happening in our communities,” Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand said at the announcement event.

The project will receive $2.5 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments over five years, with the remainder raised in a campaign by Synergy 8 and its community partners. The bus is expected to launch by the end of next August.

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