The Walgwan Center in Gesgapegiag is not a detox center, it’s a rehabilitation center.
“It’s a rehabilitation center, in the sense of wanting to have a healthier way of life. A healthier way of being, and conducting one’s life,” said Natalie Clark, an outreach worker who began in January.
The center is capable of addressing a wide variety of issues, ranging from grief to substance misuse.
It is aimed at First Nation youth between 12 and 17 years old. Programs include a three-month in-center stay, a four-week prevention program, and in-community counseling.
It serves communities across Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Attempts are made to have the groups evenly split – half boys and half girls, as well as half English and half French.
There have been some changes at the center this year, and they’re trying to make sure the communities are aware of them.
A big one for Listuguj, Eel River Bar and Gesgapegiag is access to Kayla Gedeon, the new Outpatient Counselor.
“She can go and counsel the youth in their respective communities,” said Clark. “That’s something that was needed.”
The main program is the three-month stay at the center. Participation is entirely voluntary.
“It’s not boot camp, but it’s not a summer camp either,” Clark said
The days are jammed packed. Clark said many participants aren’t use to going to sleep at 10 p.m., but after their first week, they’re begging to go to sleep by 8:30 p.m.
Clark said the program is 90 per cent culturally based. An elder works in the building every day, orchestrates ceremonies, and is always available to talk. The heavy focus on culture is also a recent development for the center, but again, it’s not forced on anyone.
“It’s something that we’ve seen that works,” Clark said.
A four-week prevention program is also available. The team attempts to condense the main program as much as possible.
The point is to offer help in whatever way people are comfortable.
“Yes, I’m promoting our center, but it’s not for every single First Nation youth,” said Clark. “They have to be ready to work on themselves if they want the program to be efficient for them.”
“I think we’re on the ball, and we’re out there listening to what the community and what the youth are saying, and trying to adjust the program as they go.”