News Releases

News Release - Canada and Manitoba

December 22, 2021

Governments to Fund Buffalo Riders Program for Indigenous Youth

The Canada and Manitoba governments are providing $350,000 to the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation in support of the Buffalo Riders program, which provides early interventions for Indigenous youth at risk for substance use and addictions, Federal Mental Health and Addictions Minister and Associate Minister of Health Carolyn Bennett and Manitoba Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery Minister Audrey Gordon announced today. 

“I am pleased to support the Buffalo Riders Project, which will help Indigenous youth in Manitoba access the services they need for better health,” said Bennett. “Through the creation of a dedicated Mental Health and Addictions ministry, our government is affirming our commitment to collaborating with provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners to improve health outcomes for people living with or at risk of addiction and harmful substance use across the country.” 

“Most youth begin their involvement with substances during the middle-school years, and current literature suggests early interventions are the most successful in preventing harm and substance misuse over a person’s life,” said Gordon. “Buffalo Riders is a culturally safe early intervention that will be available in communities across the province. This investment of $350,000 will help ensure there are more prevention and early intervention services for Indigenous youth in Manitoba.” 

The Buffalo Riders program is an early intervention program developed from an Indigenous wisdom perspective, which is culturally centered and strength-based. The goals of the program include:

  • increasing access to early intervention and evidence-informed interventions for at risk or substance-using youth;
  • improving community capacity to deliver early intervention services for at risk or substance-using youth;
  • increasing the use of early intervention services;
  • decreasing substance use and harms associated with substance use among youth; and
  • decreasing the need for long-term intensive treatment services. 

Funding is being provided over the next three years to the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, which will provide five-day virtual training for Buffalo Rider facilitators with a minimum of two facilitators from each participating community or organization. Tribal Councils and other Indigenous organizations will be engaged, and First Nations communities in Manitoba will be offered the opportunity to participate. 

“We are excited to be working with First Nations in Manitoba once again to enhance their capacity for culture-based early intervention programming through the Buffalo Riders program in schools or community programs,” said Carol Hopkins, executive director, Thunderbird Partnership Foundation. “The program meets provincial education curriculum standards for health. The modules have been updated to create greater awareness about substance use such as cannabis, methamphetamine and opioids, and harm reduction. It will offer a community of practice to provide ongoing support for implementation, continued learning and development for facilitators. Most importantly, First Nations youth will have resources to support the development of their skills for living life well.” 

The program aligns with recommendations in the VIRGO report, Improving Access and Coordination of Mental Health and Addictions Services: A Provincial Strategy for all Manitobans.

The ministers added this program has been made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada, noting the views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada. 

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