Ogijiita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin Grows Mental Health Resources For Indigenous Youth with Support from Bell Let's Talk

WINNIPEG, MB-Bell Let's Talk is pleased to announce a donation of $150,000 to Ogijiita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin (OPK) to expand its mental health services for Indigenous youth in Winnipeg that encourage healing and resiliency through programs to develop life skills.

Founded in 2001 by Larry Morrissette, an Elder, community leader and activist, OPK is an Indigenous organization that works with any and all youth and young adults, primarily between the ages of 18 and 29, with a focus on cultural sensitive programming. Most participants come to OPK upon release from provincial or federal Institutions, including children in care who are transitioning out of the system. The majority of participants are further marginalized through the inter-generational impact of Indian Residential Schools (IRS) and the experience of living in environments of poverty as a direct result of being forcefully removed from their original land base.

"The vast majority of those who access Ogijiita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin and its programming are Indigenous youth and people who are at risk of becoming or who are currently experiencing conflict with the law, individuals "aging out" of the Child Welfare System and those generationally affected by the Indian Residential Schools," said Mitch Bourbonniere, OPK Program Services Director. "We welcome this funding from Bell Let's Talk to support the vision to help heal our people that our late, admired and respected founder Larry Morrissette had for OPK."

"Bell Let's Talk is proud to support OPK to expand the work they do to ensure Indigenous youth in the community have access to mental health programs that will help them heal and develop resiliency to strengthen themselves and their communities," said Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let's Talk. "OPK is making a real difference in the lives of young people in Winnipeg and we look forward to working with them to expand their reach in the years ahead."

Funding from Bell Let's Talk will help OPK secure additional staff to implement OPK programming, which currently includes ensuring basic needs (food, housing, safety, socialization, clothing, etc.) of 75 new participants each year are met and fostering the life skills required to increase their capacity for resiliency. Additionally, OPK staff will provide youth with training and experiential learning to help recognize and prevent harm within their own lives and within their communities. This includes access to mentorship, cultural and land-based teachings and ceremony, counseling, and relationship-building opportunities that address harm resulting from the legacy of the IRS. OPK will also provide interim work opportunities to youth and young adults who are at risk of conflict with the law. With the support of Bell Let's Talk, OPK will increase its reach to approximately 600 young people a year by 2022.

Alongside the launch of Bell MTS in Manitoba, Bell Let's Talk announced it would be expanding in the province with a new dedicated fund for Indigenous mental health. The announcement is the second major commitment from the fund, which launched in May 2017 with a donation to Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata. The Bell Let's Talk team continues to consult with leaders from Manitoba Indigenous communities on plans for future program funding announcements.