Education program offers glimmer of hope amid Blood Tribe opioid crisis

Receiving her certificate in customer service and sales is a moment Lori Eagle Plume has worked hard for.

“It’s been a long time since I accomplished something big in my life,” she said.

She is one of 33 Blood Tribe members to graduate from a program created by Lethbridge College and Blood Tribe Social Development to help adults get back on their feet and become independent.

They developed skills in either front-line cooking, disabilities and addition support work, or customer service.

Most have been employed after finishing their practicums.

While the community struggles with an opioid crisis, Arnold Fox of Social Development says programs like this are needed more than ever.

“We’re talking about that population who haven’t accessed the regular education stream,” Fox said.

“So they will have some level of success while applying for jobs and if they want to go back to school they will be well prepared.”

Like most graduates, the journey hasn’t been easy for Eagle Plume, who overcame many barriers to get to this point.

Four years ago she was struggling with addictions. She almost lost her home and children before making the choice to undergo suboxone treatment.

“Being a recovering drug addict it gets really hard at times,” Eagle Plume said.

“Seeing what my reserve is going through. So many close ones are addicts now. I never thought I would be the one getting told ‘oh, you’re such an inspiration’. It feels really good.”

This graduation is just a stepping stone for Eagle Plume. After completing her practicum at the Kainai Wellness Centre, she has bigger dreams.

“Ever since I got clean off drugs I really want to go in to addictions counselling.”

The program gave her the skills and motivation to go back to school in September to start working toward her career.