A few months ago the Cree Board of Health of Social Services of James Bay’s Department of Allied Health decided that it was time to raise their profile within Eeyou Istchee. Not because there wasn’t enough demand for occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language pathologists and psycho-educators, but because these services mean Crees receive treatment on their own turf.

Adelina Feo, an occupational therapist and the CBHSSJB’s Director of Professional Services and Quality Assurance of Allied Health, says the need to publicize the department’s services stems from the fact that there are many patients who need multidisciplinary approaches to healing.

Relatively new in the territory, Feo said that services in the department began in the 1990s with a handful nutritionists and two occupational therapists flown in to cover the entire territory. More than 20 years later, there is now a growing number of specialized occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language pathologists, and psycho-educators living in the territory, treating Crees and growing more accustomed to their needs every day.

“We are going from a model where it was doctors and nurses to a service where there are numerous different professionals. We are hoping that people get to know these services and start asking for them. Not that we aren’t busy already – because we are – but now there is a sense of owning these services instead of having people travel for special treatment,” said Feo.

While she recognizes there are waiting lists to get treatment from some of these therapists, this is the norm throughout the province, even in urban centres like Montreal.

In order to become more familiar with these professionals and the kinds of services that they offer, Feo provided brief descriptions:

Physiotherapists: this type of therapist will often work with a patient after an injury to improve a patient’s mobility, range, physical strength, balance and pain management. They can also work with children experiencing developmental delays.

Occupational Therapists: these therapists help improve function in a patient’s daily activities through various means. They work with victims of stroke, those with a work injury or who are experiencing mental health issues, on anything from fine motor skills to reconditioning an individual to go back to work.

Speech and Language Pathologists help improve communication on various levels. Communicating isn’t just about talking but rather making needs known and understanding. While they will more frequently work with children, these therapists also see adults who have aphasia from a stroke or Parkinson’s disease.

Psycho-educators: a psycho-educator provides psychological education to help a patient develop coping skills and adaptive behaviours to aid in developing resilience. These professionals will treat a wide variety of individuals in all sorts of situations, at any age or any walk of life.

For more info: www.creehealth.org/whatisalliedhealth