Indigenous support line launches across southern Alberta

May 1, 2023

LETHBRIDGE —Indigenous Peoples in the South Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS) now have access to a support line to help them navigate the health system.

The toll-free Indigenous Support Line can be reached by calling 1-844-944-4744. The support line is staffed by Indigenous Health Link staff, who will answer callers’ questions, help them access culturally appropriate care and support and assist them with navigating the healthcare system. The line is available weekdays from noon to 8 p.m. Clients can call at any point in their healthcare journey with questions or concerns – whether or not they are currently receiving care, about to start care, in care, or have been discharged from care.

“The Indigenous Support Line is creating a brave space where our people can speak their truth, a place where they can feel supported asking for guidance and help navigating a complex healthcare system,” says Casey Eagle Speaker, Co-Chair of the AHS Wisdom Council.

The new service is modelled after an Indigenous Support Line launched last June in the AHS North Zone. Since then, staff have taken more than 2,000 calls. In a follow-up survey with clients who used the line, every respondent said they felt respected and supported by the person who assisted them, and more than 97 per cent said they would use the line again and would recommend the line to friends and family.

The AHS Wisdom Council & Elder Circle played a key role in the creation of the Indigenous Support Line in the North Zone, providing strong guidance and advice to AHS throughout the creation and launch of the project. They continue to encourage AHS to expand the service across the province to better support Indigenous Peoples in their wellness journey.

“The support line connects individuals with someone who listens with patience, spirituality, acceptance, caring and empathy,” says Wisdom Council co-chair Cheryl Sheldon. “Those phone conversations build a deeper understanding of the difficulties Indigenous clients face and it makes a difference, it matters to them, and they feel like they matter to AHS.”

Media are invited to interview Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, Senior Medical Director from the AHS Indigenous Wellness Core, and a Listener with the Indigenous Support Line to learn more.

All Albertans are asked to call 911 if they have a medical emergency. Health Link (811) also remains available 24/7 for non-emergency health-related questions.

AHS values Indigenous culture and the unique needs of individuals, patients and families and is incorporating traditional culture into the healthcare system. For more information, please visit the Indigenous Support Line webpage. Dedicated AHS Indigenous Wellness Core staff is available throughout the province and take into consideration culturally appropriate health services for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Our mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans. Our current focus is on reducing emergency department wait-times, improving EMS response times, increasing access to surgeries, and improving patient flow.