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Program provides support and helps Aboriginal patients navigate healthcare system in Niagara

Posted Sep 27th, 2016

Program provides support and helps Aboriginal patients navigate healthcare system in Niagara

Jolene Courchene knows navigating the healthcare system can be difficult and overwhelming.

"It’s hard when you're not feeling well and you're in the hospital and maybe you don't have family or community connections to provide support,” says Ms. Courchene, an Aboriginal Patient Navigator with the Aboriginal Health Centre. “Sometimes you're left to figure things out on your own.”

Ms. Courchene wants Aboriginal patients in the Niagara region to know she is here to help.

"I want hospital staff and the community to know that I am here and that the Aboriginal Patient Navigator Program is available to them,” she says. 

Providing support

Ms. Courchene is part of a team of Aboriginal Patient Navigators who provide services in the Niagara, Hamilton and Haldimand-Brant regions. Designed specifically to meet the needs of Aboriginal people, the Aboriginal Patient Navigator Program provides support to patients and their families and assists in accessing the healthcare system as well as traditional healing and wellness practices.

The program also provides navigation services that are culturally appropriate within the health/social service systems for individuals, caregivers and their families to improve patient outcomes. 

"There is a need for advocacy for the Aboriginal population,” says Ms. Courchene, who has been in the Aboriginal Patient Navigator role since earlier this year. "The health system can be hard to navigate. Having someone like me come in and provide support can be helpful. Sometimes it's just coming in to say hi that helps the situation."

Funding for the Aboriginal Patient Navigator Program is provided through the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network.

Ms. Courchene, who has a background in working in Mental Health, says another key part of her role is connecting patients with other Aboriginal support organizations in the region. 

“Wherever individuals are at in terms of their healing journey, some just want social activities while others may need more health outreach,” she says.

Ms. Courchene says it is rewarding work and part of her role and responsibility as a helper in her community. 

“I’ve received great feedback. There is a lot of gratitude and relief,” she says. “When you’re working with people who are not well and facing so many barriers, it feels good to be that support person who individuals can build a trusting relationship with. I feel incredibly grateful and humble to do the work that I do."


If you’d like more information on the Aboriginal Patient Navigator Program, please call 905-358-4320 or visit


  • Individualized Cultural Support
  • Coordination of Services
  • Advocacy
  • Regular Contact During Hospital Stays
  • Discharge Planning
  • Referrals and Linkages to Community Resources
  • Access to Traditional Healing Programs
  • Home Visits
  • Community Follow-up

Niagara Health System