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Fort Simpson woman launches psychotherapy fundraiser

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A Fort Simpson woman trying anything to help her post-traumatic stress disorder is raising funds online for an alternative means of treatment.

Jenni-Lyn Prevost is raising money to pay for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, or EMDR – which has been recommended to her by two psychiatrists, but which is not covered by the territorial government.

The territory says the treatment is not a medically insured service offered in a hospital or health facility.

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“It’s a psychotherapy approach. It’s been researched and proven effective,” explained Coleen Canney, who started a GoFundMe page on her friend Prevost's behalf.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “EMDR combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help you process traumatic memories and change how you react to them.”

However, critics have suggested it is unclear if and how the therapy works.

Canney aims to raise $7,500 to cover the cost of treatment and travel expenses for Prevost. So far, the fundraiser has reached $1,250.

The money would cover three trips to Yellowknife and 15 appointments.

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Prevost has attempted to reach health minister Glen Abernethy several times through her MLA, Shane Thompson, to ask for help.

Thompson gave $100 to the fundraiser earlier this week and wrote, "I wish we could get the GNWT to help with this treatment." He could not be reached for comment.

Canney said Thompson has “always gone to bat for [them]” but, she added, the territorial government says it cannot cover this type of treatment and Prevost should continue to seek help in Fort Simpson.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services confirmed the therapy is not a medically insured service. 

“This would be the same situation across Canada, as this service is provided by a therapist or a psychologist and not a medical practitioner,” wrote Damien Healy, the department’s communications manager.

“Insured services are provided by medical practitioners according to the Canada Health Act.”

Canney said Prevost has been accessing as many services as she can in Fort Simpson, where she’s lived all her life.

“There are some resources,” said Canney. “Counselling can be very helpful, but in this case it’s just not enough. They are not equipped to give her this treatment that has been recommended.”

Canney said Prevost has letters from psychiatrists saying she needs this treatment and that it will make a difference in her mental health.

“She just can’t afford to do that on her own,” said Canney, noting Prevost is unable to work right now due to disabilities.

“I just want to see good things happen for my best friend. I love her so much and I just want to see her get better.”