Dear Tribal Family,
As we mourn the tragic death-by-overdose of two more Tribal Citizens over the past two weeks, I am writing you, not only to give voice to our profound collective grief, but also as a call to action.
Grief must be given its place. However, we cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed in the face of tragedy. That is why I convened a special meeting on Tuesday that included the entire Tribal Council, our Tribal Coordinating Committee (TCC), top administrators with Indian Health Services, our Medicine Man as well as various Tribal department Directors and community members with background in treatment and recovery.
We had a candid discussion about what services we are currently providing. We examined a range of complicated and difficult truths – from how we can improve our recovery programs to ramping up our efforts when it comes to intervention and prevention. Our community has been disproportionately impacted by this scourge. We have lost far too many people to the disease of addiction.
As a result of our very productive meeting, several things became abundantly clear. Not only do we need to expand our efforts to inform and educate Tribal citizens of the many addiction prevention services and programs we already have in place, we also need to re-allocate resources and sharpen our focus on what else needs to be done.
I am happy to report that on Tuesday, Tribal Council took action on a number of important initiatives.
When it comes to recovery, addiction doesn’t go away after a few days in treatment. It is a life-long disease that must be managed. We also recognize that accessing long-term treatment facilities is difficult, and at times, impossible to find. That’s why we unanimously voted to move forward to create a plan to have our own transitional “half-way” houses – one for men and one for women; a safe, sober place they can go after treatment where those of us struggling to overcome this disease can be surrounded by support.
We will bolster our staffing to include a “Human Services Case Manager” who will handle all aspects of a crisis, including crisis’ that occur that are “non-ICWA” by nature in order to encompass the array of complex situations that occur. This individual will be assigned to the opioid crisis as lead intervention manager.
We also realized the need for a dedicated “Hot-Line” phone number for people to call in emergency situations, which is why we voted to establish a crisis hotline for Tribal Citizens – whether that be someone struggling with addiction or a family member or friend dealing with someone experiencing a drug or alcohol-induced crisis. Additionally we approved a motion that designates 3 individuals to be on-call 24 hours a day to assist in the emergency situations.
Also, Tribal Council has unanimously voted to establish a “Tribal Intervention/Crisis Response Team” to address alcohol and substance abuse. Tribal members who are interested in serving on this team, will be appointed by Tribal Council.
I am also well aware that our focus must not only be on treatment and recovery services but also on prevention to ensure that our Tribal youth have the tools and support they need to help them avoid getting ensnared in what can only be described as a death-trap.
Our teams will be coordinating a Community Forum in the near future to educate our Tribal citizens on the services available specific to this epidemic and how we will continue to face this crisis in a unified way so all Tribal members who are in crisis, recovery and their Loved ones and support groups can also be provided the support they need.
We are taking a “head on” approach and will arm our community with the resources to combat and overcome this disease that is threatening our People.
I care deeply about our people and I realize that addiction is a challenging issue to address – both from a governmental and personal stand-point. It hits close to home. Many of us grew up in a time when these issues were not discussed openly because of the stigma and fear of shame. But that time is over. We need to address this head-on. We are losing too many of our cherished family members and Tribal Citizens to this disease.
Please join me in this fight for our lives. Together, we can bring healing to our community. Together, we can support each other and find effective solutions.