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CSKT, tribal members and more continue to combat drug abuse

By Lailani Upham

Concerned community members join hearts and minds to find ways to fight the drug problem through education, intervention, prevention and wellness options. (Lailani Upham photo)Concerned community members join hearts and minds to find ways to fight the drug problem through education, intervention, prevention and wellness options. (Lailani Upham photo)

PABLO — Nearly thirty ideas were raised at the first official working group meeting on the “war on drugs” at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Complex earlier this month.

A discussion that started last fall had developed into the CSKT tribal council taking action on the drug problem on the Flathead Reservation.

In November CSKT Council issued a “call to arms” by passing Resolution No. 14-036, that states in part: “WHEREAS, we recognize that substance abuse includes but is not limited to alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and synthetic drugs including bath salts, spice an others; and WHEREAS, the Tribes have developed and funded programs that are overwhelmed with the impacts of substance abuse and those impacts to our services is devastating: and WHEREAS, the impacts of substance abuse can negatively affect families, tribal lands, resources, tribal identity, and limited programs funds and services, and WHEREAS, all Tribal departments, programs, and entities need to collaborate and work together with the community to find solutions to eliminate substance abuse on the is reservation and these efforts shall include review of policies, codes, ordinances and recommendations to the Tribal Council on necessary changes for their approval; and WHEREAS, because of the devastating effects and consequences of substance abuse on our people and resources, we must take a strong and decisive measures to combat and eliminate these negative effects of the substance abuse on the Flathead Indian Reservation.”

CSKT Tribal Council members Shelly Fyant, Patty Stevens and Carole Lankford were present, along with nearly 50 concerned community members and department personnel.

Arlee Representative Fyant says she believes the most important solution is community-based per community. “What works in Arlee might not work in Polson,” she shared with the group.

Jami Hamel who facilitated the group meeting says one of the first tasks of the work group is develop a strategic plan for the next three to five years that includes education, prevention, intervention and treatment options.

A younger male participant stated during the introductions that he was there to “suit up, and go to war” to combat and eliminate the enemy that is attacking the livelihood of the community.

Royelle Bundy, St. Ignatius community member, who was recently voted as Chairperson, stated, “I am very honored and blessed to be a member of a specialized team which strives to make a positive difference in the lives of children and families on the Flathead Reservation. Through unified knowledge, collaboration, evaluation and strategic action we will establish an effective and sustainable plan to combat and eliminate substance abuse in the Flathead Nation.”

Jami Hamel facilitates the first Workgroup to Combat and Eliminate Substance Abuse in the Flathead Nation meeting earlier this month. Each participant had the opportunity to be introduced and share his or her ideas to combat the drug problem on the Flathead Reservation. (Lailani Upham photo)Jami Hamel facilitates the first Workgroup to Combat and Eliminate Substance Abuse in the Flathead Nation meeting earlier this month. Each participant had the opportunity to be introduced and share his or her ideas to combat the drug problem on the Flathead Reservation. (Lailani Upham photo)

“Right now we are working on short-term and long-term goals, and formulating action plans on how can we be effective, and what is available now and we can utilize the resources,” said Bundy.

The mission statement for the Workgroup to Combat and Eliminate Substance Abuse in the Flathead Nation is: To provide advisement and recommendations to the Tribal government on implementing a strategic and sustainable community based plan to eliminate substance abuse in the Flathead Nation. The goals are to restore hope and wellness to individuals and families through tribal culture, education, prevention and intervention.

Other ideas that are submitted for review for the mission of the group are “To identify, develop, and recommend to CSKT leaders specific tasks that can be carried out as part of an overall sustainable strategic community plan to eliminate substance abuse in the Flathead Nation,” and “The goals are to restore hope and wellness to individuals and families through tribal culture, education and prevention and intervention.”

At the first meeting on March 12, the group narrowed down a consensus of workable solutions. The points were: a need to identify gaps and duplication of services; understanding the disease; a Wellness tribal justice court; a big puzzle of each to piece together the resources; and keeping kids safe.

St. Ignatius CSKT Representative Patty Stevens shared with the group that she believes in walking the talk when it comes to combating the “war on drugs.” She also added that acknowledging young people who are making a positive impact in the community. She recognized Elliot Adams, a young man who has made personal changes since being involved in the language program. She also concluded that words are powerful and that each person had the ability to plant empowerment into another life through mere words.

Melinda Caye, a CSKT tribal social services staff member said she sees the group being a platform of addressing and making hard decisions others might not want to talk about.

A variance of opinion of jail time for the (drug) users or treatment came down to a law enforcement official stating that sometimes it is the first tool to get the user to realize they had a meth problem. He stated it is the norm day-in-and-day-out of seeing the problem and even they are sick of seeing too many tribal people buried because of drugs.

Resolution No. 14-036, certifies that CSKT tribal council, “declare it is the Tribes’ position to combat and eliminate substance abuse and its negative impacts on the Flathead Reservation; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that all tribal departments, programs, entities, and the general public are encouraged to work together to develop solutions to this devastating problem; and that a workgroup of representatives of tribal leaders, tribal agencies, and tribal membership, with appointments to be determined by Tribal Council in the near future, is authorized and established to develop a strategic plan with a timeline to address the issues of substance abuse.”

CSKT Ronan Representative Carole Lankford said, “With all the brains at the table, we can make a difference.”

Correction:
In print edition, a few unfortunate typos in this article suggested that the Flathead Reservation has a serious drum problem. This is not the case. The sentence should have described a drug problem. The editor apologizes for this oversight. Thank you to our readers to bringing this to his attention.

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