MHA staff walk through the Interim Clinic and other areas where SRPMIC staff discussed medications and tools used to help patients dealing with substance abuse.
MHA Nation Visits SRPMIC for Idea Exchange on Substance-Abuse Treatment
By Richie Corrales
Au-Authm Action News

Several representatives from the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation) of North Dakota made a stop in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on January 28 to learn how the Community deals with the issue of substance abuse.

Starting at the Two Waters Complex, MHA Nation Chairman Mark Fox met with SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr., taking some time first to learn about each other’s tribal communities. Fox shared that the MHA Nation is looking to construct a facility for its people, who recently have been battling drug issues that have caused pain and even death.

MHA Nation staff members were also present for an exchange of ideas, hoping to take some solutions back home to North Dakota. The discussion focused on how the Community deals with substance-abuse issues and what facilities it has for Community members who seek help for substance abuse.

After meeting with President Ray, Fox and the MHA Nation representatives toured the SRPMIC Interim Health Clinic and dental facility, which is operated under the Indian Health Service and has a staff that is 90 percent Native American.

“One of the things we are looking at is building a drug-treatment facility. It’s really important for us to learn from others, and that is why we are here today, to see what you have,” said Fox to the SRPMIC Health and Human Services staff.

SRPMIC Clinic staff showed the visitors the overdose kits for patients and first responders, explaining that the kits work when a person has overdosed on a certain drug, such as heroin or meth and is injected up the nose instead using a needle.

Then they explained what treatment is provided to addicted patients to slowly wean them off the drug. “I want to figure out what the Community’s pitfalls are and how to avoid them, and how they are overcoming them as well,” said Fox. “Our staff have been working really hard; we have a very devastating problem back home because of the oil [production] boom [in North Dakota that began in] 2008, and the drug (heroin) and alcohol problem has really gotten bad and is slowly killing our people.”

Fox added that the tribe wants to gain control and protect its people, “so we are very excited to be here to learn from other communities.

“We are a strong believer in intertribal trade, and I believe we all have something to offer to each other. Before we start building [a substance-abuse treatment facility], we want to make sure we are building what we need to build and [have learned] how other tribes [address] the problem,” said Fox.

Next was a tour of the Journey to Recovery center, a 90-day inpatient drug and alcohol facility in the Community that has 15 beds and can accommodate both men and women. SRPMIC Health and Human Services staff explained that the center is completely voluntary and that patients can check themselves in and out.

“The [Journey to Recovery center] came to [us] as a pilot program, and we asked the Community if they would like a treatment facility,” said Violet Mitchell-Enos, director of the SRPMIC Department of Health and Human Services. “The Community didn’t want [the center] to be so visible and wanted [patients to be able] to keep their anonymity and be away from the public; thus, the facility is tucked away behind a few of the tribal buildings.”

Mitchell-Enos went on to explain that as soon as the facility opened it proved to be very effective. “We do try to wrap the families into the treatment program, because that is very important; a well home life is also important to keeping the patients sober,” said Mitchell-Enos.

MHA Nation representatives asked what the Community sees in the future as far as having a larger facility, and, based on how it operates today, how they measure its effectiveness at addressing drug-related problems in Salt River.

Fox thanked the Health and Human Services staff for the tour. “We are really grateful for you taking time,” said Fox to the staff, who were also on hand to answer questions.

After the tour and a question-and-answer session with Health and Human Services staff in the conference room, the MHA Nation guests set off for the Gila River Indian Community to see their facilities as well.

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