Drug Task Force hopes to present Tribal Action Plan in December
By Joe Morey
On November 13, 2017, the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board declared a state of emergency because of the abuse of illegal drugs on the reservation.
The TGB directed all tribal agencies to make the state of emergency a top priority and as a part of a resolution passed by the TGB, it declared, “To provide services that will assist the Tribe in fighting drug abuse in the community.”
The resolution created a Drug Task Force that would put together policies, create a board made up of community members and pull together resources. The goal would be to
create a Tribal Action Plan (TAP) and then implement it.
The current chairperson of the Drug Task Force is Dottie Crust, an LCO Tribal Member with Wisconsin Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor credentialing and she holds Prevention Specialist in Training licenses.
Dottie became chair on October 26 of this year when the previous chair, Dianne Sullivan resigned. Sullivan said she felt she was not able to dedicate the time to it and resigned although she got voted back in as vice chair.
Sullivan said the first step of the Drug Task Force was to bring in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) personnel to complete a three-day technical assistance training for a broad spectrum of tribal members.
“The training wouldn’t be telling us what to put in the TAP, but rather focus on the unique needs of our community,” Sullivan said. Approximately 25 people attended the training in May from task force members to program directors and grant’s department personnel.
“The development of the TAP has been extensive and time consuming for all participating members,” Sullivan said.
Dottie said, “Using that information gathered at the training we broke into three main areas of need, Treatment, Capacity, Prevention. Our work was then to identify the gaps and how to bridge those gaps.”
Two main groups were then formed to address Treatment – Booki Weilgot, Dotty Crust, Melinda Lambert, Tammy Bergum, James Marucha, Don Smith, and Marie Basty, the other was Prevention – Dianne Sullivan, Luanne Kolumbus, Jason Martin, Sue Aasen, Kristi Perry, Heather Peterson.
“These groups have been meeting weekly or every other week to be able to present a Strategic Plan for the Tribal Action Plan,” Dottie said. “It has been a struggle to get times when people can meet with full time jobs. We hoped to have a proposal for approval by the community, TGB and Director’s meeting this month and due to funerals and time off will not be able to meet this goal. We would like to have a solid presentation ready by the December director’s meeting.”
When the TAP is completed it will be brought to tribal membership for input, and to make recommendations for change before the final submission.
Sullivan said SAMHSA recommended putting together a “living document” that can be changed and adjusted to fit the needs of the community and to continue beyond a change in leadership.
Sullivan said many programs are working to increase prevention of substance abuse among the youth, provide healthy family activities, and to educate the community about the opioid epidemic in Indian Country.
“There is a huge need to develop a tribal-wide clearinghouse to break down the silos of those programs doing great work and bringing them together to support the efforts to heal our community,” Sullivan said. “One easy suggestion was developing a central tribal calendar of events, so we know what programs are doing on any given night, which will prevent our right hand from knowing what the left hand is doing.”
Dottie served 13 years as the Halfway House director at LCO. She now serves in a service facilitator role with Comprehensive Community Services (CCS), “However the Medicaid program limits what a substance abuse counselor can do in the role of a CCS provider and since we are a wrap-around program for those afflicted with substance abuse and mental health time is limited for being able to use those skills,” Dottie said.
She was recently offered to head up the TOR grant (Tribal Opioid Response Grant) which will increase awareness and availability to treatment and improve how the tribe does it. She said this grant will be instrumental in completing the Tribal Action Plan as all currently working on the Drug Task Force have full time jobs for the most part and can’t dedicate the time to it that is needed.
“A group got together and brainstormed to complete the TOR grant and that will open doors for completion of the TAP, assistance for getting people to treatment, and drive the TAP,” Dottie said. “It is imperative to gage the stage that the community is in, to be able to plan the strategies that would be the most effective. This is being done with some grants, although not all combine or meet together.”
Dottie said it is their hope that all share information and get it out to the community in cost-effective ways. She said anyone interested in how this works can go to the site CADCA and they have a free on-line training that explains much.
“We are hoping to have bulletin boards put up in various entities in December as our first official change. Most of the work accomplished up to now has centered around finding the gaps and brainstorming ways to fill them,” Dottie said.
Getting the prevention message flooded into the community and help to reduce the stigma of addiction and raising awareness of the dangers are some of the task force’s current plan.
Dottie said they will conduct local focus groups, increase media focus, and see that treatment access has less gaps and difficulty getting there.
“People are already at their bottom or close to it, and shaming them is not effective, they need to be gathered in and guided in a way that will keep them engaged and having more access to outpatient groups and peer specialist, people in recovery trained to help guide and help,” Dottie said. “We also want to develop a routine that the whole community is aware of to get people where they need to be. Having a number to call after hours and get people safe for now until they can get into services and this brings along a lot of ideas and the work is in how to get them into action.”
She said they are also creating policies for all health and human resources to be intensely educated or to hire tribal members that can help guide cultural awareness and figure out what works best for our community.
The original drug task force members were Dianne Sullivan Chair, Dorothy Crust, Vice Chair, Doreen Wolf, Secretary, Jim Marucha, Sue Aasen, and two original appointments that have since put in their resignations, George Taylor Jr., and Sunny Sutherland. The five continue to serve on the task force with Dottie and Dianne switching roles as chair and vice chair.
“The Board will need to appoint two new members and so if this could be a plug to send letters of interest to be on the board to the LCO TGB Human Services Department, that would be appreciated,” Dottie said.
The Grants office has played a primary role and have been leaders in compiling notes and putting together the “Tribal Action Plan” components, Dottie explained. “In the long term once this is in place it could help us to procure/and steer direction of future grants as per the SAMHSA.”
“Our meetings are open and the next one is November 30, 2018 at 9:30 AM. If you would like to help come and listen, we appreciate any input that will help,” Dottie said. “This is not an isolated problem it is our problem as a community and we need to all work towards better help. We are looking for a LCO specific slogan to carry through in this work and a new name for the Drug Task Force.”
Dottie said the people who were invited/instructed to attend in the beginning were Grants, Dianah Ton and Tim Debrot – law enforcement, Arianna Johnson and Bill Trepanier for legal, Brian Bissonette from Conservation, Brooke Ammann, the school, Chally Thompson, ICW, Daniel Cousins, Daryl Coons, Don Smith, HC, Dyllan Linehan, Legal, Faith Smith, Gary Girard, Heather Peterson, B&G Club, James Schlender, Jason Bisonette, Jason Martin, Jessica Hutchison, the school, Jim Smith, James Strunk, HC pharmacy, Lisa Stark, ICW, Luann Columbus, Marie Basty, CCS, Marie Kuykendall, Mark Monatano, Megan Taylor, Voc rehab, Nicole Smith, Sherrie Paulson Tainter, Oakwood Haven, Stanley Jonjak, Susie Taylor, Tammy Bergum, and the tribal council.