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GLITC Leader Addresses Opposition to Youth Treatment Center

Editor's Note: The following is a compilation addressing the Town of Cassian opposition to the GLITC proposed youth treatment center to deal with the opioid and fentanyl crisis. The project is a GLITC project with contributions to the center from each of the 11 Tribes of Wisconsin and Lac Vieux Desert of Michigan. The first is a January 23 news article appearing in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel authored by Frank Vaisvilas and the next is the PBS interview with Bryan Bainbridge, GLITC CEO. Finally, the full letter written by Bainbridge and submitted to the Town of Cassian.

Attorneys address more concerns of northern Wisconsin town officials over Native youth drug rehab center

By Frank Vaisvilas Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A rendering of the proposed Adolescent Recovery and Wellness Center to be built in Cassian, Wis., by the member tribal nations of the Great Lake Inter-Tribal Council.

Attorneys for the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council are rebutting the arguments of officials of the northern Wisconsin town of Cassian who are opposed to the development of a Native youth drug rehab center.

One major concern by town officials is that the tribal organization could later place the land that the project would be built on into a federal trust, rendering it outside of local jurisdiction and taxation.

But council attorneys say that concern isn't based on reality.

“Counsel for the town asserts that such requests (to place into federal trust) ‘almost always’ receive a ‘rubber stamp,’ which is entirely false and unsupported,” Rodney Carter, a GLITC attorney wrote to the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee, which is reviewing the project.

He explained that, while there's a process for federally recognized tribes to apply for certain land to be taken into federal trust, the Inter-Tribal Council is actually a nonprofit organization, not a tribe.

“Given GLITC’s operational history, the idea that the property would be put into trust is nonsensical,” Carter wrote. “GLITC is not able to put the land into trust.”

He also argued that the project meets all of the county’s conditional-use requirements.

Here's a breakdown of the issue:

The Adolescent Recovery and Wellness Center has been in the works since 2017

The effort to build the $18-million, 36-bed Adolescent Recovery and Wellness Center started in 2017 under Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, when the state Legislature approved distributing $200,000 from tribal gaming revenue to the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation to assess if the project was feasible.

The GLITC, which represents all 11 federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin and one in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is leading the project after tribal officials in the region agreed that the youth drug rehab center was much needed, given the ongoing opioid crisis.

From 1999 to 2015, the death rate from opioid overdoses increased by more than 500% for Native Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Tribal health advocates agree that generational trauma from decades of forced and unforced assimilation have helped lead to high rates of addiction. They point to the cultural revitalization in recent years in Indian Country as a way to heal communities.

The Indian Health Service funds 12 Native youth substance abuse treatment centers in the U.S., with the closest one to Wisconsin in South Dakota.

Two facilities in Wisconsin provide substance-abuse services for youth, but neither accepts Indian Health Service reimbursements.

The Native youth drug rehab center in Wisconsin also will be open to non-Native youth, but Native youth will be prioritized. About 8.7% of Wisconsin residents have a substance-abuse disorder, exceeding the national average of 7.6%. Last year, more than 1,800 people in Wisconsin died from an overdose.

The center will be tribally owned and operated to maximize federal assistance available to tribes. It'll provide evidence-based medical treatment “to treat the person, not the substance.”

What’s happened so far in the controversy over the youth drug rehab center

Shortly after tribal and state officials held a ground-blessing ceremony at the site of the proposed project near Cassian, town officials expressed their opposition.

The GLITC already has addressed many of the town officials’ concerns, such as cost and safety.

None of the project's cost would be borne by the town, council CEO Bryan Bainbridge said, adding that tribes can possibly even assist the town with some of its existing financial issues.

Bainbridge also said he doesn’t see public safety from the facility being an issue, since the youth ages 13 to 17 would be there voluntarily and would be monitored by doctors, nurses and staff 24/7.

Bainbridge has said the real reason why some local officials are opposed to the facility is because it’s being built by local Native American tribes.

He had given a presentation about the proposed facility at a town meeting this summer and an audience member had told him to “go back to the reservation.”

But Cassian Town Chairperson Patty Francoeur said, “From the town (board’s) perspective, this has nothing to do with race.”

She explained that the project moved ahead without any input from the town.

The project only needs approval from the county board, not the town board.

The GLITC filed its application for the project to be reviewed and approved by Oneida County in September.

What's coming up next for the youth drug rehab center project

Cassian town officials have been attending county board meetings about the project and have hired an attorney to look into ways to stop it.

An Oneida County committee has extended its review of the project to March to allow tribal officials to further address concerns by town officials.

PBS Wisconsin Interview with Bryan Bainbridge

Frederica Freyberg:

Tribal nations in Wisconsin want to build an adolescent recovery and wellness center in Oneida County about an hour north of Wausau. The Youth Recovery Center would be a 36-bed residential facility for teens aged 13 to 17 with substance abuse disorder. Board members of the town of Cassian where it would be located oppose it, citing safety and reduced property values, among other concerns. The recovery center has been on hold because of local government opposition. Meanwhile, the opioid crisis has overtaken Native American communities in Wisconsin where overdose deaths are three times the state rate. The Menominee tribal chair saying our nation is in crisis. The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council is building the center. We sat down with its CEO, Bryan BainBridge, following the State of The Tribes address. So describe for us what that opioid crisis looks like among tribal nations in Wisconsin.

Bryan BainBridge:

Well, the opioid crisis looks like any other community throughout Wisconsin, not just tribal. As we move forward and the tribes are seeing the crisis and needing to react, we need to make sure that we have a place, safe place, safe space where we can have an opportunity to save our kids, save other people’s kids throughout the whole state. And so as this facility is planned, you know, over 20 years in the making, the thought and moving forward and the need, you know, it’s — it’s really about, you know, making sure someone has a good place to go and, you know, it’s — with just about any type of trauma or incident, there’s a background, there’s a story to that, for each individual. We need to have a place where they’re comfortable telling that story in order to move them forward.

Frederica Freyberg:

What do you think about the concerns on the part of the local government?

Bryan BainBridge:

Well, I respect their concern, and even through — from the beginning after we purchased the — the tribes purchased the land, that was the first thing I did was reach out to the local government, the town board and said, hey, I want to be a good neighbor. I would like to share what we’re planning on doing here with this project and even invited the chair to my office. She showed up and we talked about it. I had conceptual drawings of the facility because there was some fears of thinking it was a detention center or a juvenile prison-type setting and the purpose isn’t that. It’s for individuals that really want to be in a place and get to a place of wellness. And it’s not meant to be institutional, because that’s not conducive to healing. You know, the stigma is already there and when someone is going through it, having a problem with substance use or even mental health, we really want to de-stigmatize that and keep those elements out of the property. So, you know, moving things forward and explaining just that, too, when we talk about concerns of the local government of making sure they have that understanding of really what the project is and the efforts that the tribes are putting forth, not only for our tribal member children and families, but for non-tribal as well. If there’s a need and it’s only 36-bed with very limited resources and facilities within the state, we want to make sure if there’s — if there’s a place and someone has a need, no matter who you are or where you come from, that we’re going to try to help. And we want to do that in a way to really set the gold standard.

Frederica Freyberg:

Did it surprise you, the opposition?

Bryan BainBridge:

It did a little bit, but with anything, any new development, without all the information, you know, people speculate and that goes through the community, and I wanted to get ahead of that. We’re actually going to do things as we develop to bring resources to the community with upgraded broadband. We’ll need that for our facility. Upgrades in the power. And upgrading the roads. Those are all things that benefit everybody within that township, that community.

Frederica Freyberg:

When a child comes out of this recovery and wellness center, what is the hope for that person?

Bryan BainBridge:

The most important part is to acknowledge the person and let them know it’s okay to be vulnerable for a second but get past that vulnerable point to be able to function and do good. And as we’re working with them inside the facility, we’re also preparing for that true wrap-around service. So when I say, what is our hope, you know, that is truly what we hope for, is to give a person an opportunity to define their own success and what that means.

Open Letter to Oneida County Board of Supervisors and the Town of Cassian

Dear Supervisors,


As the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal CEO, I am respectfully writing to address each point within Town Resolution 2023-01 (attached) related to the proposed Adolescent Recovery and Wellness Center within the Town of Cassian.

Regarding alleged lack of consultation with the Town Board and Townspeople: Over the course of many months dating back to at least June 15, 2023, which is documented in emails, visitor sign-in sheets, and my participation in a Town Hall meeting, where I shared project plans and answered questions about this life-saving treatment facility for youth, I believe we can demonstrate ongoing dialogue and engagement with town leaders and residents.

I asked to be placed on the July 10 Town Board Meeting to discuss the project with the Town Board. Town Chairwoman Patty Francoeur visited my office July 13 to discuss the plan. The Town Board scheduled a Town Hall meeting for July 24. I participated in the Town Hall meeting where I shared plans and answered questions with Townspeople. I invited Town Board Member to the ground blessing event July 31. No Town Board Members attended.

Charwoman Francoeur also questioned why town leadership was not notified of our intent to purchase the original parcel of land for the recovery center. While we do not believe permission to purchase land is required, we notified her when we had an accepted offer for the second parcel of land adjacent to the first.

Regarding the Town's Infrastructure being able to support construction demands and maintain day-to-day demands of this youth treatment facility as Cassian Township is receiving less funding and struggling to meet basic infrastructure and public safety needs: We have not-and will not-approach the town for financial support for construction, infrastructure, operations, or maintenance. Zero financial support is being asked-or will be asked-of the Town of Cassian.

One of the many benefits of partnering with tribal entities, however, is our ability to access additional funding sources. We would welcome the opportunity to explore how we could work together to seek out additional funds to help address challenges within the Town.

These tribal funding opportunities would be in addition to what we believe will be increased state revenue sharing with funds described within Act 12 that calls for consistent local funding of law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, which could offset the Towns existing concerns. Act 12 is estimated to increase by at least 20 percent shared state revenue with local governments, which we are hopeful will help address existing challenges within the Town prior to the facility opening.

Regardless of the level of increased state shared revenue, we would encourage town leadership to work with us to determine additional funding sources available to tribal entities and how those could help offset the town's current challenges.

Regarding property value and economic Impact to Cassian Townspeople: Beyond being a desperately needed piece of the puzzle to fight addiction that threatens the future of the Northwoods-including the Town of Cassian and Oneida County-we believe the following will be a net benefit:

•             We estimate 50 new jobs ranging from medical professionals to maintenance staff.

•             We anticipate those employees will spend money at local businesses.

•             We're exploring workforce housing plans to support recruiting/retaining employees.

•             We will fund infrastructure improvements, associated with the facility, such as road paving, utilities, and broadband connectivity to name a few. If needed, we would also explore investments in things like snow removal equipment and other needs.

Regarding the property values study cited at the bottom of Town Resolution 2023-01: It appears other academic researchers have challenged the validity of that study-including whether a treatment facility "causes" an impact to property values.

Regarding impact to the welfare, public health and safety of Cassian Townspeople: In terms of public safety and emergency response, this facility accepts those who voluntarily seek help in fighting addiction and overwhelmingly prefer privacy rather than drawing attention to themselves. Only those who want help will be coming to the recovery and wellness center.

Youth seeking treatment are monitored 24-7 by healthcare and professional staff with video surveillance and locked doors to keep youth safe. We don't anticipate youth seeking help at this center to require more EMS/law enforcement services.

While we recognize there's a current need for town leaders to address existing, lengthy response times for EMS and/or law enforcement- even though these factors were present prior the facility opening-we will look for opportunities to partner with Town Supervisors to address these existing challenges already impacting the welfare, public health and safety of Townspeople.

Regarding the Town Board requesting we stop the planned construction of the adolescent recovery and wellness center: The project plans follow Oneida County zoning ordinances, and we look forward to continuing to work with elected officials and the community to ensure we're doing our part to build desperately needed treatment capacity in the Northwoods for youth fighting addiction.

Doing nothing to fight addiction will only continue to diminish the quality of life for all residents of Onedia County-including the Town of Cassian-and the Northwoods. The associated costs of not approving this youth treatment facility are too great.

Regarding the Cassian Town Board requesting the Oneida County Planning and Zoning Committee and the Onedia County Board of Supervisors to deny zoning permits for this youth recovery and wellness center: We reiterate that the project plans follow Oneida County zoning ordinances.

This life-saving recovery center for youth will create jobs, infrastructure investment, and calls for plans to build workforce housing-by most accounts a net positive to the community­ without asking the town or county for a dime to support construction, infrastructure, operations and maintenance.

It's shocking to most people when they find out there's essentially zero residential treatment facilities for youth in the Northwoods. Early intervention with children, for example, is one way to reduce the growing need and costly nature of treatment for adults in the Northwoods.

Essentially, help youth now or pay much more later.

If you're concerned about the opioids, fentanyl, heroin, and meth flowing into Onedia County and the greater Northwoods, we encourage support for construction of this adolescent treatment facility. We need to stop drugs from flowing into Oneida County. But we also must treat youth already addicted.

In terms of public safety and emergency response, this facility accepts those who voluntarily seek help in fighting addiction and overwhelmingly prefer privacy rather than drawing attention to themselves. Only those who want help will be coming to the recovery and wellness center.

Youth being cared for are supervised and observed around the clock, seven days a week by healthcare and professional personnel with video surveillance in a secure environment.

The proposed youth recovery and wellness center is a 36-bed residential facility centrally located in Wisconsin to best serve all Member Tribes and urban Indians. It will provide culturally relevant services and responsive residential substance abuse treatment for Native American youth, ages 13-17, who are suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and any co­ occurring mental health conditions. Priority will be given to Native American youth, but the facility would be open to non-Native adolescents as well.

People are much more than their drug addiction. Our approach-within a fully licensed and accredited facility served by licensed and credentialed doctors and healthcare professionals­ treats the whole person to get to the root cause of their addiction. Connecting people to their culture is important to success. Blending cultural healing elements with modern medicine's approach to treatment is what will be provided to youth at this recovery center. Everyone can relate to the importance of the safe feeling you get when you are connected to your culture and where you come from.

I look forward to continuing our discussions with Town of Cassian leadership and encourage your support of our plans, which follow existing zoning ordinances, for a life-saving adolescent treatment facility.

Bryan J. Bainbridge Chief Executive Officer

1 Comment

The GLITC leader's address regarding opposition to the proposed youth treatment center underscores a vital community dialogue, reminiscent of the global conversations facilitated by video chat rooms and platforms like Chatrandom. Just as Chatrandom allows for immediate, diverse interactions across the world, the leader's approach aims to harness similar principles of openness and direct communication to bridge divides within the community. By engaging with opponents through transparent dialogue, the intention is to dispel misconceptions and highlight the center's potential benefits for youth in need. This situation mirrors the essence of video chat's ability to connect individuals for meaningful exchanges, emphasizing the importance of understanding and empathy in resolving conflicts. The leader's efforts to address concerns directly, leveraging a platform for…

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