Cherokee Nation Senior Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner on Thursday announced a proposed plan to use the tribe’s initial opioid settlement funds to begin building addiction treatment centers for tribal citizens. , as well as increasing overall funding for wellness programs.
Hoskin and Warner’s proposal would amend and strengthen the Public Health and Welfare Fund Act 2021.
The proposed law would allocate $15 million in initial opioid settlement funds over the next three years to help build addiction treatment facilities on the Cherokee Nation reservation.
“It is only fitting that the same industry that has inflicted so much hurt and generational trauma on our Cherokee people is now paying to help build facilities that will generate hope and give our citizens a welcome space here at home. home to focus on healing,” Hoskin said. . “We will take steps in phases. We are developing long-term plans for a comprehensive behavioral health system that includes inpatient and outpatient services. But, in the meantime, we need to start building facilities to provide other levels of treatment for people struggling with addiction, such as transitional living centers.
The Cherokee Nation has finalized a $75 million settlement with opioid distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen to be paid over six years.
In a separate settlement, a tentative settlement with Johnson & Johnson was reached with all federally recognized tribes for $150 million. The Cherokee Nation estimates that it will receive $18 million over two years.
The tribe is evaluating uses of the remaining opioid settlement funds, which will likely be used for other behavioral health capital projects.
“There are a number of facilities, ranging from inpatient to outpatient to residential centers, that the Cherokee Nation must build in order to create a comprehensive addiction treatment system,” Hoskin added. “The First Lady, January, and I, along with Warner and our health leadership team, visited various residential treatment facilities to better understand the best strategies to bring comfort, culture and healing to those struggling with a addiction. By dedicating a portion of our opioid settlement funds to these types of programs, we can begin to put ideas into action.
In addition to earmarking upfront opioid funding for treatment facilities, the amended Public Health and Welfare Fund Act would also generate more funding for wellness programs by expanding the type of third-party revenue. that the health services reserve.
The bill maintains the 7% reserved for third-party revenue, but the expanded definition of third-party revenue is expected to exceed the original law’s estimated annual target of $12 million.
Among new programs funded by law, a harm reduction program will soon open in Tahlequah to help people currently struggling with addiction stay as safe and healthy as possible while they seek a path to The healing.
“Good health for our Cherokee people means having good mental health as well as good physical health,” said Bryan Warner. “I am confident that significant investments in both areas will have lasting effects not only in improving physical health, but also in reversing the damage caused by the opioid industry preying on our citizens. “
Physical wellness programs that will receive operating funds under the act include a planned $10 million wellness center in Stilwell and a $10 million community center in Kenwood for which the tribe recently inaugurated.
A Wellness Task Force, led by former Cherokee Councilor Canaan Duncan, has also been formed by Hoskin and will make recommendations for other physical wellness programs and services on the 7,000 square mile reservation. of the tribe.
If the Public Health and Welfare Fund Act is approved by the Council of the Cherokee Nation, Tribal Health Services will assess potential sites for construction. The location and number of facilities will then be determined.
The bill will be presented to the council’s health committee on April 11 and could be approved by the full council later today.
“Drug addiction affects us all. We are making progress in the Cherokee Nation to resolve this very difficult and very important issue. The Public Health and Wellness Fund Act will help us make significant strides in bringing healing to our people,” said Councilor Mike Dobbins, Chair of the Health Committee and lead sponsor of the legislation.