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Tribal substance abuse specialists attend training in Pablo

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PABLO – Native American drug and alcohol specialists from more than seven different tribes throughout the state came together this past week at Two Eagle River school to learn about research-based methods for substance abuse prevention. The purpose of the workshop was to educate tribal community leaders to return to their homes to increase drug safety and awareness.

The program was funded through the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPFSIG), the purpose of which is to prevent the onset and reduce the progression of substance abuse-related problems, and to build prevention capacity and infrastructure at state and community levels.

Community leaders learned valuable methods of sharing information to reduce drug and alcohol problems.

The program was headed by Kasie Murphy-Brazill and Bethany Fatupaito. Murphy-Brazill is an enrolled tribal member on the Fort Belknap Reservation and serves as the project manager for the program. Fatupaito co-served as the project manager and works for the Montana Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council in Billings.

Caroline Cruz and daughter Annette Chastain were chosen to teach the lessons, since Cruz has been teaching similar substance abuse workshops since the 1970s. Cruz is one of a handful of tribal instructors nationwide, who traveled more than 500 miles from Warm Springs, Ore, where she is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Cruz brought her daughter with her to the workshop in order to pass her skills and knowledge on to the next generation. According to Cruz, there are very few tribal members who are qualified and experienced enough to lead these workshops.

“They needed a Native trainer because we can adapt the curriculum for the Indian community,” Cruz said.

Of the many topics, one of the main messages Cruz wanted to make clear is that communities need to be strong and work together if they want to combat the large tobacco and alcohol companies who spend billions on advertising and marketing.

“We can’t fight billions of dollars,” Cruz said. “(But) if we stick together we can change community norms.”

The workshop consisted of a five-step framework for community leaders to follow at home to create change in their communities. They first learned how to mobilize and build capacity to address needs in their area. Second, participants learned they must develop a comprehensive strategic plan, followed by implementing evidence-based prevention programs and activities. The third step is to monitor, evaluate, sustain, and improve or replace those that fail. The fourth step is to monitor, evaluate, sustain, and improve or replace strategies that fail. Lastly, leaders must evaluate population needs, resources, and readiness to address additional needs.

Blackfoot Nation member Lori Newbreast has been working in community health for more than 20 years and says combating drug and alcohol abuse is at the core of major changes needed in Indian. 

“This workshop will add another tool in the tribal tool kit to mobilize efficient communication and togetherness to fight substance abuse,” Newbreast said. “All the positive changes made will contribute to an overall positive cultural health.”

But it’s not just community behavior that must change, she added, but also public policy and law.

CSKT Joint Alcohol Enforcement team member Darbi Morigeau was present at the workshop. She has been working for the past three and a half years to combat the sale of alcohol to minors. The team conducted alcohol compliance checks of local establishments in March. During the checks, businesses that serve alcohol were “tested” for sales to minors. The majority of businesses passed the first compliance check. Those who failed initially, passed when the team came back a second time. 

The team also leads a program called “Shoulder taps,” where underage youth approach strangers to purchase alcohol for them. The person asks the stranger, “I’m not 21, will you buy me beer,” if the person agrees, they are taken to jail.

“It’s very important we make progress reducing alcohol availability to minors,” Morigeau said. “Most people have been really positive with feedback,” she added. “It teaches them their responsibilities for selling alcohol.”

Morigeau said the workshop is a nice addition to her training and hopes that by attending the event more can be done about Lake County’s huge drug and alcohol abuse issues. 

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