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UKB program to offer help for opioid addiction

Tahlequah Daily Press - 3/20/2019

March 20-- Mar. 20--United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians citizens working to overcome narcotics addiction can now use the tribe's new UKB Opioid Healing Project program.

Focused on addiction and mental health struggles, the carefully managed program offers mental health counseling, case management services for individuals, family counseling, and addiction and prevention counseling.

Funded through a two-year grant with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the program employs a mental health counselor and a mental health case manager with specialized services "to support and empower all aspects of Keetoowah clients, from spiritual to behavioral, from biological to cultural."

"We want to carefully manage it, research and evaluate what works and what doesn't work," said Dr. Steven Byers, project coordinator. "We've designed a set of counseling services around addiction prevention, and counseling so someone can see us if they have an addiction issue. And then we also have case management services, which is designed to help people find the services they need, and our counseling is to focus on the person or whole family unit needs."

The program, located off the UKB grounds, is designed to help with all cycles of addiction, while also engaging individuals confidentially in the process.

Patient assessments will be made at the end of every session.

"What my job is, is to take a look at client satisfaction scales," Byers said. "The therapists do a journal every week when they see clients, what they felt worked, what they felt didn't work. It's all confidential, all private, but we're going to evaluate what clients think works, what they see that doesn't work. There's a heavy research and evaluation component."

Byers said a great deal of interest has been shown from the professional community outside of the program.

"We've had a lot of excitement about the program," he said. "We have a chiropractor who is now wanting to offer services, as well as interest from other addictions counselors."

Byers, an associate professor of psychology at Northeastern State University'sBroken Arrow campus, grew up in Tahlequah, received a doctorate degree from the University of Colorado, and has experience running an Indian Health Care agency, with a strong focus on Native American psychological research.

"So for me, in having connections down here with family and friends, this is my home community. My heart is in this area," he said. "When you look at the evolving research, you want to move in as quickly as you can in Indian communities to stem the opioid -- I'm going to call it an epidemic. That's what we're going to find out with our program."

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 5.2 percent, or 72,000, of American Indian/Alaska Natives ages 18 and older reported misusing a prescription drug in 2016.

Byers said he wants to use Native culture as a cornerstone to help overcome addiction and mental health issues.

"There's a big emphasis on cultural evaluation and treatment," he said. "We will use one of three cultural identity scales in all of our treatment, so we will be able to figure who has lost culture and wants to connect with culture as a part of their counseling and mental health services, who has a real firm tie to traditions and culture. We'll utilize that in treatment, [along with] a ray of how people think about their culture, how they use their culture."

While the program is designed for UKB citizens, Byers said no one will be turned away for an evaluation.

Byers added that administrators are actively seeking additional funding to ensure the program will continue after the two-year grant has expired.

Check it out

Those interested in the UKB Healing Project program can call 918-316-9584 or 918-316-9590.


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