Can we put a stop to this epidemic of crank abuse and keep it from spreading through Blackfeet country? A few health providers and counselors from the Blackfeet reservation gave their opinions. Most importantly the cure for this disease is not going to come to us overnight. In fact, it may take generations to change the attitudes people have towards drugs. Obviously preventative strategies must start in the community and most essentially in the family unit.
Linda Dusterhoff, nurse practitioner suggests, “Start from the basic family unit and get back their own Indian pride, their thoughts about self-esteem, all those things like the basics in a family. And if we can get the family unit sober, that would stabilize the community and change can start to occur.”
Darrell Rides at the Door, counselor at the Pikuni Healing center, also agrees that preventative measures must begin in the family. He states that prevention “would have to begin with our youth but at the same time it has to begin with the family. Not only the youth but also working with the family.”
Herman White Grass, a counselor at the chemical dependency center, feels that we must rely on community cooperation: “Community empowerment, power in numbers. The more people you have thinking in the same direction about the same thing and putting a lot of action into it that is when you are going to get results.”
What about the cost of these programs that are needed to prevent meth abuse? White Grass suggested that people “stop looking at the dollars. Here is how much dollars it is going to take, and all this money is needed.” White Grass recommends that the community “get it started, and just do it, and if it fails, then next year, you know how much and what you need to build on it.”
However, besides the problem of money, there is also the aspect of working together. Is there a way to get the community to work together? And who is going to help these families get sober and stay sober?
According to Herman White Grass, the key to making these programs successful is to have people who are working for the same goal separately unite and thus reach their goal more efficiently.
Dusterhoff proposed one strategy as an effective way to approach kids. That solution entails finding young people who have been through the ordeal of addiction and who have had some sort of personal experience with the dangers of drug use to talk to their classmates. These kids with experience, standing up in front of their peers, speaking in the same language, and being receptive to questions, would make a great impact according to Dusterhoff. She claims this solution would be more effective than having “a law officer stand up in front of a class in full uniform with a gun telling people to ‘just say no.’”
Browning School District has proposed another method to keep students from using drugs. This development is a Drug Testing Policy which has been put into effect for the 1999-00 school year. This policy applies to all Browning Public School students who participate in Montana High School Association sponsored activities, including sports, speech and debate, cheerleading and band and choir competitive groups. The policy includes mandatory testing on first day of practice and random testing of student participants throughout the season.
We have a long road ahead of us
Whatever strategies are put into effect, it is still going to take time to recover from the devastation of drugs. Darrell Rides at the Door, counselor for the Pikuni healing center, believes, “The majority of the problems occur because a lot of our people on the reservation live in a very dysfunctional environment. The women that we work with are a product of that dysfunction which is then passed on through generations.” This generational dysfunction is what makes addiction so hard to overcome.
As Dusterhoff says, “We have a community on the reservation that has been here for generations and generations and generations. I think that is how long it would take to change it.”