LCO Tribe Taking a Stand Against Drug Epidemic

Friday, November 24, 2017 | by Nicole Smith l LCO Communications Director |

On Wednesday, November 22nd, the Tribal Governing Board met with different tribal entities at the Kinnamon School to address the drug abuse epidemic on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation.

Chairman Louis Taylor stated in a memo to tribal entities, "Our community is devastated by the sheer number of members using methamphetamines, heroin, and other illegal drugs. We are hearing from a number of parents and family members regarding the struggles they are facing with drug addiction, who are asking for help with treatment resources."

The Tribal Governing Board took action by issuing a resolution on November 13th declaring a state of emergency because of the abuse of methamphetamine, heroin, and illegal drugs and by initiating the creation of a community involved drug task force.

The meeting was started with tobacco and invocation by Vice Chairman Jason Schlender who asked for blessings to help people attain "mino bimaadiziwin" or a good life. The different entities were asked to provide a brief synopsis of services and resources as well as struggles with their programs.

Tammy Bergum, LCO CCS, urged the council to advocate for changing the Medicaid rule because the current rules are an obstruction to consumers especially people that are incarcerated.

Jim Strunk, Pharmacist, talked about the availability of $20 kits they can be used to revive someone that has suffered an overdose. He and others at the LCO Clinic are ready to assist the tribe in this effort to eradicate the drug abuse problem on the reservation.

Heather Petersen, LCO Boys and Girls Club, stressed the importance of prevention. She talked about programs that are available to children and families that are focused on prevention. Vice Chairman Schlender supported by Petersen by stating the need for communal involvement because "our drug problem is a communal sickness and we need the community to work together in order to overcome it." We need to support the Boys & Girls Club with monetary donations whether we have kids in the program or not.

Mark Montano, LCO Housing Authority, proclaimed that the Housing Authority stands ready to do what they can do to help the problem. Montano further stated that tribal entities need to "get out of their silos and share information and resources in order to be effective. One way to do this is for the Tribal Governing Board to enact more public health and safety codes to ensure that there are no obstructions when dealing with communal issues."

The Housing Authority issued a supplementary report which listed that there are 30 vacant houses on the reservation and 16 of them are due to methamphetamine use.

Lorene "Booki" Wielgot, LCO Grants Department, said, "I am proud of the Tribal Governing Board for exercising leadership with our drug problem, it has been a long time since I've seen this."

Council members Rosalie Gokee and Don Carley closed out the meeting by thanking everyone for their efforts. Council member Carley emphasized the need for the community to get back to "valuing a life, when I was young we never heard of people dying tragically because it was a rare thing."

The meeting was well attended with over 30 attendees representing 16 different programs. It is also important to note that the youth member of the Boys & Girls Club Board, Shaylena Corbine, was in attendance as well.

Many of the program directors and attendees stated the importance of understanding the three-pronged approach which deals with Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression and that communication is key is getting help for the people that it the most.

The tribe will be accepting letters of interest for 7 openings on the newly formed LCO Drug Taskforce which is entirely open to the Lac Courte Oreilles community.

The community needs to buy in and support and participate in this endeavor. Please contact Holly Trepanier at 715-634-8934 for more information.

The next scheduled meeting for the task force will be December 13th.

Read the Declaration of State of Emergency here

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