Offering hope through culture and spirituality

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CANTON, S.D. – For 35 years, the Keystone Treatment Center has offered hope to people suffering from alcoholism, drug addictions and gambling problems. The building that houses the residential and outpatient treatment programs shares a piece of American Indian history in the form of large white granite blocks.

From insanity to a treatable disease, help and hope reside behind those blocks, which have watched the struggles of American Indians with chemical dependencies for more than 100 years.

The Indian Insane Asylum – the only one in the country – operated in Canton from the early 1900s until the mid to late 1930s. Most of the American Indians sent to the insane asylum were alcoholics and the first thing they saw were the large white granite blocks on the outside of the building. “When I first moved to Canton over 40 years ago, there was a big wrought iron gate where the asylum used to be and was later turned into a community hospital. For a long time the sign over the gate still said ‘Indian Insane Asylum,’ but it was taken down by request of the American Indians in our area who were uncomfortable with it being there,” said Executive Director Carol Regier.

The old hospital was torn down and the large granite bricks moved from the grounds of the former asylum to form part of the local high school. The school was purchased by Lynn Carroll and other local citizens in 1973 to start an alcohol treatment center. “There were almost no treatment centers 50 years ago. It’s ironic that those granite rocks are now part of our structure which is being used to help American Indians with alcohol problems,” Regier said.

Keystone Treatment Center bases its programming on the 12-step philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous, and is known for the specialized treatment tracts offered to patients that include: a dual diagnosis track addressing chemical dependency and psychiatric needs, a methamphetamine track, a Christian track offering a 12-step Bible study, a gambling track for gambling addictions, opioid dependence track for people addicted to prescription opioids or other narcotics, a cognitive disorders track for patients with disorders such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and the Native American Program.

The Native American Program was developed about 20 years ago to meet the cultural and spiritual needs of chemically dependent American Indians receiving treatment at the center.

“We have American Indian patients from all over the country,” Regier said. “About half of our adolescent patients and 30 percent of adult patients are American Indian. We have a sweat lodge, talking circle, a cultural adviser, smudge and say prayers every day, have honor ceremonies for those ready to leave the program and have American Indian singers and drummers for the ceremonies.”

The treatment center has 100 beds, 65 on the adult unit and 35 for adolescents. The center has four wings, one each for women, men, young women and young men. “I remember when the center opened, everyone in the community was a little afraid of it. Today the community is very supportive of the center,” Regier said.

Many of the female patients treated at the center have, according to Regier, suffered abusive pasts. “A lot of our patients were abused as children and so we offer a traditional wiping of the tears ceremony for them. Sometimes they don’t talk about the abuse until they come here as an adult. We help them through that so they no longer have to use alcohol or drugs as an escape.”

Treatment varies for each individual, but the normal length of a first stay at the center is 30 – 45 days. The 150-plus staff offer round-the-clock care by registered nurses, psychiatrists, medical physicians, a psychologist for adults and youth, certified counselors, teachers, and American Indian counselors and advisers.

The center also offers a free family program which runs each week, Sundays through Tuesday afternoons.

Acting as a liaison between Keystone and tribal agencies, the Native American Advisory Council is comprised of tribal leaders, health care professionals, counselors, and human resource and employee assistance professionals. The council provides direction on American Indian customs, culture and history for the treatment needs of the patient.

The treatment center is licensed by the state of South Dakota and is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

Today on the site of the former asylum is a golf course with an American Indian cemetery resting on one of the greens. Marking the spot where about 40 American Indians died while in the asylum is a memorial with their names. Those whose golf balls are careless enough to rest atop this sacred spot are called on to walk softly in remembrance of those not fortunate enough to get the help they needed, but who now share a place in the history of the Keystone Treatment Center.

For more information about the programs Keystone Treatment Center offers, visit www.keystonetreatment.com or call (800) 992-1921.