The Yurok Tribe applauds California Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposal to invest $15 million in a much-needed, tribally operated Regional Wellness Center.
“I would like to sincerely thank Governor Newsom for including this transformative project in the revised California Blueprint budget. If funded, this innovative facility will positively impact every single family in our region,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “We have been working on this project for a really long time because we know it will strengthen our shared communities from many generations to come. It’s that important. The Regional Wellness Center will serve as the most powerful tool in our arsenal to combat the disease of addiction.”
“We have aggressively pursued funding for the Regional Wellness Center for nearly a decade because the need is so immense,” said Yurok Chief Justice Abby Abinanti. “It is so exciting to think we could soon be in a better position heal some of the most vulnerable members of our community. I hope and pray this dream finally comes true.”
Located in the northwestern corner of California, the Yurok Tribe is the largest federally recognized tribe in state and neighbors the second and third most populous sovereign tribal nations. Due to historical trauma, poverty and systemic inequities as well as many other complex factors, mental health issues, including substance abuse, are disproportionately prevalent in this rural part of the state. Based on the success of the Yurok Tribal Court’s Wellness Court and Joint Family Wellness Court, the Regional Wellness Center will significantly reduce rates of addiction and elevate the communities of California’s north coast.
The state-of-the-art Regional Wellness Center will offer culturally relevant and conventional drug, alcohol and mental health services. With an option to stay for up to a year, based court referrals, residents will have access to a wide variety of supportive services, which revolve around the restoration of mental, physical and spiritual health. Services will include: methamphetamine treatment, medically assisted treatment for opioid addiction, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, meditation and guided breathing and relaxation techniques. The Center will provide on-campus and off-campus cultural activities and events to keep residents connected to their community. Individual, family and group therapy will be available too.
There are no similar facilities in the region, which extends from Southern Oregon to Southern Humboldt County. Currently, the Yurok Tribal Court has to send a majority of its clients to San Francisco for drug treatment, which is hundreds of miles away from their families and support groups. The long distance also prevents them from participating in the tribe’s culture and place-based religion. The tribe’s traditional value system focuses on maintaining balance on an individual and global scale. The Tribal Court’s Wellness Court and Joint Family Wellness Court have helped numerous Tribal citizens achieve sobriety and return to being contributing members of the community. The Regional Wellness Center will enable the Court to exponentially increase the number of people it can serve.
“In addition to putting their lives at risk and causing tremendous heartache within their families, those in the throes of addiction are vulnerable to human trafficking and worse. Human traffickers know they can easily take advantage of addicts’ dependence on drugs and manipulate them in horrible ways. I know of many Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women People cases that involve victims who were struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues,” said Judge Abinanti. “These new facilities will aid in our efforts to the combat the MMIWP crisis too.”
On the West Coast, the opioid epidemic first took root in the remote Northern California region. In Humboldt County, the rate of overdose deaths is more than twice the national average and overdose mortality rates have jumped 40 percent in the last two years. In 2018, the Yurok Tribe filed a federal lawsuit against 20 of the largest opioid manufactures and distributors in the US in an attempt to hold them accountable for their role in the widespread abuse of prescription painkillers.