Thursday, October 24, 2013

Register Now for the Final Tribal DEC Training

Learn more! Join expert trainer Lori Moriarty to discuss how to respond collaboratively to the issue of tribal drug endangered children. This webinar is free, but space is limited. Register now to participate on November 6, 2013.

This is the final training session of our two-year program on tribal prescription drug abuse and drug endangered children. Look for online training, recorded webinars and more on the Indian Country Training website.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Place To Go: Safe Havens for Tribal Youth

"Nowhere to go, nothing to do," is the eternal refrain of bored children everywhere, but for youth growing up on remote reservations, the problem leads to more serious consequences. Without sober role models, healthy activities, and positive peer groups, youth drift towards options that include drinking, drug use, gangs, criminal activity and too often, suicide. In Indian Country, we're all too aware of the trouble our children can get into. Even the government noticed, and in 1999 the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention began providing grants to tribes who wanted to institute Tribal Youth Programs (TYP) that offered Native youth an after-school alternative.

From Alaska to Oklahoma, concerned adults created programs to help redirect their community's youth in a positive direction. Some tribes created programs that served the most endangered children, like the Wind River tribe's TYP, which grew out of their juvenile probation program. Other programs, like the Mescalero Apache's, involved all kids, as well as their parents, and even incorporated the TYP into the schools. Most tribes created programs that encouraged pride in their Native culture, as well as imparting important health messages and engaging participants in traditional activities like hunting, fishing, and canoeing (starting with building the canoes!). Many programs also incorporated Native language lessons, community service projects, community food production, and homework tutoring.

A decade into the TYP experiment, participating tribes reported stunning successes. At its peak, the TYP cost taxpayers about $25 million dollars a year to transform the lives of thousands of at-risk Native American youth. Then came the budget cuts. Then came the sequester. Between the two, the TYP budget has been slashed to $9.5 million, less than half of its previous funding level. Communities  are looking for ways to keep the programs running, but with similar hits to housing, health care, education, mental health, juvenile justice and other programs affecting Native youth, it's hard to know which fire to put out first.

Some, including the National Congress of American Indians, have argued that the cuts violate treaty and trust agreements to the tribes. Although this fiscal year just started, we're already seeing devastating impacts in public safety and in basic quality of life for our children. Congress will be back in session to work on passing a budget this month. It's up to us to put the pressure on to make sure that our kids have a fighting chance, or at least a place to go and something to do.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Mexico Drug Problem Could Use Arizona Solutions

National statistics have been confirming what many New Mexicans know anecdotally-- the drug problem is bad, the death rate is horrific, and too many children are suffering the consequences.
  • 60 % more drug overdoses in New Mexico than 10 years ago
  • Sales of prescription painkillers rose 131% during the same period
  • Heroin has been a growing problem among prescription opioid users
  • Since 2007, New Mexico has ranked in the top ten nationally for illicit drug dependence
  • 9% of the population reports using drugs, compared to 8% nationally
  • Drug-related deaths in New Mexico occur at double the national rate 
  • Drug-related deaths in New Mexico lead vehicle accidents and firearm deaths as causes of premature death, accounting for nearly 1 out of ten premature death
  • Half the local prison population has been convicted of drug-related crime
If one out of ten adults is using illicit drugs, then how many children are at risk for neglect, exposure, ingestion, abuse, delinquency or drug-related criminal activity and violence? Just last week, two men were caught smoking meth around three children, aged 14, 8 and 5 months. Along with drug possession, they were charge with contributing to the delinquency of a minor—but significantly, not child abuse or child endangerment.

What happened to those children? Who knows? In states with a strong drug endangered children coalition, the arresting officers would coordinate with child protective services, medical professionals, mental health professionals and courts to assess the risk to the children and reduce it accordingly. Despite a host of substance abuse programs in New Mexico (which the federal government funds at about $63 million annually), no one group is taking the lead on addressing the problems the children who are getting caught up in the adult epidemic.

A look at neighboring Arizona might suggest a model for collaboration. The Arizona Alliance for Drug Endangered Children works with tribes, cities, counties, schools and professionals to educate the public about the risks that children face around drug users. AZ DEC alliance members developed protocols to outline the roles and responsibilities of professionals intervening in the case of drug endangered children. In seven years, the Arizona DEC Program resulted in the successful prosecution of over 138  cases involving over 291 children. A special agreement between the state and tribal governments allows tribal officers broader jurisdiction, and more flexibility in pursuing cases across the reservation border. More local collaborative efforts target specific problems, like prescription drug abuse, by involving the entire community in anti-drug causes.

To learn more about how to form collaborative teams that can help children whose caregivers are using drugs, join us in Phoenix for a free two-day training session, October 2-3.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tohono O'odham Police Collaborate to Fight Border Problems

The long and seemingly deserted southern border of the Tohono O'Odham Nation attracts drug smugglers and other illicit activities, creating a policing nightmare for the tribal police force. In the years leading up to 2007, the crime statistics were astounding:
  • an average of 10,000 arrests per month 
  • 1500 wrecked or abandoned vehicles towed every year
  • At least 100 tribal members involved in narcotics related activity
  • About 350 bodies a year found on the reservation
  • Critical cultural and natural areas damaged or destroyed
Tribal police turned to state, federal and other tribal partners for help addressing border security and smuggling. Out of this work, law enforcement agencies in Arizona have developed a model collaborative approach that is transforming tribal policing.

According to Edward Reina, Jr., Director of Public Safety for the Tohono O'odham Nation,  Arizona has become "a model of how states should work with Indian Country." In testimony before the Senate this year, he points to a statutory revision that allows trained and qualified tribal police officers to become state Peace Officers that allows them to arrest all offenders; better training for state officers that has reduced misunderstandings regarding extraditions from tribal lands; better data collection and sharing; continuing cooperation with federal agencies, including the FBI, the US Attorney's office, ICE, DEA, ATF, Border Patrol and BIA Law Enforcement. Stakeholders at the tribal, state and federal level meet monthly to share information, discuss needs, develop programs, seek funding and eliminate duplication of effort.

The result? Tribal police led multi-agency efforts to break up large methamphetamine and cocaine rings on the reservation, placed School Resource Officers in each of the tribe's five schools, built a Fusion Center to collect and store offender data, built a Sex Offender registry, and has developed positive working relationships with dozens of agencies and organizations who share a common interest in solving the problems brought by drug smuggling.

To learn more about how a collaborative approach can help you solve your tribe's law enforcement problems, sign up today for our free webinar on Creating Collaboration Through Community Policing. Alternately, join us for our final Tribal Prescription Drugs and Drug Endangered Children training session in Phoenix, AZ (it's also free!) and talk with Arizona tribal professionals about what's working and what still needs to be better.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Community Policing A Success for Tribal Youth

We worry about the dangers that youth face on reservations, especially from drugs and gangs. On the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in Wisconsin, tribal members complained, "There's no jobs. You see 10-year-old kids in little four to five member gangs walking and breaking windows. Something's going to escalate." Likewise, people of the Penobscot Indian Nation complained about youth playing loud music, vandalizing buildings and even stealing during the long Maine nights.

Anyone familiar with Indian Country knows the problems: too few officers patrolling large, rural areas; too many adults doing drugs or drinking instead of being positive role models; not enough resources for existing law enforcement or service providers. It's not hard to understand how tribal police would shy away from tackling new programs or approaches.

However, as tribal police start applying community policing principles, they have been discovering how many problems it solves. In Wisconsin, tribes across the state share resources, personnel and training with state officers to combat gangs and drugs. In the first year of their partnership, inter-agency teams busted up a crack ring on the St. Croix-Chippewa Nation and made over 105 arrests, all while respecting firm boundaries on tribal sovereignty. In Maine, the Penobscot police worked with tribal leaders to open a tribal coffee shop that provides youth with a friendlier and healthier place to hang out. In Idaho, the Nez Perce tribal police collaborated with the Lewiston and Quad Cities police to bust a dealer holding nearly $300,000 worth of drugs, as well as firearms, cash and jewelry. By collaborating—sharing information, resources and activities to achieve a common goal— the sum of the parts ends up having a huge impact on making communities safer.

The elements of community policing are simple (below), and can be applied to a host of problems for Native youth, from gangs to drug endangered children. To learn more, join us for a free online webinar to discuss Creating Collaboration Through Community Policing, hosted by our expert on successful community policing, Dr. Ron Glensor.
Elements of Community Policing

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tribal Drug Smugglers Face Exile

Canadian drug smuggling poses a problem for many tribes in Washington, Idaho and Montana. Mexican drug trafficking organizations orchestrate some of the smuggling, aided by Native gang members, many younger than 12. Planes full of marijuana touch town in isolated areas of Washington's Colville Reservation and Montana's Fort Peck Reservation, then take off again before tribal police can even approach the scene. The potent BC bud also finds its way across the border into the Blackfeet tribal lands.

Even more dangerous than planeloads of pot has been easy access to prescription drugs in Vancouver. Seattle area tribes are in a position to distribute potent painkillers like OxyContin all down the west coast. The 4000-member Lummi tribe has seen 33 tribal members convicted for drug smuggling.

Eugenia Phair, a Lummi member, was smuggling 1200 pills a day across the border by using her girlfriends in the tribe as mules, then making most of her deals in the tribe's busy casino. After a customer's toddler died from eating a pill off the floor, the tribal community decided to take action and vowed to banish dealers from the tribe. Now out of prison, she can no longer work for the tribe, live on tribal lands, or get assistance or housing.

John Jefferson (pictured, above) also learned the hard way about the Lummi's zero tolerance policies. When he couldn't make a living as a traditional fisherman, he turned to dealing drugs to support his growing drinking and drug habit. He returned from federal prison to learn he's no longer welcome among his tribe. Jefferson told a reporter that being banished was like losing his soul. "The worst thing that would ever happen to me in my life was to be banished from the rez, and not to have my fishing rights, or to be able to get my health benefits, or not live on the reservation."

In their determination to cleanse their community, Lummi tribal elders even burned one drug house, abandoned when its tenant went to prison. Recently, the Makah have tried this approach with a non-tribal member, a sex offender who was dealing oxycodone and also engaging in burglary and violent crimes.

Does banishment make a difference? The debate is raging, even among the Lummi and Makah. Supporters say that the people who got banished were spreading harm, and even some of the offenders admit the widespread destruction they caused among their friends and relatives. "My victims are the children whose parents were using the drugs I sold," admitted Phair. "I have more victims than anybody."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Establishing a Strength-Based Tribal Collaboration for Drug Endangered Children

Identifying children at risk for child abuse and neglect is a key feature of community-based interventions. Assuring the use of culturally appropriate assessment tools and integrating best practice in child welfare are both critical in protecting this at-risk population. Through the use of the NICWA Relational Worldview, participants will be able to assess areas of strength and opportunity for the optimal collaboration in protecting our greatest resource- our children. Tools and resource links will be provided that can be used across programs to support mutual values.

Find out more about the upcoming webinar.