According to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, the Sooner State has been a national leader in terms of methamphetamine use since the early 1990s. Additionally, Oklahoma was ranked tenth highest among all states for the number of suicide deaths per capita, according to the 2012 figures available from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the causes of these issues are not simple, one CPN program is helping to raise awareness about their prevalence in the communities surrounding the Tribal jurisdiction. The FireLodge Tribal Youth program recently acquired the Meth and Suicide Prevention Initiative Grant for the sixth consecutive year.
“There is a large methamphetamine and suicide issue in Pottawatomie County,” said FireLodge Tribal Youth Program Coordinator Darin Greene. “The staff and I present community education on suicide and meth use. We go to the local schools around CPN and identify the problems with the two topics, talk to the kids about ways of preventing it and explain how they can help others.”
Each staff member at the P.L.A.C.E. is certified in the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills , or ASIST, program as a gatekeeper. The Tribal youth staff goes through the ASIST program to help prepare them become gatekeepers, who are professionally-trained to recognize warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide or using illicit drugs.
Quite often the roles of the staff involve listening to the kids at the schools and what they have on their mind. The P.L.A.C.E. staff discusses the dangers of drug and alcohol use, risk indicators of suicide and focusing on healthy cultural lifestyles as a way to cope with stress or peer pressure in daily activities with to the FireLodge Tribal youth.
The after school program has more than 50 participants this year alone. CPN Cultural Mentor Coby Lehman and Academic Support Specialist Ben McAlister incorporate a cultural facet to the program by performing smudging ceremonies to rid the area that participants use from any negativity.
“This grant helps out a lot because it pays some of our staff members and the professional training we send them to,” said Greene. “Our mentors teach classes at local schools about preventing these things and we know our kids will go out into the community and teach their own friends.”
The P.L.A.C.E. is the only facility at CPN that uses this MSPI grant funds.
“I think that the program is just now beginning to grow, but the response so far has been outstanding,” said Greene. “If we do something here at the P.L.A.C.E., it’s going to be top notch and that’s what this program has been for us. If you can keep kids busy and their minds focused on positive things, that’s how you help prevent them from falling into these problems.”
For more information about the MSPI program please visit www.ihs.gov/mspi/.