Toya Stewart Downey Staff Writer
It’s only been a few months since the Mille Lacs Band took over operation and management of the Four Winds treatment center in Brainerd, but already progress is being made.
Since the historic agreement was made between the Band and the State on March 1, the Band has been busy getting the Brainerd facility up and running to welcome its new clients.
Some staff that previously worked for the addiction center transitioned from State employees to Band employees, more staff will be hired and the facility is getting a makeover. The space is being reorganized to be more efficient; it’s being thoroughly cleaned, and items that aren’t needed are being removed.
“The schedule and curriculum is also being rewritten so it will be more inclusive of the culture and traditions of the Native American clients it will serve,” said Jeff Larson, the outgoing Executive Director of Health and Human Services.
The program will use the White Bison curriculum, which is focused on the traditional, cultural and spiritual ways of Native Americans.
Behavioral Health Director Crystal Weckert said the Band is making other changes as well, like decorating improvements
“that will hopefully make the facility feel more friendly.”
She added that they have been working to identify food and linen companies that will make the facility “feel more caring and
inviting and less correctional in nature.”
“Besides training staff in Native American curriculums including the White Bison curriculum, we have been working with tribal Elders to get input about how the program should evolve.”
The facility will use the same direct service policy as the clinic. That means Band member spouses and family members who are not enrolled can also attend the program.
Prior to the Band takeover, the program focused on healing and recovery for Native Americans and was the only one of its kind in the state, and one of very few in the nation.
The Band has long wanted to add inpatient options to its tribal treatment services, and by operating the facility it will realize some of its goals to meet the needs of Band members. Both the State and Band agree that the program will improve under the Band’s leadership.
Sam Moose, the Band’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services, says the partnership with the State is vital, especially as the number of Native Americans who are dealing with opiate addictions continues to increase.
There aren’t clients yet, but come the beginning of June the first group of clients will be admitted. There will be 16 beds available, and that number will increase to 24 by July.
Clients will need to follow an evaluation process to be admitted. The facility will only service clients who are Native Americans. Funding for the facility will be sustained by the Band and the State and federal revenue.
They are still striving to fill job openings and are encouraging Band members to apply.
“We want as many tribal members as possible working at Four Winds,” said Crystal. “It is not a tribal program without tribal employees. We encourage tribal members to get involved.”
She added that if Band members aren’t seeking jobs, they are encouraged to submit proposals for cultural teaching that they are willing to provide to the program.
“We want the facility to feel like and be a part of our communities, and we want to help people transition back into the communities they came from with a new sober lease on life.