sent by:  Albert RunningWolf
Alcoholism Facilities Planned
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Albert RunningWolf
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P.O. Box 102
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Phone: (765)647-4947
Fax: (765)647-5362

...still strong in the Spirit and in the Struggle...
FREEDOM FOR LEONARD PELTIER NOW!!
 
Published Tuesday
December 14, 1999
Alcoholism Facilities Planned
BY PAUL HAMMEL
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
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Pine Ridge, S.D. - If financial and political hurdles can be overcome, two new facilities for treating alcoholism problems at Whiteclay, Neb., and the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation could be available soon.

Reservation officials are working on plans for a $1.3 million detoxification center at Pine Ridge. A six-bed treatment center for alcoholics in nearby Gordon, Neb., is nearing completion of a $150,000 fund drive that would almost double its size.

Both facilities would address a pressing need for alcohol-treatment facilities identified by federal civil rights officials during a recent visit to the officially dry reservation and the nearby town of Whiteclay.

"It's frustrating that there's a lot of focus on the situation at Whiteclay, but there aren't a lot of resources committed to the problem," said Scott Loomis, a counselor at the Northeast Panhandle Alcohol Treatment Center in Gordon.

Alcoholism problems, which affect an estimated 65 percent to 70 percent of the adult population on the reservation, have received national attention recently because of a series of protest marches in Whiteclay, a border village that has four liquor stores that sell 4 million cans of beer a year, mostly to reservation residents.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission is scheduled to make a series of recommendations within 90 days on how to address alleged civil rights abuses and alcohol-related deaths of American Indians in South Dakota and areas near reservations in Nebraska.

Mary Frances Berry, the commission's chairwoman, said a detox center would be a beneficial preventative measure to get intoxicated and vulnerable people off the streets of Whiteclay.

Currently, there are no alcohol-treatment centers for long-term care or detoxification centers to allow overnight protection on the reservation. The facility in Gordon is often filled with people undergoing 30-day treatment.

Sheridan County Sheriff Homer Robbins said the lack of a detox center means that intoxicated individuals are either held overnight in jail in protective custody or, when possible, sent home, either in a patrol car, the car of a responsible person or on foot.

Taking an intoxicated person home often creates more problems, Robbins said. And civil rights officials said that sending people home on foot leaves them vulnerable to assault.

The protest marches in Whiteclay began after two Pine Ridge residents were found dead in South Dakota, a few yards north of Whiteclay. Robbins said the last time the two men were seen was when a Sheridan County deputy sheriff ordered them to walk home from Whiteclay. That was two days before the bodies were found.

Bart Merdanian, a spokesman for the Oglala Lakota Tribal Council, said that a $1.3 million federal grant, initially intended for fixing up a dilapidated jail at Pine Ridge, will be used to build the detox center.

But, Merdanian said, the council has questions about whether funding will be available to provide staff and programs at the center in future years. A decision on whether to move forward is expected in about two months. A center of about 20 beds would take about a year to open.

Loomis, of the Gordon alcohol-treatment center, said an expansion of that facility, from six to 11 beds, had been scheduled to begin this summer but has been delayed.

He said that about $112,000 has been committed to the expansion but between $30,000 and $40,000 remains to be raised.

Loomis said he is confident that funding can be found. It would take about six months to complete the expansion, he said.


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