In Mt Pleasant today, for the first time ever, all twelve of Michigan’s federally recognized Indian tribes gathered with state health officials and federal law enforcement to discuss the opioid crisis.
The two-day summit is focused on multidisciplinary efforts to combat the opioid crisis in the tribal community.
Patrick Shannon is the Chief Judge with the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe and is a member of the state opioid and prescription drug commission. He said the state can’t rely on incarceration to fix the problem.
“We really look at this as a public health program, addiction to the various type of drugs. We cannot arrest our way out of this so we have to break down some silos and concepts that aren’t working.”
Shannon says Michigan wasn’t prepared for the size and scale of the opioid crisis.
Linda Davis is a Macomb County District Court Judge and a member of the state opioid and prescription drug commission. She said it’s important to bring state, federal, and local organizations together.
“I think this is going to open up those conversations to form partnerships and we just accomplish more when we work together as a whole rather than operating in silos.”
Davis says long-term treatment programs have to be part of the recovery process and the needs of addicts should be determined by health professionals - not judges.
Karmen Fox, executive health director for the Nimkee clinic on the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation, said the event is about bringing organizations together.
“We all know that there are issues and I believe a lot of us work in our own silos. So hopefully this will bring us together and we’ll be able to work together not only as tribes but as communities, states, and help combat this issue.”
A report from the Centers for Disease Control says as recently as 2014 Native American populations had the highest opioid-related overdose death rate of any other demographic group in the country.
Summit organizers say the event will become an annual occurrence hosted by each of the twelve tribes.