By Joshua Lavar Butler
FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA— Alcoholism is an epidemic plaguing many communities across the country, and Gallup, N.M. is no exception. The Gallup Detox Center, also known as Na’nizhoozhi Center Inc., was created 40 years ago to address public intoxication and to help alcoholics within its city limits. The center was reaction to the death of 12 Native Americans who died of cold winter exposure.
In 2013, the Navajo Nation entered into an agreement with the City of Gallup to fund the center in the midst of funding cuts in an effort to help its tribal members. The center provides rehabilitation services, and also provides a safe place for intoxicated individuals to stay overnight until they have sobered up.
Navajo Nation Councilwoman Amber Kanazbah Crotty, who represents Navajo chapters in the eastern and northern portions of the reservation, is encouraging tribal leaders to reconvene and discuss this matter. She wants to establish communication regarding a long-term solution for the drug and alcohol problem in Gallup, and more importantly, to educate her colleagues.
Crotty is advocating for increased communication and working in partnership with her colleagues in the executive branch of the tribal government and overcoming territorial behaviors.
On March 29, Councilman Norman M. Begay was denied access to a meeting between the tribal president’s office and Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services regarding long-term rehabilitation services. He was told it was a private meeting and was turned away at the door.
“There’s this political maneuvering that’s happening and that’s what I get frustrated with. It’s the Navajo people that we are representing, so it can’t be one decision—it has to be a collective one,” said Crotty in response to her colleague being denied access to the meeting. “We need to bring everyone to the table to discuss this as one Nation.”
The closed-door meeting involved discussion about the option of treatments that are being proposed in a behavioral health investment zone application submitted to the state of New Mexico, according to Ramona Antone-Nez, acting director of the Navajo Department of Health.
If funds are awarded, Antone-Nez explained they would be utilized to start a long-term treatment program for drug and alcohol addicts.
Crotty is advocating for a method or treatment plan be established and discussed in order to find the most reasonable option possible to help individuals with detox services, to reduce exposure deaths and to help with rehabilitation.
The Gallup Detox Center reported to the tribal council on April 12 according to a press release. The center reported data on the success rate of patients and demographics of patients, and a proposed funding request to the Navajo Nation and the City of Gallup.
According to Dr. Kevin Foley, executive director for the center, they are seeing a success rate of approximately 85 percent for the 60-day traditional residential program, and 19 percent of the patients they treat are between the ages of 45-49 years of age. He also reported information relative to treatment demographics such as gender, age, what community they are from and cost of treatment.
Dr. Foley agrees there is a substantial need to fund the detox center and to keep it operational for individuals that need it. He is requesting $1.2 million to fund detox services only and not the 60-day treatment program. The proposal requests $600,000 from the Navajo Nation and $600,000 from the City of Gallup to fund operational costs, contractual services, treatment of patients, personnel, and to keep the center open.
The center is currently operating on a $234,000 emergency grant from Indian Health Services since February 24 after the Navajo Nation decided not to renew the memorandum of agreement with the City of Gallup and McKinley County which expired in October 2015.
Tribal leaders will plan to meet soon collaboratively to discuss this issue and find immediate solutions to assist addicts, and to also find long-term solutions to mitigate the problem.
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