Plans For Wampanoag Substance Abuse Treatment Center Underway
By: GEOFF SPILLANE, August 8, 2014
Like many communities across Cape Cod and Massachusetts, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is feeling the effects of the prescription drug and opiate abuse epidemic that is sweeping the nation.
To this end, Tribal Vice Chairman Jessie (Little Doe) Baird is making good on one of her 2013 campaign promises to establish increased addiction treatment services for the tribe.
“The disease of addiction is rampant in our community, and I feel a great responsibility to help my people,” she said, adding that this project is very personal for her as she lost a sister to addiction.
Last month, in July, the planning process for the treatment center began in earnest when facilitators from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services, held a three-day program in Mashpee to help the tribe jumpstart the strategy and planning phase of the treatment center project.
More than 25 tribal members attended the program, including the tribal coordinating committee charged with leading the project. The committee includes Ms. Baird, Tribal Councilman Cheryl Frye-Cromwell, Tribal Health Systems Administrator Rita A. Gonsalves, and Jodi Newcomb, a tribal member who works with Gosnold on Cape Cod.
Ms. Baird said that the three-day program initiated the discussion of what the treatment center should look like, if it would be separated into single-sex treatment centers, and the type of services that should be offered.
“Initially we thought that we would open a full-blown treatment center, but we have been hearing that there is a significant need for ongoing care once patients leave rehabilitation and detox facilities. Once they return home, they are exposed to environments that tend to encourage and trigger relapse,” Ms. Baird said, noting that the tribe will also need to forge partnerships with other addiction treatment specialty centers both on-Cape and off-Cape.
As a result of the July meeting, Ms. Baird has distributed a survey questionnaire to tribal members to determine what type of substance abuse treatment services are most needed within the community.
During an interview with Ms. Frye-Cromwell earlier this week at the Tribal Community & Government Center on Great Neck Road South, she stressed the importance of having as many tribal members involved in this effort as possible.
“Our goal is to have a healthy tribal community and we need to do it together,” she said.
Already, several tribal members have completed course work at the University of Massachusetts Boston and have received certificates in drug treatment counseling.
The working name for the planned treatment facility is The Dream Center, because it is said that those suffering from severe substance abuse issues are not able to dream while they sleep. By becoming clean and sober at the proposed facility, they will once again be able to dream.
While a location for the proposed substance abuse treatment center has not yet been identified, Ms. Baird said that her personal goal is to have the facility up-and-running within two years.
“This is a huge project, but we have started the planning process. We have taken the leap,” Ms. Frye-Cromwell said.