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Community interventions create champions on Fort Berthold

By Cheryl Cedar Face

Community interventions sponsored by the Three Affiliated Tribe’s Circle of Life program and Train for Change, a company focused on addiction services, have been held across the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. With the goal of spreading health and healing, the interventions have created hundreds of community champions ready to combat addiction.

Bruce Gillette, program director of Circle of Life, worked with Train for Change to create dynamic community interventions focused on ameliorating Fort Berthold’s growing addiction problem.

“It was decided that if we really wanted to create change in the problems we’ve been seeing, we needed to do a community intervention,” said Scott Covert, vice president of Early Intervention Services at Train for Change. Covert served as a trainer and presenter during the community interventions.

After receiving approval from the Tribal Business Council, Gillette and Train for Change also began working with North Dakota State University to develop the interventions, which began last August. The interventions focused on distributing information and materials based on adapted versions of proven theories. The methods, which include interactive journaling and establishing community input, seek to help those struggling with addiction.

“The idea was that now we needed to train the community – to create champions. Bruce’s goal was to create hundreds if not thousands of champions. People who understand these principles and can go out into the community,” said Covert.

Two journals were created as way to provide community members with the means to help loved ones with addiction in a way that was culturally familiar. “The journals were designed with a lot of Native American imagery and wording so that everyone in the community was comfortable with it,” said Covert. “It’s very culturally centered and oriented.”

Since August, interventions have taken place across the reservation. “We’ve gone clockwise around the reservation to the main communities,” said Covert. “We now have a few hundred people who have been trained.”

Designed with a broad audience in mind, the trainings have allowed for healing on a large scale.

“We have people from Circle of Life, we have community members, we have all sorts of people from all walks of life,” said presenter Kamilla Venner, assistant professor of Psychology at the University of New Mexico.

“I hope that people come away [from the training] with hope and optimism,” continued Venner. “That they can do something to help other people who have an alcohol or drug problem, or have an alcohol or drug problem themselves.”

Marilyn Yellowbird, Public Health Nurse at Elbowoods Memorial Health Center, found the interventions helpful. “It’s trying to teach the community to become leaders, or champions, to help them help other people,” said Yellowbird.

“It’s important to empower the patient,” continued Yellowbird. “That’s the best way to learn. Teaching people to empower the patient, to empower the substance abuser.”

Train for Change and Circle of Life will soon move to the next phase of the program, which includes continued coaching on the principles shared in the interventions. The last community intervention was held between Jan. 13 and 14 at the Johnny Bird Memorial Hall.

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