TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed into law significant new legislation today that will earmark an estimated $9 million to $12 million per year to provide Cherokee citizens with access to substance abuse treatment centers and wellness centers.
Chief Hoskin officially enacted the legislation during a special ceremony with Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, members of the Council of the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Health Services employees at the behavioral health offices inside the tribe’s 469,000-square-foot outpatient health center in Tahlequah.
The legislation, which was proposed by Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner, was unanimously approved by the Council of the Cherokee Nation during a meeting on Monday, March 15.
“Mental health and physical well-being are vitally important to the Cherokee people,” Chief Hoskin said. “With a dedicated funding source in place, we can now work toward the establishment of drug treatment centers, wellness facilities and other opportunities that will ultimately create healthier Cherokees, Cherokee families and Cherokee communities. The creation of this legislation has been a priority for both me and Deputy Chief Warner, and we are thankful the Council has supported such a worthy cause. So many Cherokee lives are going to be positively affected by this new law not just in the short term, but for generations to come.”
The Cherokee Nation Public Health and Wellness Fund will earmark 7 percent of the unrestricted revenue generated by Cherokee Nation Health Services, including health insurance claims or billings to health insurance carriers and providers, for public health programs.
“The Cherokee Nation public health and behavioral health teams do a tremendous job of caring for Cherokee Nation citizens, and they are consistently recognized across the United States for their treatment and prevention efforts,” Deputy Chief Warner said. “That’s why establishing a funding source is such a monumental move. This will provide our public health and behavioral health teams with the added infrastructure and support they need to take their efforts to new and unprecedented levels.”
Revenue collected under the new law can be used for capital investments and operational expenses for substance abuse treatment facilities and wellness centers.
“When the Council formed the Public Health subcommittee a few years ago, improving access to behavioral health and physical wellness programs at the community level was identified as a high priority,” said District 4 Tribal Councilor Dr. Mike Dobbins, Chairman of the Public Health subcommittee. “It is wonderful to see the suggestions from our constituents to improve healthcare get serious study by the Council and support from the administration.”
Cherokee Nation’s existing public health programs promote and protect the health of Cherokee Nation citizens and communities. This is accomplished through the tribe’s Male Seminary Recreation Center, walking groups, cancer education programs, diabetes prevention programs, nutritional programs for women, infants and children, and the HERO Project, which provides counseling and support services for behavioral health issues impacting Cherokee families. Cherokee Nation also operates the Jack Brown Center, a 36-bed co-ed facility in Tahlequah providing help to Native youth with substance abuse issues.