TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation observed Tuesday as International Overdose Awareness Day and continues to focus on medication assisted treatment and overdose prevention.

Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health offers programs and services that aim to reduce addiction and overdose, including Medication Assisted Treatment. The MAT Clinic inside W.W. Hastings Hospital provides access to behavioral health clinicians and medications that prevent withdrawals while patients are on their journey toward sobriety.

“On this day, we want to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related death in our tribal communities,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We acknowledge the grief felt by loved ones remembering those who have died or who had a permanent injury resulting from a drug overdose.”

Under Chief Hoskin, the Cherokee Nation passed legislation in March to earmark an estimated $9 million to $12 million per year to provide Cherokee citizens with access to substance abuse treatment centers and wellness centers. 

Currently, Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health provides Naloxone trainings for communities through the MAT Program to educate on substance use disorder and what to do in the event of an overdose.

“We strive to overcome the misconceptions of medication assisted treatment and substance use disorder in our communities. One of our core values as Cherokees is to hold each other sacred, regardless of any stigma,” said Cherokee Nation Health Services Executive Medical Director Dr. Roger Montgomery. “We treat addiction in the same manner as any medical diagnosis. When a patient with diabetes needs treatment, we provide a treatment plan that includes medications to help them manage their disease. If someone with a substance use disorder is in need of treatment, we help manage their disease through our MAT clinic.”

The success of the MAT Clinic has prompted the expansion of services to provide a continuum of care. This includes family care managers, transportation resources, and a variety of community partnerships that provide peer recovery support to preserve recovery goals. 

“International Overdose Awareness Day is the perfect time to recognize the value and importance of our MAT Clinic,” said Cherokee Nation Health Services Executive Director Dr. R. Stephen Jones. “MAT saves our patients from addiction, and even fatal overdose, while giving them the tools to regain control of their lives.”

International Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable. Those struggling with a substance use disorder can call Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health at 539-234-3500.