Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., center, stands with members of the cabinet, council and Cherokee Nation Health Services employees Thursday in Vinita during the launch of the Harm Reduction Mobile Van.

VINITA, Okla. –– The Cherokee Nation launched its Harm Reduction Mobile Van into the Vinita community Thursday, Aug. 31, which is also observed as International Drug Overdose Awareness Day.

Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health is offering syringe services, wound care supplies, opioid overdose reversal medication known as Naloxone, and other harm reduction services in the mobile van at no cost to tribal and non-tribal citizens living within the tribe’s reservation.

The mobile van will start in Vinita and expand at a later time to more communities.

“I’m very proud of the efforts we’re making in harm reduction and a key part of that is making sure we reach those who are struggling with addiction where they’re at and make sure their life and day-to-day activities are as safe as can be, and that we have a system that reaches out to them with compassion, not condemnation,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “As we do that, I think it will continue to open the doors that lead to a path of healing and recovery.”

The Cherokee Nation first launched its Harm Reduction program in Tahlequah in January and has served more than 470 people.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the state of Oklahoma has one of the highest Hepatitis C prevalence rates in the United States with 56% of HCV cases due to injection drug use.

Over 30 years of research indicates that Harm Reduction Syringe Service Programs are safe, effective, cost-saving, do not increase illegal drug use rates or crime, and reduce overdose death and the spread of viral hepatitis and HIV.

“I want to thank this administration and council for their support in our efforts to do everything we can to prevent overdose in our Cherokee communities,” said Cherokee Nation Health Services Executive Director Dr. R Stephen Jones. “It is our mission to ensure that the story of the Cherokee Nation continues and by increasing access to harm reduction services we are meeting people where they are in their recovery journey to provide a better quality of life for our people for this and future generations.”

August 31 is observed as International Drug Overdose Awareness Day. According to experts, every 5 minutes, someone dies by overdose in America, with over 107,000 lives lost last year to the epidemic.