U.S. Secretary Of Health And Human Services Visits Cherokee Nation
TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma - United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price is in Oklahoma visiting with tribal leaders to talk about their healthcare needs.
Price toured healthcare facilities in the Cherokee Nation Wednesday.
The big issue being addressed at the Cherokee Nation - the opioid crisis.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Price are in Tahlequah to talk about a big problem plaguing Indian Country - opioid addiction and overdose.
"We have babies being born in the hospital on a monthly basis having to be life flighted because they entered the world at no fault of their own with these powerful drugs in their system," Baker said.
The chief said the Cherokee Nation is suing the largest drug distributors in the country that sell opioids for negligence.
"In our Cherokee communities, there are enough prescription opioid painkillers shipped in to provide every man woman and child with 153 doses each," Baker said.
Price praised the tribe's health care system, specifically the Jack Brown Treatment Center for Native Youth.
The Cherokee Nation, much like the rest of the country, has been hit hard by the epidemic.
"The number of overdose deaths in Cherokee Nation has more than doubled between 2003 and 2014," Price said.
Jack Brown Director Darren Dry has been treating addiction at the center for close to 30 years, and he said they need the federal government to make treating this problem a priority.
"We provide substance abuse treatment and education. We also do a little bit of behavioral health and mental health and the biggest thing I like to represent here is behavior modification," Dry said.
The facility is one of 12 of its kind in the country, providing comprehensive treatment for young people in native communities.
Baker and Price said this is the first of many conversations looking to identify better ways to serve native health needs.
Thursday, the secretary's tribal advisory committee will meet for the first time in Indian country for their quarterly meeting.