Tribes, Providers, Agencies Look to One Sky Center as National Resource
By Meredith Hogan Pond
| Photo by Ken Blackbird*
The One Sky Center, funded by SAMHSA, is the very first
National Resource Center for American Indians and Alaska
Natives dedicated to improving prevention and treatment
of substance abuse and mental health disorders.
"This is a unique center," said Michelle Singer,
a member of the Navajo tribe and communications coordinator
for One Sky. "The Center is for—and created
The Center's Director, R. Dale Walker, M.D., is a member
of the Cherokee tribe and professor of psychiatry at
the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)—One
Sky's home base in Portland, OR. "We want to be
more than a listening post," said Dr. Walker. "We
actively respond to requests for prevention- and treatment-related
technical assistance from tribal organizations around
What does "One Sky" signify? "For us,
all Indian Nations and people are under one sky on Mother
Earth," said Ms. Singer.
Accordingly, an important part of the One Sky Center's
work is building networks and coalitions and fostering
relationships with both tribal and non-tribal entities—in
academia, the private sector, and Government—with
the goal of promoting healing among individuals, families,
"Working with stakeholders from across the country,
the One Sky Center provides a blueprint for comprehensive
services that honor the traditional ways of living and
healing among Native Americans," said SAMHSA Administrator
Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.
For example, One Sky's national reach has been enhanced
and extended by its partnerships with several Native
programs, including the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council.
SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT)
and Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) jointly
fund the One Sky Center in a 3-year cooperative agreement
with OHSU that began in summer 2003.
The One Sky Center helped bring together tribal leaders,
traditional healers, and others for a day of sharing
Native program success stories and lessons learned in
an all-day forum before the start of the third annual
Indian Health Service/SAMHSA conference in San Diego
this June. (See the SAMHSA
News, Tribes Weave Visions for Healthy Future article.)
Now beginning its third year, the Center continues working
on its three main objectives:
Promote and nurture effective and culturally
appropriate substance abuse prevention and treatment
Identify culturally appropriate and effective
evidence-based substance abuse prevention and treatment
practices and disseminate them so that they can be applied
with relevance across diverse tribal communities.
Provide training, technical assistance, and
products to expand the capacity and quality of substance
abuse prevention and treatment practitioners serving
In 2 years, the Center has visited more than 100 communities
around the country and provided many products and resources
for Native organizations. "What we've really done
is talk to the communities so we can modify the resources
to fit community needs," said Dr. Walker.
In an effort to promote effective and culturally appropriate
prevention and treatment, the One Sky Center has an online
Native Programs Directory that hightlights programs funded
by CSAT and CSAP.
The One Sky Center also receives funds from SAMHSA's
Center for Mental Health Services. With this funding,
the One Sky Center is continuing to develop an online
American Indian/Alaska Native resource database for mental
health prevention programs. The goal is to create a resource
directory for dissemination to schools around the country
with substantial American Indian and Alaska Native enrollment.
In the coming year, suicide intervention and prevention
will be an increasing part of One Sky's work. "There
is no way we can leave that out," said Dr. Walker,
"because of its deep interrelation with all the
other health care problems. We have to look at the whole
concept of disease—or dis-ease—in
the Native communities."
"Tribal programs, tribes themselves, and American
Indians and Alaska Natives across the country actually
have enriched understandings of how to recover and how
to avoid and step away from illness," said Dr. Walker.
"We need to include that knowledge in evidence-based
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One Sky's Web Site
The One Sky Center's Web site offers downloadable newsletters,
monographs, training manuals, directories, and congressional
testimonies as well as several new information packages
for all Indian communities. To order publications, contact
the Center by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
or phone (503) 494-3703. For more information, visit
the Center's Web site at www.oneskycenter.org.
*Ken Blackbird is a member
of the Assiniboine tribe and an
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