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SAMHSA News - September/October 2005, Volume 13, Number 5

Tribes, Providers, Agencies Look to One Sky Center as National Resource

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 by—Native people."

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 the country."

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, and communities.

"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 services.

  • 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 this population.

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 practices."

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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 or phone (503) 494-3703. For more information, visit the Center's Web site at

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