Fishing, and the preparation of fish,
are among traditional Yup'ik and Cup'ik practices integrated
with substance abuse and behavioral health treatment by the
Village Services Program.
2003 © Doug Ogden/AlaskaStock.com
From Subsistence to Sustainability: Treating Drug Abuse in Alaska
By Melissa Capers
A village elder leads a tour of a remote
southwest Alaska village. As the small group of substance abuse
counselors and program administrators walks along the unpaved streets,
the elder points out "healthy homes"—those with
substantial woodpiles, fish hanging from drying racks.
—Phoebe Mills, M.S.W.
former Village Clinical Supervisor
Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation
In the traditional subsistence culture of the Yup'ik and
Cup'ik Eskimo people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska,
the well-being of an individual or family can be measured, at least
in part, by the capacity to prepare for the Alaskan winter. Survival
depends upon the ability to work cooperatively with others in the
village in order to take advantage of seasonal food supplies and
to assure adequate provisions for each person, family, tribe, and
Within this context, "substance abuse renders individuals incapable
of taking care of themselves or their familieswhich in turn
affects the well-being of the entire community," says Kenneth Robertson,
Team Leader of the Targeted Capacity Expansion Team within SAMHSA's
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT).
in 1993 through CSAT's Rural, Remote, and Culturally Distinct Populations
Program, and expanded through a CSAT Targeted Capacity Expansion
grant, the Village Services Program of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health
Corporation (YKHC) has put into practice a clear understanding of
the relationships between Yup'ik and Cup'ik individuals and their
tribes, between survival and well-being, subsistence activities
and healing. Through successfully integrating traditional subsistence
activities with Western substance abuse and behavioral health treatment,
YKHCwith CSAT supporthas established a system of services
that is proving to be both financially viable and culturally competent.
See AlsoArticle Continued: Part 2 »
Also Related MaterialMatrix of Yup'ik and Cup'ik Traditional
Modalities and Applicable Medicaid Service Categories »
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