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SAMHSA News - Volume XI, Number 4, 2003

Photo of the Yup'ik and Cup'ik fishing and preparing fish which are traditional practices

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/

From Subsistence to Sustainability: Treating Drug Abuse in Alaska

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 village.

Within this context, "substance abuse renders individuals incapable of taking care of themselves or their families—which 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).

Yup'ik and Cup'ik village logosFounded 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, YKHC—with CSAT support—has established a system of services that is proving to be both financially viable and culturally competent.

See Also—Article Continued: Part 2 »

See Also Related Material—Matrix of Yup'ik and Cup'ik Traditional Modalities and Applicable Medicaid Service Categories »

See Also—Next Article »

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Inside This Issue

From Subsistence to Sustainability: Treating Drug Abuse in Alaska
  • Part 1
  • Part 2
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    SAMHSA Offers Alcohol Prevention Strategies to Youth

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    Survey: Nearly Half in Treatment for Both Drug and Alcohol Abuse
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  • Persons in Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Abuse: 2002

    An End to Bullying: SAMHSA Expands 15+ Program

    SAMHSA Awards New Grants

    New Report Points to Cost as a Major Barrier to Mental Health Care

    Now on the Web: SAMHSA's Award-Winning Newsletter

    SAMHSA News

    SAMHSA News - Volume XI, Number 4, 2003

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