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Healthy Nations Initiative

Minneapolis American Indian Center

About the Program

In November, 1993, the Minneapolis American Indian Center was awarded a Phase 1 Planning Grant under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Nations Program Initiative. Central to the Phase 1 work plan was implementation of a comprehensive needs assessment and planning process leading to the Phase 2 implementation work plan.

The Phase 2 implementation work plan directly addresses the needs identified by the community, which for this program consists of approximately 25,000 American Indian residents of the seven county metropolitan area including Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the population of non-native service providers who work in some capacity with the native population. The Twin Cities Healthy Nations Program serves one of the largest, poorest, most highly concentrated urban Indian populations in the nation, a population which is growing rapidly and for whom the ravages of alcohol and other drug abuse are fatally apparent. In the community needs assessment, substance abuse was identified by the community as the most pressing need to address, and is seen as connecting with all other needs and problems.

Not surprisingly, a number of creative and energetic agencies currently serve the American Indian population of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. But given the size of and variation among the population, it is also not surprising that gaps exist in the service network, awareness of existing services is uneven in the population and between providers, and that in a time of diminishing attention to and funding of service programs, there is little coordination among programs because they are often in competition with each other for scarce resources. Based on preliminary data gathered from the Phase 1 needs assessment, the community has asked the

Healthy Nations Program to act as the agent of change in three areas:

  1. Provide help for drug, alcohol and tobacco use, safe activities, and role models for youth.
  2. Make our existing services more available to the community.
  3. Help our community organizations work more closely together.

To respond to these needs, the Healthy Nations Program is focusing its activities in four areas during Phase 2:

  • Developing a comprehensive public awareness campaign to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and create awareness of available intervention and aftercare services. The campaign uses Public Service Announcements on television, radio, billboards, brochures, posters, flyers, and a video. The public awareness campaign also offers support to the other elements of the project.
  • Creating the Indian Youth Consortium and Healthy Nations Mentorship Project. The Indian Youth Consortium involves a broad coalition of youth-serving agencies and is involved with organizations and at the community level. The Consortium also examines closely current services for children and youth, defines service gaps and unmet needs, and finds ways to improve the continuum of care. The Healthy Nations Mentorship Project is developing and training a pool of mentors who will provide mentoring services for at-risk American Indian youth.
  • Developing and implementing the American Indian Resource Help Line to increase awareness of, and access to, available services in order to promote more efficient use of the existing service web. The American Indian Resource Help Line is modeled after the United Way’s ‘First Call for Help,’ but focuses on the drug, alcohol and tobacco service needs of Native Americans.

The Healthy Nations Program is developing a working collaboration with organizations that participated in the needs assessment survey and funding resources.

Please visit the Minneapolis American Indian Center Web Site

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Host Community/Organization

The Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area encompasses seven counties and contains half of Minnesota’s overall population. Similarly, about half of the American Indian population of the state lives in the metropolitan area. We are primarily Ojibway, Lakota and Dakota people, although we count among us dozens of tribal affiliations and cultural backgrounds. The American Indian communities contained within the seven-county metropolitan area constitute a uniquely large, dense, poor and young population of urban Indian people which is growing rapidly.

Our communities are unusual in that they are comprised of differing life arrangements, ranging from a dense urban core of off-reservation people in the near south side of Minneapolis, a quasi-suburban reservation population at Prairie Island. Economic patterns are shifting for some of our communities, as tribal entrepreneurship creates new wealth for segments of some communities, while the larger urban core grows poorer.

We comprise a population which is growing rapidly, and among our young people abuse of alcohol, tobacco, inhalants, and other drugs is likewise increasing, to the point of being epidemic. Various data sources allow us to describe this population to set a base line for understanding the alcohol and drug problems in our community and for appreciating the need for the work proposed and to be developed.

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Strategy 1: Public Awareness Campaign

The Healthy Nations program was able to provide a variety of programming to the community that was focused at reducing substance abuse. Through our program we were able to reach the population and increase awareness of issues that we face in the community including violence, tobacco addiction as well as maintaining physical health while participating in activities such as basketball, volleyball, rollerblading.
The Twin Cities Healthy Nations Program has been very successful at developing posters that promote awareness of the reduction of substance abuse and disseminating those posters to Native Americans in our community. Our efforts have been focused throughout the community with special emphasis in the schools, local agencies and health care facilities, which serve the Native population. The posters have increased awareness to the public as well as offered positive messages and images of Native people.

We have developed and distributed the brochure entitled “Substance Abuse”. These brochures contain information on illegal substances and the effects of these chemicals have on individuals. The brochures also offer a variety of resources for seeking prevention, intervention, assessment and treatment services. The Chemical Abuse Brochure also gives the public information on the effects of drugs and alcohol and offers treatment and prevention resources.

Through our television show “Native News”, we were able to produce and broadcast a number of public service announcements. We created three PSA’s in the area of anti-smoking. These PSA’s were created with the help of the Ginew/Golden Eagle Program. We also televised three PSA’s from St. Croix band of Ojibwe regarding alcohol use and also three PSA’s from the White Mountain Apache Healthy Nations program.

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Strategy 2: Community-Wide Prevention

We have developed strong working relationships with a variety of programs and agencies. The partnerships that have developed over the years will continue with the ending of Robert Wood Johnson funding. We continue to work with agencies involved with the Indian Youth Consortium, Health and Wellness Council, Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support, University of Minnesota Tobacco Endowment Populations-at-risk Native American Partners, All Nations American Indian Church, St. Paul and Minneapolis Indian Education Programs, two Rivers Art Gallery and New Voices Youth Newspaper. We have enjoyed the many projects that we have been involved with and believe we have been able to reach a large number of the population in the Native American Community. The Twin Cities Healthy Nations Program has offered families in the community the opportunity to participate in chemical free activities throughout the life of our program.

“Healthy Nations, Healthy Options” Basketball: We have coordinated and implemented a very successful basketball program. We would open the gymnasium to men from the American Indian community in order for them to have a safe, sober and fun place to come together and participate in a healthy activity. Healthy Options soon developed into city-wide league in collaboration with the City of Minneapolis’s Department of Health and Family Support and the Ghetto Basketball League. This was a result of our community experiencing some tragedy in the loss of three young men as the result of gun violence. Each year we coordinated spring, summer and fall leagues, with 80 men participating in each league. Each team plays a total of 12 games per league and is concluded with a league tournament. This past year, we were part of a citywide league with 32 teams, 8 of which were from Healthy Nations.

Volleyball League: Our first volleyball league was in 1997 with the development of a 12-team league with men and women attending 14 weeks of volleyball each Sunday. This activity has become very popular for the community and offers a fun alternative for people in different levels of recovery and prevention.

All Nations Elder and Youth Lodge: They serve about 125 youth each year in Saturday activities as well as summer programming. Youth have had the opportunity to learn about cultural arts and crafts, music, young women’s group as well as tutoring.

Elaine M. Stately Peacemaker Center: The Peacemaker Center offers open recreation on a daily basis Monday through Friday. The Center has also offered a variety of cultural activities including Drum groups, midewin (Mi-DAY-Win) (Ojibwe/Anishinabeg) ceremonies, Pipestone Sundance, Red Road New Years Sobriety Pow-Wow and a mural project. They also have offered summer youth employment through a Minnesota Zoo Garden Project.

Minnesota American Indian AIDS Task Force: The Ogichiidaag “Warrior” Peer Education program provides youth AIDS and HIV prevention to youth. The youth learn a prevention-based curriculum and they incorporate it into plays and perform them at schools, agencies and other youth organizations and activities.

Na-way-ee Center School: This Charter School provides Native American youth an opportunity to incorporate culture into their educational needs and curriculum. The after school program provides a variety of options to its youth. The Center School offers regalia making sessions, drum group, Chess Club as well as going on field trips.

Ginew/Golden Eagle Program: The program provides after school programming Monday through Friday with occasional weekends. This program works with youth 5-18 in a variety of activities, including sports and recreation, arts and crafts, tutoring, and an anti-smoking youth group. The program is theme based and the youth discuss and learn about substance prevention, peer pressure and setting goals.

Little Earth Residents Association: The Little Earth Residents Association provides after-school activities and tutoring Monday through Friday. Youth participate in basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball. Youth have also participated in Lacrosse, with the equipment purchased by the Healthy Nations Program.
Heart of the Earth Charter School: This charter school provides after-school cultural and recreational activities to youth grades k-12. The school offers tutoring to youth each day along with a snack. The School also offers sports and recreational programming.

Migizi Communications Maiigun Family Education Center: Migizi offers youth the opportunity to learn science and technology based activities. Youth who are involved with the computer intern program learn how to create and maintain web pages as well as offer technical assistance regarding computer hardware. Migizi also offers a family component that is valuable to families by learning the importance of health and nutrition.

Native Wings: This Rollerblading racing team competed at the Blaine Olympic Oval that has been developed with the help of Harvey Ghost, a United States Olympic trial speed skater. Six youth were involved with the original team and increased their competitiveness through the years. Many of the youth who participated were 12-13 years old and they were competing against men and women who where twice their age.

Healthy Nations Native News: This program airs on Minneapolis’ Public Access Channel 33 at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday evenings. The programming focuses on issues concerning our Native American youth and the Native American community as a whole. In addition, the program provides insight on how to live and maintain a life free of alcohol, drugs, and gang activity. We trained youth in the areas of camera operation, editing, hosting and other aspects of television production. We partnered with Minnesota Transition School for this project.

Other Prevention Activities: The Twin Cities Healthy Nations Program also provided various activities aimed at substance abuse prevention. These activities included trips to Valleyfair Amusement Park, Bunker Hills Wave Pool, Lac Courte Orielles (LCO) Pow-Wow and Camping Trip, and Mille Lacs Pow-Wow and Camping Trip; Halloween Party and Haunted Cave, Holiday Parties and Feasts, Peace feasts, Family Day Carnivals, National Night Out (Little Earth), Dance Regalia classes (25 Families with 10 Families completing full outfits), Wilder Forest Retreat, Family Bingo Nights, St. Paul Indian Education Pow-Wows, and the Minneapolis Indian Education Pow-Wow.

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Strategy 3: Early Identification, Intervention and Referral

We distributed the Substance Abuse brochure addressing early identification and treatment. This brochure has a listing of various treatment options in addition listing a number of drugs and giving a brief description of the effects these chemicals have on an individual. We have distributed this brochure at health fairs, community events, local agencies, schools and youth serving agencies.

The Healthy Nations JUMP program is an intervention program for youth who need prevention or intervention services with the Juvenile justice system. This program also offers youth the appropriate referral services regarding chemical dependency issues. Our one-on-one case management along with collaboration with the Ginew Golden Eagle program offers youth a structured mentorship experience.

The Mentorship Program was originally envisioned to be a training program for local agencies that were interested in having a mentorship program. We developed a culturally appropriate training manual and offered trainings to those agencies that showed interest. Our vision changed and we became a service provider of matching youth in search of caring adults. Our program has grown over the years and we currently have 40 active mentors in the program. Our goal is to reach 50 by the end of 2001.

The Mentorship Program is one of the components of the original Healthy Nations Program that will continue after Robert Wood Johnson funding expires. We have done a good job at increasing funding for our program from outside funding sources including corporations such as Medtronics and Pillsbury.

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Strategy 4: Substance Abuse Treatment and Relapse Prevention

One of our biggest successes to date was the development and implementation of the Resource Help-line. This help-line incorporated a database created by United Way’s “First Call for Help” with over 500 agencies listed. We were able to refine the directory by singling out agencies or services that give assistance to Native American community members. Community members had the opportunity to receive a direct referral to an agency and the Resource Specialist provided follow-up to make sure there was no barriers to receiving services. The Resource Help-line directory has given the American Indian community the information needed to seek resources that are needed in times of crisis.

The Indian Youth Consortium was created in 1996 with Healthy Nations serving as lead agency and the Minneapolis American Indian Center as Fiscal Agency. The Consortium became a leader in a new approach to youth programming in the American Indian Community of the Twin Cities area. In the past, agencies competed for youth participants and program funding. The tone in the community was very territorial. The Consortium offered a new paradigm of thinking that would bring agencies together and bridge services aimed at increasing youth participation and services to better serve the community. Each year the Consortium serves about 1000 individual youth through eight agencies.

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Minneapolis American Indian Center

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Colorado School of Public Health

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Mail Stop B119
Aurora, CO 80045

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