Surgeon General, Oklahoma Leaders Discuss Addiction - Diverse Health

Higher Education News and Jobs

Surgeon General, Oklahoma Leaders Discuss Addiction


by Michelle Charles, Stillwater News Press, Associated Press

STILLWATER, Okla. — The crisis of addiction hasn’t spared any demographic or any state, including Oklahoma.

The Trust for America’s Health ranked Oklahoma fifth-highest for drug overdose mortality in the U.S., based on 2013 numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Stillwater News Press (reported. The same report said that rate tripled from 1999-2010.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D. came to Oklahoma, holding meetings with communities and addressing the dual plagues of prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction.

He made a stop in Shawnee at the Citizen Potawatomi Cultural Center May 25 during a meeting of the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board to have a town hall meeting with Native American youth who are developing prevention programs in their own communities.

He also held a listening session with tribal leaders, parents and youth.

It was the first-ever meeting between a U.S. Surgeon General and tribal leaders.

The tribal participants emphasized that emotional well-being and mental health are two important components of prevention in general but Native communities, like many traditionally disadvantaged groups, have added burdens.

One woman said Native communities also deal with poverty, abuse, sex trafficking and limited Indian Health Service resources in addition to addiction.

All factors have to be addressed for any strategy to be effective, she said. Historical trauma, the transmission of chronic trauma and unresolved grief across generations through behaviors and thought patterns, is also a concern for Native people.
It all combines in a toxic stew, resulting in nonmedical prescription drug use rates among Native youth higher than the Oklahoma average, with the amount varying by tribal area, and 65 percent higher than the national average.

“The prescription opioid epidemic is sweeping across the U.S. that has hit Indian country particularly hard,” Murthy said.
Addressing the deficit in mental health care is important, almost more important than any other factor for improving public health, he said.

He applauded the community’s efforts to integrate traditional culture into treatment and prevention through programs like IAMNDN, a culturally centered youth substance-abuse prevention program developed with young people from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe, Absentee Shawnee Tribe, Chickasaw Nation and Comanche Nation.

Culture and identity are powerful things, he said. Problems become worse when people are feeling disconnected from others and themselves, losing their sense of identity and self-worth.

“When we strengthen culture and identity we strengthen our communities,” Murthy said. “Community is an antidote to isolation.”

He told the students he wants them to know that we shouldn’t be defined by others, we should be defined by who we know we are.

He said during an exchange with one young woman, she told him she wants people “to know that we matter.”

“Your lives do matter,” Murthy said. “You matter. I see you and will do everything I can to help. We cannot be strong unless our people are healthy.”


Print Friendly

Related Articles

Addressing Indian Health Disparities: Q&A Donald Warne, MD, MPH, is the chair of the Department of Public Health at North Dakota State University and an adjunct clinical professor at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, where he taught American Indian Health Polic...
Organ Donors Save Lives in Indian Country More than 1,100 American Indians and Alaska Natives are waiting for someone to donate the organ that will save their lives. Most—986—are waiting for a kidney, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Organ Procurement and Transp...
Women in Military Face Health Risks As more women join the military in ever-expanding roles, it’s important for health care providers to understand the different health needs and risks associated with their service, health care specialists told about 50 providers from eastern North Car...
Transgender Teens at High Risk of Substance Abuse A new study from Chapman University has found that transgender teenagers are twice as likely as their cisgender peers to have substance abuse problems. The study, published in the Journal of School Health, looked at data concerning trans students ...