For Spokane tribal members, finding work can mean losing benefits

New priorities

Faced with historical trauma, current trauma and community needs, the Spokane Tribal Business Council and other departments are now developing a “Priority One Project” to help tribal members recovering from addiction and incarceration, according to a project description from Frank Metlow, who at the time was the tribe’s director of planning and economic development.

The program is designed to provide a pathway to holistic recovery for tribal citizens using a four-piece program that addresses incarceration, housing, treatment and sobriety with culturally based healing.

The first step would create a justice center — essentially a local jail — that allows tribal members to remain close to their families while they are serving their time.

“In the past, we have not had the facility to house our tribal members who are incarcerated,” Metlow said in the project description. “This results in those members being located far away from family contact and being exposed to higher levels of criminals, resulting in them developing their abilities to be criminals instead of gaining skills to become productive citizens of the community.”

The next step would be transitional housing, essentially like a halfway house, to provide a safe place in a controlled environment as they return to society. The third piece is treatment, using behavioral therapy, counseling and medication to treat addictions.

And the final piece of the program is called the Wellbriety program, providing “culturally based principles, values ​​and teachings to support healthy community development and servant leadership,” Metlow stated. The Wellbriety program is already a health program now being offered.

The four-piece program will be run by Peone and staff. Whether to build a new facility or remodel an existing building is still under consideration, and community grants are being pursued to help fund the programs.

“This project will focus on all components that work for tribal members who have addiction/law enforcement issues,” Metlow said. “Anyone who has barriers to employment, the priority is to help in the health and wellness of our community. This includes getting tribal members back into the workforce and in turn gives them quality of life.”

Another plan would focus on the Wellpinit community, where the tribal jail and health clinic are based, creating single-family houses and apartments that would be available to those who are single.

Best, who runs the tribe’s workforce development program, is also working to help citizens obtain the training and skills needed to get a job and get any necessary certifications.

The combined efforts could help the community work its way out of the problems, leaders said.

“One thing this project will do, it will have a sustainable local workforce,” Best said. “These individuals are people from our community whose heart is there for their families, community and tribe. It is a positive project and we are excited to move forward working on this.”

This story was originally produced for Rawhide Press and is part of a collaboration from INN’s Rural News Network in partnership with INN members Indian Country Today, Buffalo’s Fire, InvestigateWest, KOSU, New Mexico In Depth, Underscore and Wisconsin Watch, as well as partners Mvskoke Media, Osage News and Rawhide Press. The project was made possible with support from the Walton Family Foundation.