Cherokee Nation taking steps to halt opioid crises in Oklahoma

Program offers syringe services to reduce drug use

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — In an effort to address the opioid epidemic across the Cherokee Nation Reservation, tribal leaders opened a Cherokee Nation Harm Reduction Program in Tahlequah.

The program offers syringe services to reduce drug use and keep tribal citizens healthier by preventing the transmission of blood-borne infections. The program can also benefit first responders and the public by providing safe needle disposal and reducing the presence of discarded needles in the community, thereby reducing accidental disease transmissions.

Cherokee Nation makes up less than 6% of Oklahoma’s population, yet nearly a third of the opioids distributed in the state in recent years went into Cherokee Nation communities, causing generational health issues and vast trauma.

“In our Cherokee culture, we work together as a community for all our fellow citizens in need,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., Cherokee Nation Principal Chief in a prepared statement. “We should not fail to acknowledge the impact that addiction has.”

Hoskin said this new program can address the complexities of drug addiction among the American Indian people and provide meaningful resources that can have a lasting impact.

Harm-reduction syringe services programs do not increase illegal drug use or crime rates, but instead reduce the spread of viral hepatitis and HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.For over a year, Cherokee Nation leaders have studied and toured effective harm-reduction programs on tribal lands in Washington and North Carolina, which are lowering Hepatitis C incidence rates, reducing drug overdoses, and supporting public […]

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