The five-year Penobscot Nation Healing to Wellness Court (HTWC) Expansion Project will expand substance use disorder treatment services to all adult members of federally recognized American Indian or Alaska Native tribal nations diagnosed with a substance use disorder who are charged with crimes within the jurisdiction of the Penobscot Nation Tribal Court occurring on the Nation’s reservations, or within the jurisdiction of the Penobscot County District or Superior Court. Through the first collaboration of its kind in New England, the Penobscot Nation and Penobscot County will combine resources to create an interjurisdictional, multidisciplinary program designed to break the cycle of criminal behavior, alcohol and/or drug use, incarceration, and family and community breakdown, by expanding access to substance use disorder treatment, case management, and wraparound recovery services. Through a tribal-county memorandum of agreement, Native Americans charged with offenses in state court will have the opportunity to satisfy their conditions of probation by completing the culturally based HTWC program.
Native Americans are disproportionately affected by substance use disorder and have the highest rates of fatal overdose, as compared to other racial/ethnic groups. According to the Center for Disease Control, Maine has a significantly higher-than-average drug overdose death rate than the nation as a whole. Although the State of Maine has several Adult and Family Drug Courts, including one in Bangor, treatment resources are extremely limited. Uninsured participants or those ineligible for MaineCare, are required to pay out of pocket for treatment. Thanks to federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), new participants in the HTWC program will have access to a full continuum of treatment including Native American-based inpatient treatment, residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, and substance abuse and mental health counseling utilizing evidence-based practices. Many of these services will be provided locally by the treatment provider project partner, the Penobscot Nation Health Department and Counseling Services.
The approximately 18-month long HTWC program has been developed based on the “Ten Key Components of Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts.” Case managers and a HTWC team comprised of 15 members of 10 Penobscot Nation departments and the non-profit Wabanaki Health and Wellness monitor participant compliance and collaborate to provide recovery support services. Through the expansion project, the HTWC program will be able to increase its participation level by an estimated 260%--with an additional minimum of 15 new participants annually and 100 new participants over the life of the project.