The Tikahtnu Forum – a collaboration between representatives from CIRI and other Alaska Native corporations, tribes, villages and nonprofits in the Cook Inlet region – first discussed a substance abuse, prevention and treatment agenda in August 2015. These have continued to be important topics: in 2016, two Tikahtnu Forum Special Committee on Substance Abuse meetings were held.
“I remember the Tikahtnu Forum discussing and brainstorming how we needed more options and beds available for addiction patients, culturally-appropriate programs and land to build on,” said CIRI’s Greg Razo, vice president, Government Contracting. “We came together over the course of those meetings and said, ‘We have the resources available – let’s coordinate and do it!’”
Less than two years after that initial meeting, CIRI-affiliated nonprofit organization Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) announced plans to build a new residential inpatient addiction treatment center. The Ernie Turner Center Recovery Journey Program will be built on land owned by Eklutna Inc. A second CIRI-affiliated nonprofit, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, will serve as project developer.
This new treatment facility will offer residential addiction treatment to individuals who have gone through detox and have been screened by the program’s application process. Floor plans of the center have been finalized and include 16 beds for short- and long-term addiction patients, as well as a fitness room, arts and crafts room, and carving studio.
According to Rebecca Ling, director of recovery services for CITC, the location — a secluded six-acre parcel of land owned by Eklutna Inc. — provides a healing, natural environment that’s a contrast to the busy Anchorage location of the current Ernie Turner Center. “We’re excited about the location, which is a very serene, natural environment where participants will really be able to focus on healing,” she explained. “The current location has very convenient access to things like hospitals, but the urban environment can be a little chaotic for those in recovery.”
The Ernie Turner model, a therapeutic “Village of Care” framework, is based on traditional Alaska Native values and concepts. Clients are referred to as “family members” and have a “family chief,” sobriety is understood to involve the whole person and spiritual needs are addressed as part of recovery.
This model, as it was implemented at the original Ernie Turner Center, reported strong results: After six months, 86 percent of residential graduates reported a reduction in harmful behaviors. Nearly all graduates obtain jobs after finishing the program.
The new Ernie Turner Center fulfills a critical need for additional detox services in the Anchorage area. At this time, there are only two detox centers in Alaska — one of which is the current Ernie Turner Center, now run by Southcentral Foundation — and as the number of heroin-related deaths has increased tenfold since 2010, Alaska is in dire need of treatment facilities. The new facility is slated to open in early summer of 2018. A blessing ceremony of the building site will be held later this summer.
For more information, visit www.citci.org.
Special thanks to CITC’s Jamey Bradbury for contributing to this article.