Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council Blessed Ground for New Adolescent Recovery and Wellness Center in Wisconsin

By Kaili Berg

     A ground blessing ceremony took place north of Tomahawk in Oneida County’s Town of Cassian on Monday, July 31. The event celebrated the coming together of Wisconsin’s tribal communities and regional partners to create the Adolescent Recovery and Wellness Center.

     It’s a project nearly two decades in the making, led by the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council (GLITC). The center will include a 36-bed residential facility supporting Native youth with living a healthy culturally grounded life.

     “I know this is a time and place where Indigenous people will teach the world how to heal. A project that is long overdue,” Shannon Holsey, President of Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.

     The facility will provide culturally relevant services and treatment, with a focus on treating the person, rather than the disease. Services will be available to both Natives and non-Natives, although Native youth will be prioritized.

     The facilities design and programs will provide services and treatment for youth ages 13 to 17 who have challenges managing their substance use, or any co-occurring mental health conditions.

     Holsey says the Adolescent Recovery and Wellness Center is also part of the solution to the national opioid crisis, by providing healing to redress past inequities experienced by Indigenous communities.

     “Understanding the opioid crisis that exists not only in the state of Wisconsin but also within our tribal communities is evident each and every day and why we do what we do and why this is so important,” said Holsey.

     Governor Tony Evers and many of his cabinet secretaries attended the event. Evers said the project has received bipartisan support going back to former Governor Scott Walker’s 2017 budget, which included $200,000.00 for a feasibility study.

     In 2019, Evers and the Republican legislature supported $640,000.00 for architectural plans, and in 2021, $350,000.00 was approved for construction.

     “I don’t want to over promise but whatever we can do to work with tribal nations to make sure their people that they represent are healthy and safe,” said Evers. “It's good for all of us, and I’d love to see more situations like this, but we need to get this one down first. This has taken way too long.”

     Groundbreaking is scheduled to start in October and tribal officials anticipate the center to become a silver lining for individuals seeking solace and support in the Tomahawk area.

     “Tribal nations within our state work together well, and we believe that it is important for tribal youth to have these opportunities to stay safe and healthy along with everyone else in the State of Wisconsin,” Evers said.