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Health Board Awarded $4.5 Million to Combat Youth Suicide, Sexual Assault, and Domestic Violence 

RAPID CITY – The Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board is taking a step towards developing a comprehensive community behavioral health program in Rapid City. The Health Board was awarded three grants totaling 4.5 million from the Indian Health Service to address domestic violence, youth suicide, and rape.

In 2019, when the Health Board began managing the Oyate Health Center on behalf of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, and now the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, a commitment was made to improve behavioral health services.

At the time, 80% of potential Oyate Health Center patients who responded to a 2019 Community Needs Assessment indicated that the area of care needing improvement the most was behavioral health. 

Since then, the Health Board, working hand in hand with the Oyate Health Center, has increased the number of behavioral health providers, improved appointment availability, acquired an additional location to house these services, and ensured culturally appropriate treatment options like equine therapy are available. 

This additional funding will help the Health Board continue expanding services and create new programming that can best serve Native American people in the area.

Connecting With Our Youth Extension program

The first of the three IHS grants provides the Connecting With Our Youth (CWOY) program with an additional $2 million in funding to extend CWOY services to adults, parents, and family members. This extension project will operate through 2027.

CWOY, is a suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention program that serves the Rapid City area helps youth connect with their traditional identity to combat suicidal thoughts and self-harming behavior. 

Currently, CWOY has enrolled 154 youth and has 86 active participants who have participated in harvesting traditional medicines, traveled to sacred sites in accordance with the Lakota calendar, learned traditional life skills teachings, and benefitted from other culturally appropriate therapies. In December, the program’s team won the hand games tournament at the Lakota Nation Invitational. 

The funding allows CWOY to provide direct services to individuals 25 and older. CWOY will spend the next 5 years working with American Indian community stakeholders to write and enact a sustainability plan for suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention in the Rapid City community.

The funding also provides additional staff, including a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and training for staff to provide three evidence-based therapies not offered at the Oyate Health Center.

The Wo’ohitke Collaborative Program 

The second IHS Grant awards $1.25 million over five years to the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board to partner with the Oyate Health Center and the Native Women’s Health Program in Rapid City to address service gaps relating to sexual assault.

The program will foster relationships with local, state, and federal organizations to develop Sexual Assault Response Teams to improve response services. Additionally, a collaborative will train OHC medical personnel and partner with Native Women’s Health to offer sexual assault medical forensic examinations, forensic interviewing, and advocacy for survivors.

The Wo’ohitike Collaborative will build an enhanced referral service network and implement culturally appropriate, trauma-informed approaches to affect survivors’ positive outcomes and wellbeing. 

Trauma and Violence Prevention Initiative

To respond to an ongoing domestic violence crisis in Native American communities in the area, the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board pursued and was awarded an IHS grant totaling $1 million over five years to help curb these rates. 

Few indigenous domestic violence programs operate within the region, and many facilities are not trained to deal with the effects of COVID-19 on the domestic violence crisis. Due to the lack of services, major discrepancies exist between local DV shelter reports and those from state and tribal authorities.

This initiative will create a partnership between the Great Plains Epidemiology Center (GPTEC), We Are Warriors Emergency Operations Center, Oyate Health Center, Great Plains Maternal Child Health Program, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Task Force to address existing regional gaps in data sharing, reporting, education, and advocacy.

Through these partnerships, the Trauma and Violence Prevention Initiative will conduct needs-based assessments within 16 tribal communities and design a strategic training curriculum for tribal law enforcement, tribal school administrative staff, students, domestic violence shelter staff, and community members. 

Engaging with local, tribal, state, and federal organizations, the initiative will improve resource sharing and response approaches, and expand awareness and access to culturally appropriate, trauma-informed Domestic Violence Prevention services that affect positive outcomes and the wellbeing of survivors.

*Founded in 1986, GPTLHB stands as a formal representative board designed to advocate for tribal health concerns and work with tribal communities to improve health status and eradicate health disparities among the region’s estimated 265,837 tribal members.