The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is honoring a youth program on the Wind River Reservation for its efforts to prevent substance abuse and the spread of HIV.
This is the first time a Native American group has received a Voices of Prevention award. The Wind River Tribal Youth Program offers a range of health and social programs to kids from the Northern Arapaho Tribe.
Executive Director Donna Trosper says substance abuse is a big problem among young people in the area.
“Alcohol leads to harder drugs, harder drugs leads to the gang mentality, whatever they’re watching on TV becomes something that they want to be a part of, because they’re not being a part of anything else,” says Trosper.
Trosper says her staff works to help teens keep busy and set healthy goals. They also facilitate a sweat lodge with a traditional leader to help them and feel connected to their cultural and spiritual heritage.
“That’s where you go to pray. That’s where you go to let go of things that you’re holding onto. Basically when you go to counseling, you talk to somebody and you’re releasing you’re venting, you’re letting go. In the sweat lodge, it’s basically yhe same thing, but you’re talking to the creator.”