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Oneida Behavioral Health sees uptick in people seeking help for substance use disorders

Officials hope a new DHS pilot program will boost support services
Oneida Behavioral Health Center
Posted at 2:33 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 18:12:57-04

Oneida Nation officials are hopeful a new Wisconsin Department of Health Services pilot program will enhance integrated recovery support services as more Oneida community members seek help for substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oneida Behavioral Health Center is one of three healthcare sites across the state selected for a new DHS pilot program designed to treat eligible BadgerCare Plus and Medicaid members who have substance use disorders and at least one other health condition. The pilot uses a "hub and spoke health home" model of care, which allows sites to coordinate mental health treatment, primary care and other necessary support for eligible patients.

"The need is out there and the more recovery support services that we have available to people the stronger the community is going to be," said Mari Kriescher, Oneida Behavioral Health Center director.

Gov. Tony Evers visited the Oneida Behavioral Health Center Tuesday to discuss the pilot program.

Kriescher said they've seen an increase in the number of people seeking help for substance use disorders during the pandemic. According to the health center's data, 419 patients sought help for substance use in 2020. That number increased more than 13% this year.

Heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl continue to be major problems in the community, Kriescher said. She added the health center gives out between 25 and 70 Narcan overdose kits every month.

Kriescher said the new integrated recovery support services benefit through the state will help create a community of recovery and hopefully reduce the amount of patients needing the center's help in the long-run.

"We send over 100 people into residential treatment a year," Kriescher said. "We hope that that's going to decrease as we're getting more recovery support services within the community and this program has the potential to provide this type of service for up to 300 patients every year."

Others said it's a new way to help heal centuries of trauma.

"Substance abuse has been in our communities for generations. Since the introduction of alcohol into our communities," said Tehassi Hill, Oneida Nation chairperson. "So there's a lot of historical and generational trauma that we deal with and continue to find new ways - and I believe this is one of them - to help address those needs in our community."

The pilot program is set to run for 2.5 years.

Oneida Behavioral Health will provide services to any federally enrolled Native American in the Oneida Nation, Brown County and Outagamie County.