TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – Tribal leaders with the Cherokee Nation say they are working to improve the mental health of their employees.
On Tuesday, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner signed an executive order that gives all Cherokee Nation government employees with two hours of paid mental wellness leave each month.
The leave can be used at employees’ discretion each month. It can be used for additional family time, health and wellness activities, therapy or counseling appointments, or other activities that improve morale and mental wellness.
“Cherokee Nation employees and citizens have faced unique barriers and hardships throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees in all Cherokee Nation departments have taken on additional tasks that have focused on the mitigation of the COVID-19 virus, providing additional services, health care and other life-sustaining resources to our elders and families that go far and above their typical work load,” Chief Hoskin said. “Often with limited staffing to ensure office safety, employees have delivered traditional services and also served more than 10 times the number of citizens with COVID-19 individual assistance over the last year. Our employees have been instrumental in helping citizens who experienced the loss of family members and friends, the loss of income, the loss of a residence and so much more. At the same time, many of these employees were experiencing similar personal circumstances. I believe providing our employees with time to care for their own mental wellness is vitally important to the health and wellness of the Cherokee Nation as a whole.”
The executive order was signed into effect on Tuesday morning.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on mental health and wellness across the world, including right here at home among our Cherokee Nation employees,” said Deputy Chief Warner. “I want to commend all of them for the time and effort they put into public service to the Cherokee people, but at the same time, I want to encourage them to really take some time each month to just reflect on themselves and their families. Chief Hoskin and I believe the mental wellness of Cherokee Nation employees, along with an inclusive work environment that encourages employees to identify areas of personal growth and ends the stigma surrounding mental wellness, is of the upmost importance.”
Chief Hoskin plans to construct walking trails and other outdoor spaces at a number of Cherokee Nation facilities throughout the tribe’s reservation.