TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner are proposing the largest investment for mental health in the tribe’s history.

According to the Cherokee Nation, Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner’s proposal would commit more than $100 million for addiction treatment facilities, new treatment programs, a scholarship endowment and other initiatives using settlement funds from the tribe’s opioid and e-cigarette settlements.

Officials say the proposal also modifies the Public Health and Wellness Act. The law already allocated 7% of third-party health insurance collections to physical and mental wellness programs and secured $15 million in opioid settlement funds for addiction treatment facility construction.

“In my 2022 State of the Nation Address, I pledged to build a drug treatment facility for the Cherokee people, by the Cherokee people, and make the opioid industry pay for every penny of it,” Chief Hoskin said. “Deputy Chief Warner, the Council and I are serious about getting justice for the Cherokee people by expanding and improving addiction services.  These dollars and the work of our talented team in the Cherokee Nation Attorney General’s office, enable us to keep that commitment.”

Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner have also announced that the original capital project under the legislation will include an $18 million addiction treatment facility southwest of Tahlequah.

Cherokee Nation citizens were originally assisted by outside treatment centers and can now be helped in-house on the reservation, according to the tribe.

According to officials, the legislation dedicates more than $100 million in “public health settlement” funds as follows:

  • $73 million for a “Behavioral Health Capital Fund.”  The fund would be used to construct facilities across the reservation over the next five years to meet behavioral health service needs, including drug treatment and prevention.
  • $5 million for a “Behavioral Health Scholarship” endowment to encourage more Cherokee citizens to enter behavioral health fields and work in the tribe’s health system.  The scholarships would include enhanced grants for students who go on to work for Cherokee Nation Health Services as part of a “pay back” program.  Scholarships would be available to Cherokee citizens living within the reservation and outside the reservation.
  • $10 million over ten years for “Career Services Recovery Employment Programs.” The programs would address employment and other economic barriers faced by Cherokee Nation citizens in addiction recovery.
  • $10 million over ten years for “Behavioral Health Innovative Addiction Recovery Programs.”  The funding will enable Cherokee Nation’s Behavioral Health to develop new addiction recovery programs using the latest and most promising innovations and strategies in the field.
  • $2.8 million “Smoking Cessation Fund,” boosting public health smoking cessation programs by $350,000 per year for the next eight years, doubling the funding of those programs.

“The Public Health and Wellness Fund Act is already the gold standard across Indian Country for prioritizing public health as well as physical and mental wellness programs and services,” said Deputy Chief Warner.  “Our new legislative proposal improves upon the law by making the largest investment in addiction treatment in Cherokee history.”

The Cherokee Nation says the legislation has plenty of support on the council of the Cherokee Nation with 16 co-sponsors. The proposal is the largest dollar investment for mental health treatment and programs in the tribe’s history.