INCHELIUM – Like other parts of Indian Country, there is an epidemic of addiction on the Colville Reservation.
Newly appointed Colville Tribal Chief Judge Randal Steckel stated in his four short weeks working on the Colville Reservation he has already seen ‘a lot of heroin and a lot of meth.’
“I don’t care what anybody says. If you’re selling the stuff, you’re killing the community,” said Steckel. “What is a very big focus of mine is I’m using the criminal law process to try to get people clean and sober. Putting people in jail isn’t exactly going to help…”
The Inchelium District meeting, Aug. 16, was Steckel’s second stop in a tour around the reservation, allowing him to introduce himself to the community. The stop also provided Steckel with the chance to introduce the newly formed Colville Tribal Healing and Wellness Court, along with the Healing and Wellness coordinator John Hamilton.
“It’s not the philosophy of the court to punish your people by keeping them in jail because it’s not accomplishing anything,” said Steckel. “By getting people evaluated, getting them into programs, I’m trying in my small way to break the cycle. Sometimes it doesn’t work the first time. Sometimes it doesn’t work a second time. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, but that is a big push I’m involved with at the court.”
The Health and Wellness program is a two-year program that will allow up to 20 non-violent offenders to work toward recovery.
“We are trying to move forward with the focus on healing, healing our community, healing our peoples, healing us as a community, as a tribe,” said Hamilton.
The program consists of four phases, and is a collaborative effort between tribal courts, tribal prosecutors, tribal public defenders, tribal law enforcement, tribal behavioral health and tribal chemical dependency programs, said Hamilton.
Hamilton also noted the program will consist of frequent court appearances, urinary analysis tests, inpatient programs and outpatient programs.
“We are big into accountability,” said Hamilton. “We are focused on being diligent with our purpose, which is healing the wellness of each individual.”
The program will also require participants to attend three to five self-help programs, such as Peacemakers Circle, Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, according to Hamilton.
The program also provides incentives, such as employment, mental health help, assistance with housing, but remains an entity of the court with the ability to issue punishments, including incarceration.