Tulalip community members trained in overdose awareness

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

A trail of signs was posted along Totem Beach Road leading to the Tulalip Dining Hall on Friday, August 31. Each sign displayed a single person silhouetted in purple, with the main Dining Hall sign saying, “Each nameless, faceless person represents a life lost to overdose.” Inside, the community gathered on International Overdose Awareness Day to remember lost loved ones, share personal stories and learn more about the opioid epidemic that has claimed more lives than the Vietnam War, in 2017 alone.  

In their second year hosting the annual International Overdose Awareness event, the Tulalip Community Health department united the people of Tulalip while shining light on a serious topic. The theme for this year’s event was Time to Pull Together and participants were invited to write personal messages to any friends or family members who lost their life due to an overdose, on large posters displaying traditional cedar paddles.  

“There was over 72,000 drug overdoses in the United States last year,” said Tulalip Interim Police Chief Sherman Pruitt to the group of attendees. “That’s almost two hundred people dying every day from overdose. In Snohomish county, the percentage of drug related deaths was approximately thirty-two percent in 2017; in the state of Washington, the number of drug related deaths was approximately thirty-three percent. The Tulalip tribal reservation drug related deaths is at two hundred and twenty-three percent.”

Gasps were heard from around the Dining Hall as the Chief shared this statistic. Event participants were shocked and shared a look of disbelief.

“It’s a serious problem,” he continued. “Our officers carry two Narcan kits on them and we are constantly using them. The Board of Directors wanted us to implement a Drug Task Force, so I started that in March. I’ve assigned officers to the task force so we can start addressing some of these issues with the individuals who are supplying drugs to our family members and community, and make sure we hold them accountable as well as provide services to get them the help that they need.”

Chief Pruitt also explained the Good Samaritan Law to the participants. The Tribe adopted the law back in 2014 after Lois Luella Jones died from an overdose. Authorities believe her life could have been saved, but in fear of arrest, her peers failed to contact emergency responders. 

“It’s okay to call,” he reassured. “Because of the Good Samaritan Law, you’re not going to get in trouble. Our priority as law enforcement officers is the preservation of life, so give us a call so we can provide assistance.”

Community members shared stories of addiction, heartbreak and loss from substance abuse. The Health Department also held a Narcan training for the community so they know how to quickly revive someone who has overdosed. The training was led by Gina Skinner and Jane Jacobson who explained in detail how the Narcan nasal spray works.

“In an overdose situation, the opiate has hit receptors in the body that cause respiratory depression and your pupils to get small. The Narcan comes in and kicks the opiate out of the receptors and takes its space,” explains Jane. “That makes the patient go into a withdrawal and it allows their respiratory rate to improve, making it easier to breathe and they start to come out of that overdose situation. But they have to get treatment within about thirty to ninety minutes otherwise the opiate could come back and kick the Narcan out of the receptor and cause an overdose situation again.”

The Tulalip Bay Fire Department joined the trainers to give insight on their procedure during overdose emergencies and how they utilize Narcan. Each participant who attended the training received a free Narcan kit. Tulalip community members are encouraged to pick up a kit of their own, free to Tulalip tribal members at Tulalip Family Services and available to community members through their insurance at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic pharmacy.

“This was our second annual International Overdose Awareness Day event,” states Tulalip Community Health Director, Jenna Bowman. “It’s important that we let people know we’re here and we’re creating awareness about things they can do to help prevent overdose and also a space just to be around other family members who may be suffering. As a community, we’re all connected, we’re all suffering. There’s always been a stigma behind talking about overdose and addiction and I think it’s important we move passed that and support each other, whether we’re going through it and lost someone or maybe we’re struggling to find the answers ourselves. It’s important that we support each other.”

For more information, please contact the Tulalip Community Health Department at (360) 716-5622.

Finding your way with diabetes

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The Tulalip Diabetes Care and Prevention program hosted a series of classes for the community during the month of August. Led by Diabetes Educators Jessica Bluto and Miguel Artega, Finding Your Way with Diabetes is an interactive course where community members learn how to manage their diabetes by sharing their personal experience with other diabetics in the community. 

Diabetes is prevalent in many Native communities throughout the country. In fact, Indigenous people are at a much greater risk of being diagnosed with diabetes than any other race in America. However, recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that Native America is actively working to change those statistics and saw a huge drop in the amount of kidney failures caused by diabetes in 2017, down by about fifty-four percent than previous years.  Thanks to programs like Diabetes Care and Prevention, Natives have a better understanding of diabetes and how to properly care for the disease by making healthier choices. 

Eight community members participated in the class last month and talked about a number of topics such as nutrition, the different types of insulin and their daily triumphs and struggles while living with diabetes. Miguel and Jessica compiled a list of topics for the participants to discuss before each class. The students then used a conversation map, which resembled a large board game, to lead their conversation throughout the class. 

“Over the past four classes we’ve been doing the diabetes conversation map,” says Jessica. “The first class talked about the basics of dealing with diabetes, from medication to balancing your diet, to coping with your feelings. We also talk about what causes your blood sugar to fluctuate and frustrations that people feel with diabetes. I think it’s important for them to share because they learn from each other and also know that they’re not alone. Even though a lot of people have diabetes, not a lot of people are willing to talk about their experience which keeps them from moving forward and better managing it. When they come to this class, they open up to each other and they’re building a community together.”

An example of community building was on display during the last class of the month as they welcomed a young new comer, who was diagnosed with diabetes a few short years ago. The class embraced the young man as he opened up about his journey with diabetes and encouraged him to keep pushing forward, offering friendly advice and letting him know what lies ahead. 

Tulalip community member and Alaskan Native, Jim Dunham has lived with diabetes for over twenty years and happily passed on his knowledge and experience to his classmates. 

“It’s not easy to change your lifestyle,” Jim states. “When you find out you have a sickness like diabetes you need to change your lifestyle and adapt. A lot of times when you go to your doctor, they give you a lot of information and sometimes you can’t fully grasp everything they’re telling you. I’ve learned so much more by coming to these classes over the last five years and have been able to manage my diabetes better. I’ve been dealing with this for over twenty years and am so thankful for these classes and this program, it really is phenomenal for our community.”

If you are living with diabetes or have recently been diagnosed with the disease, Jessica and Miguel encourage you to drop by the Diabetes Care and Prevention program at the Karen I. Health Clinic so they can answer any questions, provide you with resources and get you setup with a personalized plan to help manage your blood glucose levels. 

“Diabetes can be different for everybody,” explains Jessica. “If you feel the plan you and your doctor made isn’t right for you, let your doctor know because there are wide variety of ways to manage diabetes as well as medication. Come on down and visit, chat with us. We always have prizes at the classes and we always try to feed you. The purpose is to show you different kinds of healthy foods so you have the opportunity to try it before you buy it. 

We have another series coming up this fall or winter, the American Association for Diabetes Educators: The Seven Pillars of Managing Diabetes. Be sure to follow our Tulalip Food & Nutrition Education Facebook page for more information and upcoming events.” 

Teen CERT prepares youth for disaster, teaches cultural resiliency

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Treboniak, CriticalOps-Simplify Your Life

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The first ever tribal Teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training was held in Tulalip during the week of July 16-20. The Tulalip Office of Emergency Management reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Institute (FEMA), Critical Ops and Tulalip Youth Services to bring the trainings to the community. Teen CERT teaches the younger generation how to be adequately prepared for when a disaster strikes so they can help assist the elders, children, injured adults and expectant mothers while the professionals make their way to the reservation. Forty young adults attended the week-long training, thirty-four participants from Tulalip as well as six participants from the Quinault Indian Nation. 

As the saying goes, disaster is waiting to happen. Around the globe people are experiencing natural disasters at an alarming rate such as wildfires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and a variety of storms (rain, wind, snow, thunder). In fact, according to a study conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund, many of these occurrences are happening due to climate change caused by mankind and shouldn’t be considered ‘natural’ disasters at all. In the United States alone, three hundred and sixty-two deaths were attributed to extreme weather and climate disasters in 2017. Over the past few years, the state of Washington has also seen its fair share of climate disasters including the Oso landslide, springtime snow storms, summertime wildfires and the fall/winter windstorms. 

“When the windstorms come in September, October, November and trees topple over, we are disconnected from Marysville and other neighboring cities,” says Ashlynn Danielson, Tulalip Emergency Preparedness Manager. “We have a few ideas of how to create access, move brush and trees off the road but in the meantime we want to self-preserve and have a shelter in place. FEMA has not provided onsite trainers in Indian Country for a Teen CERT. Tribal Teen CERT has been asked about but has not been a project of this scale. We are kind of the showcase piece which makes everything very exciting.” 

Teen CERT is offered to youth across the nation in a number of communities and teaches students how to react and respond in emergency situations. The trainings cover everything from fire safety, medical operation and triage, team organization, utility control, damage assessment as well as search and rescue. 

“Just the thought of being there for my community in a time of need seems something like I could be really good at because I want to help,” expresses young Tulalip tribal member, Evalea Cortez. “I love learning something new. Eventually our parents and all the adults won’t be around forever and if there’s a disaster they’ll be busy helping out others so why not get the training to help them out. I feel like CERT really shows how important it is to be involved with your community and look out for each other.” 

The kids had a blast throughout the week and learned how to properly suppress small fires using an extinguisher and participated in an earthquake emergency drill. The Greg Williams Court appeared to be turned upside after a big quake. A few students were given roles and had to act as though they were at the gym when the earthquake occurred which resulted in a certain injury. The other CERT trainees waited outside and entered the gym after the earthquake and it was their job to correctly assess their classmate’s injuries and treat any immediate lesions until the medical and emergency response teams arrived. The students had also learned how to apply makeup to make it look as though they had a number of injuries, such as cuts and bruises. Kids then learned how to inspect their neighborhoods for extensive damage and how to fill out full detailed reports for the proper authorities.

The Tulalip Office of Emergency Management offers CERT Trainings twice a year to the adults of the community. CERT trainings are highly interactive and require over twenty hours of class participation. Because Teen CERT required forty participants, Tulalip reached out to other tribes to complete their enrollment requirement. Six members of the Quinault Indian Nation accepted Tulalip’s invitation and journeyed north for a week of fun, hands-on safety experience.

“I thought it would be interesting to learn about the first response trainings and get certified for CERT,” says Quinault member, Johnny Law. “I think it’s important because it helps you feel more attached to the land, to our land, and know how to take care of it and our people when a disaster happens. I hope to bring a better understanding to where I’m from just in case there’s an earthquake or tsunami because that would devastate everything down there.”

Tulalip also incorporated another training within the CERT classes that focused on cultural resiliency, teaching the kids the importance of traditional and family values. Jay LaPlante, FEMA Tribal Relation Specialist taught the kids about the medicine wheel and the importance of self-care and community involvement.

“CERT itself is a three-day training and focuses on emergency response,” says Jay. “The reason I added the two-day cultural resiliency wellness training is because our people learn best when we have some type of relationship established. This training helps break down barriers, get to know themselves a little better and get centered with their own values. We always try to connect what we do today with what our ancestors wanted for us and also with the future generations. So we want to make sure these young people know that their ancestors were thinking about them hundreds of years ago so they can connect with what their ancestors wanted and live by those values.”

“We learned about the medicine wheel today,” states Tulalip tribal member, Kaiser Moses. “So that’s spiritual, mental, physical and emotional and that’s really important to factor into your daily life. They teach you fundamental things like how to take care of yourself and your neighbors. I signed up for CERT because I want to learn how to react in an emergency. I feel like after this training, I’ll be more prepared in the event of an emergency and that’s really reassuring.”

All forty students completed the trainings and are now certified CERT members. The Tulalip Office Emergency Management hopes to continue to offer Teen CERT after a successful first year and inspire other tribes to bring the trainings to the youth of their communities. 

“As Native people we are very resilient, very community based and likeminded,” says Ashlynn. “The importance of bringing Teen CERT and the cultural resiliency trainings to the reservation is because it helps us self-identify with our culture. Ultimately, we want them to be able to provide for each other and their families and know where to go in the event of an emergency and how to get to those critical supplies. At the end of the day, our end goal is that we can take all of our information and replicate it for other tribes and help all of the tribal nations become more resilient.”

The Tulalip Office of Emergency Management will continue hosting their regularly scheduled CERT trainings, the next one held this upcoming fall.  For further details, please contact the Office of Emergency Management at (360) 716-4006.

Making Great Strides toward a cure for cystic fibrosis

By Kalvin Valdillez

On the morning of July 7, over one-hundred and fifty community members laced up their best pair of walking shoes and gathered at the Tulalip Amphitheater for the annual Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Walk. 2018 marks the organization’s thirtieth anniversary as well as the tenth anniversary since the first Great Strides Walk took place here in Tulalip. Great Strides Tulalip was organized by two local mothers of children living with cystic fibrosis (CF) who wanted to help find a cure for the life-threatening disease. Since then, the walk continues to raise awareness, helping the community get a better understanding of what CF actually is. 

CF is a rare, complex genetic disease which causes an excessive buildup of thick mucus in the lungs as well as the pancreas and other organs throughout the body. People living with CF are prone to respiratory and pancreatic issues and also a number of infections due to bacteria buildup. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, more than thirty-thousand people are living with CF nationwide. Due to years of research and scientific advancement, the average lifetime for people living with CF has increased significantly to the age of forty. Circa the 1950’s the average child living with the disease rarely made it to elementary school. 

“There are eightwalks we put on across Washington and Alaska,” states Washington CFF Development Director, Anna Lester. “We have about six-hundred and fifty thousand dollars raised and around twenty-five hundred to three-thousand walkers across the two states. It’s the CFF’s largest fundraising initiative, nationally there’s around five-hundred walks and forty-million dollars raised. This walk is the only walk north of Seattle in Washington.”

Kelsie Pablo co-founded Great Strides Tulalip to help find a cure for her son, Keldan, who was diagnosed with CF at birth. 

“We start at the Tulalip Amphitheater and walk all the way around the Outlet Mall, around Boom City and cut through the Casino for about a three mile walk,” says Kelsie. “I started this walk with another mom ten years ago. And the reason why I started the walk is because my son has cystic fibrosis. The very first year we did the Seattle walk and that was a long commute for all of our families so we thought, why not start one in Tulalip?

“My son is a Tulalip tribal member and we have a huge group of supporters and we’ve just grown so much in these past ten years,” she continues. “We’re out here raising awareness for CF and all the money that we raise goes towards new medication, ultimately medication that will cure the underlying cause of CF.”

Over the course of its ten year run, the walk has inspired many families in the Snohomish County area to join on behalf of a loved one living with CF. A number of families’ and local organizations register as teams to participate in the walk. Each team wears different color t-shirts, displaying graphics that bring awareness to the disease, as well as the name of their teams such as Team Keldan and Team Alicia. This year there were twelve teams fundraising to help bring an end to the CF disease. 

Several Tulalip Lions Club members attend the Great Strides Tulalip event every year, volunteering their time and assistance to ensure the walk’s a success. Many members also help spread the word leading up to the event, bringing out more and more walkers each year.

“I have been a member from the very beginning of the walk,” says Linda Tolbert, Tulalip Lions Club Community Services Chairwoman. “We’ve had Lions Club members from Arlington, Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Seven Lakes, Marysville, Stanwood, Mill Creek and Tulalip participate. Our role is getting more people involved so they’re more aware of CF. Most patients have to take thirty to forty different drugs a day just to survive, we want to find a cure.”

Once all of the CF awareness walkers make their way back to the amphitheater, they’re treated to some midmorning entertainment as a live band plays rock n’ roll classics while participants get a chance to enjoy company and a snack, bringing the Great Strides Tulalip event to a close. 

This year the goal for the teams of Great Strides Tulalip was a combined total of $34,004. Although the goal wasn’t met on the day the event took place, supporters can still make contributions to the team of their choice until December 31, by visiting the Tulalip 2018 page at www.fightcf.cff.org

Safe Zone: Tulalip Family Advocacy assures client safety

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Did you know that the Child Advocacy Center, the Legacy of Healing and the Family Advocacy building, home to beda?chelh and Family Haven, are considered ‘safe zones’?  The programs, which are all departments of Tulalip Family Advocacy, wanted to spread the word about the safe zones to help the community get a better understanding of what the zones are and why they were established for the protection of their clients. 

“There are three properties out here that have a safety zone policy through the tribe,” explains Jade Carela, Tulalip Child Advocacy Center Manger. “Soon I’ll be getting signs that say Safety Zone, so people know that they’re entering a safe zone. Basically, what safety zone means is people with certain things in their background will not be allowed on the property. And that’s for the safety of our children and clients we work with.” 

Jade further explained that beda?chelh and the Legacy of Healing both had safety zone policies in place with the tribe for a number of years. According to the policies, the purpose of the safe zones is to provide a safe environment at each of the Family Advocacy sites. The policies vary depending on the program but are similar in that they prohibit persons convicted of crimes against children, domestic violence and sexual offense from the property; as well as those subject to an ongoing investigation of a sexual offense. 

Since the policy’s establishment at the Child Advocacy Center, she has seen a positive impact on the kids, who often worry about their security when at the center, reassuring them that they are safe and out of harm’s way. 

The Child Advocacy Center, the Legacy of Healing and beda?chelh all work with survivors of sexual and domestic abuse in a certain capacity. The safe zones help assure their clients that their abuser and anyone convicted of domestic or sexual assault are not allowed on the property at any given time. All properties took extra precautions in providing client security, requiring visitors to meet certain credentials before granting entrance at each site. People with a history of domestic or sexual violence will be asked to leave the property, if they refuse to leave or the situation escalates, the authorities will be contacted to remove them from the premises.  

Jade is spreading awareness about the safe zones to survivors, to let them know that the programs provide a safe space. And to those who have been previously convicted of a crime, Jades states their services are still available to them, and they can meet with those clients off-property. 

“Because someone has something in their background doesn’t mean we won’t help them,” says Jade. “This policy is in no way stating that we won’t help you, it is strictly to ensure our children and adult victims feel safe. I work with these victims daily and I see how important it is to them, how safe these places are. I personally know that people can change and can grow, I get that, but we need places on this reservation for our victims of crime to feel they are completely safe and know that no one, no matter how long ago their crime was committed, will be allowed on the property.”

For further details regarding the safe zones and what services the programs offer please contact the Child Advocacy Center at (360) 716-5437; the Legacy of Healing at (360) 716-4100; Family Haven at (360) 716-4402; or beda?chelh at (360) 716-3284.