Free Narcan: Tulalip Pharmacy opens distribution box

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In the midst of a nationwide fentanyl and opioid crisis, the Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy is taking action to help save lives and reduce the amount of drug overdose deaths in our area by making Narcan easily accessible to their patients and the public. 

The very first Narcan distribution box at Quil Ceda Village was installed outside the pharmacy earlier this month. Located between their front door and their prescription lock box, the pharmacy is encouraging the community to come and learn it’s whereabouts and pick up a couple doses, to have on-hand in case of an emergency. 

Also referred to by its generic name, Naloxone, the lifesaving drug is administered via a nasal spray and acts quickly to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. This project has been a long time in the making as the pharmacy put much research into finding a way to distribute Narcan to the community, that was both cost-effective and easily obtainable. 

“We talked to other tribes, and they have implemented similar solutions to the opioid epidemic on their reservations,” stated Pharmacy Director, Dr. Kelvin Lee. “Narcan is one of those drugs that’s really safe and effective, and you can’t say that for a lot of drugs because they can cause other side effects and can have effect on people who are not on narcotics. This is a really safe drug for both people who are using and are not using. That’s why we want it to be as accessible as possible.” 

Bright purple and reminiscent of newspaper boxes, the new distribution box is hard to miss. There are also large visual instructions on the front of the box, which could prove to be vital information during an overdose situation.

Dr. Lee explained that the pharmacy has always offered free Narcan, however, there were requirements that people would need to fulfill in order to receive the OD-reversing drug, such as providing a name or an address. Now, one can simply pay a visit to the distribution box, open its lid, and take however many they need, no questions asked. 

Said Dr. Lee, “Naloxone has been available for a long time at this pharmacy, but we felt that there are unnecessary obstacles, hurdles, and hoops that people had to jump through to get it and that’s not right. Again, this is a very safe and effective drug. We have always been looking for ways people can get it without being questioned and asked for information or qualifications – we don’t think that’s necessary at all. It’s really important that people can get it when they need it. And it’s important for people to carry on them, in case something does happen.”

Dr. Lee hopes that this is just the first of many distribution boxes on the reservation. In fact, he is inviting any tribal department that is interested in installing a box at their location to give him a call so he can help set it up. He also stated that the pharmacy can both provide the Narcan and replenish the inventory whenever necessary, for those departments that opt for a box.

“When an OD happens, each second really matters, you don’t want people to have to wait or have to drive across to the other side of the reservation for Narcan,” expressed Dr. Lee. “So, I think it’s very important that we have at least several distribution points where people can pick up the Narcan when they need it.” 

 The new distribution box is open to all and accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Community sobriety celebration

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

On Friday, May 10, staff from the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court, Quil Ceda Creek Counseling, and the Recovery Resource Center convened at the Tulalip Admin Building. The purpose of this gathering was to honor the achievements of the individuals referred to the Wellness Court. Erica Moore, Wellness Court Treatment Coordinator, took the lead in organizing the event. 

She collected statements from the program’s graduates and current participants, which she then used to create a slideshow. This visual representation showcased the remarkable progress of the individuals, including milestones such as maintaining sobriety for a certain period, securing stable employment, and rebuilding relationships. Following the presentation, the audience was invited to reflect on the content and share words of support and encouragement for the individuals featured in the slideshow.

For those who don’t know, the Wellness Court was designed after the Drug Court, which was created in 1989 to reduce crime and give those who aren’t violent offenders a chance at not being incarcerated or getting a felony conviction. Tulalip’s Healing Wellness Court goes further than customary drug courts by implementing cultural traditions, community, and reconnecting families. These cultural traditions can include attending ceremonies, which play a significant role in the recovery process.

“I have been involved with Wellness Court for over a year,” said Christine Frauso, Wellness Court Judge. “The program is amazing; I have watched people grow exponentially. These programs help reconnect people with their culture and community, a huge part of their recovery. I came from the state system where they didn’t have that cultural component, which isn’t nearly as effective there.”

The Wellness Court program participants receive personalized support and guidance to address their needs, whether finding employment, accessing mental health services, or rebuilding relationships. The program’s holistic approach focuses on the individual’s personal growth and reintegration into the community and family, setting them up for long-term success beyond their time in the court system.

“I got involved with this program in 2017 during the first years it was open and graduated in 2018,” said Erica. “I decided to get a job with the Wellness Court because I graduated from the program, and I believe in this program. It changed my life. When I started the program, I thought I didn’t want or need it because I was an adult and could do it independently. I quickly discovered that having these people on your side wanting me to succeed and showing me that I could love myself helped me understand that anything is possible when you have people who care.”

It’s a significant accomplishment to find an even keel in life. Sometimes, when you’re down on yourself because of the wrong choices you have been making, thinking you deserve better can be hard to see. For tribal member Gerald Williams, staying on the straight and narrow was difficult before becoming involved with the Wellness Court.

“Once I got into the program, I found out that all the staff was supportive.,” explained Gerald.  “They taught me how to live life clean and sober, and the requirements to take care of yourself, like going to the dentist or the doctor. The program saved my life. If I had gone into any other court system, I would’ve kept running from jail like I usually did. So, I am grateful for Wellness Court.”

Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court illustrates the power of community and tradition in overcoming addiction. As participant Gerald aptly described, “You need to put as much work into sobriety as you did into getting drugs and alcohol.” The court helps individuals like Gerald rebuild their lives through support and guidance, offering hope for a brighter future.
For further information regarding Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court, please feel free to call (360) 716-4764 at 6332 31st Ave NE, Suite B, Tulalip, WA 98271.

TELA families connect with community at mini health fair

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The entryway of the Betty J. Early Learning Academy was bustling on the afternoon of March 21. Laughter echoed throughout the spacious lobby and the spirits were high as families of the academy participated in TELA’s mini health fair. 

Held on an annual basis, the mini health fair has been a successful event for the academy over the years. The event has helped their students and families connect with local programs and Tribal departments, so they can in turn access a multitude of information, resources, and services. 

In total there were 15 stations at this year’s mini health fair including the Tulalip Family Haven program, the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic, SNAP-Ed, the Tulalip Lushootseed department, Tulalip Emergency Management, and the Tulalip police and fire departments as well. TELA also had representatives of the school in attendance including their mental health specialists and members of their staff who helped inform the families about the dangers of tobacco use and also to update student’s ID cards and paperwork. 

The two-hour event began at 2:30 p.m., around TELA’s pick-up time, and parents received a passport sheet as they entered the building. After they received a signature at each of the resource tables, they were entered into a raffle which featured grand prize items like swimming pools, a Radio Flyer wagon, and a Graco 3-in-1 car seat. 

The event was especially exciting for the kiddos, and they had a blast visiting with their teachers and a few familiar faces from the community. There were plenty of fun swag items that the students collected from each station such as coloring books, stickers, first aid kits, and a variety of toys. 

Healthy habits were promoted at the fair and the kids were treated to refreshing fruit smoothies from SNAP-ED, tasty pasta from the Lushootseed Department, and toothbrushes from the dental team at the health clinic. And of course, it is always exciting for the youth to engage with the first responder teams of Tulalip. At the Tulalip Bay Fire Department table, the kids chose between black and pink helmets to add to their outfit of the day. And at TPD’s table, they received police badge stickers, which they were quick to place on their t-shirts and proudly wear for the remainder of their day. 

Said TELA Family Engagement Coordinator, Absyde Dacoscos, “The main objective of the mini health fair is getting resources to our families. We want them to know what’s available to them here on the reservation, but also in Snohomish County and Marysville. I love that the kids can recognize people outside of TELA and are making great connections in the community today. That’s what it’s all about, to know they are safe in their community and know who’s within their community.”

Recovery heals mind, body, & spirit

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

It was a fantastic soiree on Saturday March 24, as over 100 people gathered at the Orca Ballroom of the Tulalip Resort Casino for a night of healing through comedic relief. Held once a year in observance of National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, this dinner is organized to not only bring attention to the prevalence of gambling addiction on the reservation and its surrounding municipalities, but also to build up the local recovery community and celebrate them for overcoming numerous plights while on their journey to a gambling and/or substance free lifestyle. 

For the past decade, the Tulalip Problem Gambling program has actively participated in a nationwide initiative known as National Problem Gambling Awareness month. Occurring every March, during the season of bracket clashing known as March Madness, the Problem Gambling Program raises awareness about the compulsive gambling disease by hosting fun, engaging, informative, and impactful gatherings in the community all throughout the awareness month.

The dangerous and often silent habit affects the Native American community at a much higher rate than other ethnicities. A 2019 study by the National Institute on Alcohol and Related Conditions showed that 2.3% of the Indigenous population in America are battling a gambling addiction. Which is at an alarming rate, considering other ethnicities experience compulsive gambling at an average of 1% of their respective populations. Although that statistic is five years old, it is the most current and up-to-date research, however, many sources expect to see a major increase in that number following the global pandemic. 

In years past, the Tulalip Problem Gambling program brought in Native stars for their annual get together and featured the likes of comedians Toni Jo Hall, Mitch Factor, and Kasey ‘Rezzalicious’ Nicholson, as well as Grammy Award winner, Star Nayea. This year, Kasey Nicholson returned and was on MC duties for the afternoon. 

Rezzalicious shared, “Strive to become better than you were yesterday. That’s something I always try to do because I know that I’m going to fail. I’m going to continue to fall. But each time I get up, I’m going to be stronger, more resilient. Each time I get up, I’m going to look at that scar and know I went through that hard time. I have the scar, this healing to show it didn’t disable me, it empowered me to become better. So keep going. No matter how many times you fail. If you want to recover from problem gambling, keep going. It’s going to get easier; you’re going to make it. All the support that we have here today is beautiful.”

Native Comedian and Actor, Tatanka Means, of Reservation Dogs, Echo, and Killers of the Flower Moon fame, was this year’s headliner for the Problem Gambling Awareness dinner. Following a blessing from Tulalip tribal member, Natosha Gobin, Tatanka took the stage and had the crowd in stiches by combining his art of storytelling and Native humor. He also announced that he has two Netflix shows on the horizon including Native horror flick, The Windigo, as well as Ark: The Animated Series. 

The night before the dinner, Tatanka spent some time with the Tulalip Youth Council at the Hibulb Cultural Center. Many members of the youth council attended the Problem Gambling Awareness dinner to watch Tatanka’s stand up and also show support to the recovery community.

Said Youth Council member, Faith Valencia, “Last night we honored the Tulalip Youth Council and welcomed Tatanka to Tulalip for the first time. We got to ask him some questions and we played a game together. It was really nice seeing him on stage today, he’s a really cool person and really funny too. It was important for us to come show our support and let everyone know that the youth is listening and watching them. It’s not just the adults who are proud of them, it’s the kids watching them and seeing ‘oh yeah, maybe my uncle can recover’ or ‘maybe I can get them into a group’.”

Two individuals who had a successful experience with the Tulalip Problem Gambling took to the stage to share their stories, including local community member Scott, who is non-tribal, and Matthew Warbonnet of the Oglala Sioux Nation. 

Scott stated, ““I started gambling in casinos as soon as I turned 18. I lost a lot while gambling. Not just money. I lost my family, my soul, my health, my friendships, my marriage. In 2020 I started gambling on a really high level. I was gambling about $500 almost every single day. In 2021, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. I got a severance back-pay check and I gambled away every single penny in less than five months. Later on that year, I was awarded 100% social security disability. It took me less than a month to go through $28,000 and I didn’t have a thing to show for it. My wife told me I had a problem, and it was time for me to face my fears and to address my issues. She called Sarah Sense Wilson at the Tulalip Problem Gambling program, and I had an evaluation. On February 18, 2023, I went to my first GA meeting.”

He went on to thank each person who helped him through his time of struggle, including many people facing similar tribulations who he met through the Problem Gambling program. 

Scott is now 13 months sober from gambling addiction, thanks to a personalized plan that the Problem Gambling program put together on his behalf. Upon teaming up with of handful of others in the recovery community, Scott helped organize the first Gamblers Anonymous meeting on the Tulalip reservation in over 15 years. And with assistance from the Problem Gambling Program and the Tulalip Recovery Resource Center, they have continued hosting weekly GA meetings every Thursday at noon. This is a big accomplishment and is well needed for locals to learn and share about their experience with the gambling disease, in a safe and welcoming environment.

Matthew, an Indian boarding school survivor, spoke about how the Tulalip Problem Gambling program has helped him navigate his trauma, that resulted in problem gambling. The years he endured at the St. Francis Indian School in South Dakota – a Catholic institution where students were subjected to a multitude of mental and physical abuses throughout their duration at the school were traumatic.

“You might say that I’m an addict from the treatment they gave us at the boarding schools,” Matthew expressed. “I want to tell you that I’m proud of myself for seeking this help. It’s not an easy thing to ask for that help. I want to thank the Tulalip Tribes and the Problem Gambling program. We have these struggles, we have this sorrow, we have this pain, but there’s one thing I do know, I could always count on the Native community wherever I was. There’s a shared family, love, and acknowledgement of who we are. 

“The help is there for the taking and asking. And if you know anybody who needs that help, please let them know where we got our help. I’m not ashamed to say that I have a problem with gambling. I’m not ashamed to say that I needed help and I asked for it. And I will continue to ask for that help, and I encourage everybody to do that.”

Natosha returned to the stage to share a traditional Tulalip story in Lushootseed. Utilizing the call and response technique, Natosha told the story of Lady Louse, and had the entire ballroom speaking her ancestral language as they shared the story together, line for line. Leaving each person to interpret what the story means to them, Natosha stated, “Sometimes we all feel alone, even when we’re surrounded by a bunch of people who love us. We need to try to find compassion for each other. If you see someone who needs it, give them a hug, and say hello, because you can be that person to take them out of that space.”

The evening concluded with what has now become a yearly tradition at the Problem Gambling Awareness dinner – the recovery countdown. Rezzalicious started the countdown at 50 years clean and asked each person in recovery to stand when he called the amount years they have attained their sobriety goal. More than half the room was standing by the time he reached one month clean, an inspiring and beautiful sight to see.

The Problem Gambling Awareness Month dinner was once again a hit for the community of Tulalip. Due to Tatanka’s busy schedule, the event time was changed from its original start time of 6:00 pm to 1:00 pm during the week leading up to the dinner. However, many people still showed up to support and uplift those individuals working to overcome their addiction. 

“I thought today was overwhelmingly successful given the changes that were made last minute with our earlier time,” said Tulalip Problem Gambling Program Coordinator, Sarah Sense Wilson. “I think that the keynote was hilarious. He’s a big headliner and people came out to see him. And that was great because they got to learn throughout our presentation about gambling addiction.”

She continued, “It was especially nice to have Matthew Warbonnet share his experience and about his gambling addiction. And our GA presenter shared that they had a year in recovery, and that they’re also part of our program. The special time devoted to recognizing the Tulalip Recovery Resource Center, I thought that was really important because they sponsor and host the GA meetings. Our community deserves to have a recovery support program too, not just treatment. It was wonderful to see the multigenerational attendance and that people laughed, enjoyed themselves, ate good food. And that’s what we wanted most, people to come together, share, laugh, and have a good time.”

If you or someone you love is dealing with a gambling addiction, or if you would like to find out more information about the Problem Gambling program, please contact (360) 716-4304.


Problem Gambling Awareness

By Sarah Sense Wilson

Informed decisions make you a winner. Healthy choices ensure your wellbeing and strengthens your family and community. Our future depends on the choices you make today.

Types of Gambling

  • Video Game Betting/Skins or Treasure Troves
  • Slahal/Stick games
  • Sports Betting
  • Bingo
  • Scratch Tickets
  • 50/50
  • Dice
  • Internet Gambling
  • Raffles

Gambling Facts

  • Our Problem Gambling Program is about reclaiming health, wellness, and relationships.
  • Tulalip Problem Gambling Program is free treatment, referrals, counseling, groups, and family therapy.
  • Tulalip Tribes Problem Gambling Program is comprehensive, culturally responsive and designed to be tailored for each person seeking support.
  • Problem Gambling is also referred to as Gambling Disorder, Compulsive Gambling, Addictive Gambling, and Pathological Gambling, or People experiencing Gambling Problems.
  • Data: 1-3% of Washingtonians are classified as Problem Gamblers.
  • We could fill the Seahawks Stadium (Lumen Field) to capacity 4x to fit all problem gamblers in our state.
  • Up to 92% of problem gamblers experience suicidal ideation, and up to 40% attempt suicide.
  • Sadly, only one 1-in-10 problem gamblers seek professional help.

Problem Gambling Help: Helpline 1-800-547-6133

Tulalip Problem Gambling Program sheds light on silent disease

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Large sidewalk signs were placed all along the uphill road leading to the Tulalip Administration Building on the morning of March 12. Each sign advertised an event that took place that afternoon known as Positive Action Screening Day, which is part of a national campaign to bring attention to gambling addiction. 

Every March, the Tulalip Problem Gambling Program takes part in an initiative known as National Problem Gambling Awareness Month by educating the community about the dangers of the silent disease that affects millions nationwide.

Said Tulalip Problem Gambling Program Coordinator, Sarah Sense Wilson, “I think it’s especially important in Indian Country that we shine a spotlight on Problem Gambling Awareness Month, given that a lot of our tribal communities have high risk factors and vulnerabilities. The more that we’re informed, the more we can make good decisions for ourselves.” 

The Problem Gambling Program helps people recover from gambling addiction by creating a personalized plan with each individual who walks through their doors seeking help, both Natives and non-Natives. By increasing their visibility within the Tulalip community and sharing information and resources with those in need, the Tulalip Problem Gambling Program is able to reach more people who are struggling by creating a safe, non-confrontational, and judgement-free space during their community events throughout the awareness month. 

“The screening day is another national campaign and it’s a non-invasive way for people to do a quick screen, for people to self-determine where they’re at with their relationship to gambling – is it healthy, is it not healthy, could it be better? It’s four questions and only three of them are related to gambling,” Sarah explained. 

As soon as the clock struck noon on Positive Action Screening Day, dozens of tribal government employees swarmed to the first-floor lobby to help show their support during National Problem Gambling Awareness Month. In exchange for their participation in a short four-question survey, the people received a gift of their choosing – between either a bag of Jared’s CORNer’s kettle corn, a tin of healing salve, or a mini-smudge kit. And after receiving their gift, many people stayed behind to peruse the resource tables and learn a little bit more about gambling addiction. 

The next Problem Gambling Awareness Month event will be held on Sunday, March 24, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Tulalip Resort Casino and is open to the entire community. The always popular and much anticipated dinner celebration offers the promise of good food, good entertainment, and eye-opening testimonies from local gambling addicts in recovery. The playbill includes the 206 singers, a blessing from Tribal member Natosha Gobin, and the keynote speaker is set to be Lakota/Navajo Actor and Comedian, Tatanka Means. And the MC for the evening will be Kasey ‘Rezzalicious’ Nicholson, Native Comedian and member of the A’aa’niii’nin Nation. 

“The dinner is held to raise awareness and provide a space for education about the addiction and about prevention, but it’s also to celebrate those in recovery,” said Sarah. “We want to lift them up and have them be in a space where they’re cared for, celebrated, cheered-on, and honored for their work, and also for their contributions to the recovery community. Every person in recovery is contributing to the wellness to the whole, and that’s powerful.”

If you or someone you love is dealing with a gambling addiction, or if you would like to find out more information about the Problem Gambling program, please contact (360) 716-4304.

Show your support for National Problem Gambling Awareness Month

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“For a lot of people, gambling is the grand escape because they aren’t doing anything illegal, they are not using external chemicals,” explained Tulalip Problem Gambling Coordinator, Sarah Sense Wilson. “But it’s a process addiction that causes brain chemistry changes and floods your brain with dopamine – and it’s hard to have rational judgment because you’re under the influence of your own brain chemistry.”

For the past decade, the Tulalip Problem Gambling program has actively participated in a nationwide initiative known as National Problem Gambling Awareness month. Occurring every March, the Problem Gambling Program helps bring attention to the compulsive gambling disease by hosting fun, engaging, informative, and impactful gatherings during the awareness month.

Originally, the campaign began nearly twenty years ago in response to the rise of sports betting surrounding the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament. An estimated two million US citizens meet the criteria for severe gambling addiction any given year, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. And though that is roughly just one percent of the entire country’s population, there are hundreds of families affected by problem gambling, and the myriad of issues brought on by the disease, every year. 

The dangerous and often silent habit affects the Native American community at a much higher rate than other ethnicities. A 2019 study by the National Institute on Alcohol and Related Conditions showed that 2.3% of the Indigenous population in America are battling a gambling addiction. That statistic is expected to be on the rise following the pandemic, however, that is the most current and up-to-date study available on this topic. 

Said Sarah, “Gambling may not be their primary addiction, it can be tied in with other diseases – grief, loss, trauma – and that barely scratches the surface. We’re focused on putting information out in the community; we’re doing presentations, we’re doing outreach and community education as much as we can. I think it’s especially important in Indian Country that we shine a spotlight on Problem Gambling Awareness month, given that a lot of our tribal communities have high risk factors and vulnerabilities. The more that we’re informed, the more we can make good decisions for ourselves.” 

Indian Boarding School Survivor, Matthew Warbonnet, took time to speak about how the Tulalip Problem Gambling program has helped him navigate his trauma resulting from the years he endured at the St. Francis Indian School in South Dakota – a Catholic institution where students were subjected to a multitude of mental and physical abuses throughout their duration at the school. 

He shared, “There were times when kids were literally beaten to the floor. Corporal punishment was the call of the day you might say. I think a lot of our history attributes to addiction, whatever that addiction might be, and I think that if there were more programs like this, that would help our people. Even if only five people went to those programs, you’re looking at affecting that entire family in a good way, and it’s a ripple effect.”

Matthew continued, “We all have issues from the past that bother us. And the (boarding school experiences) were haunting me and I couldn’t run from it. It got to the point where I no longer wanted to be here, and I was ready to move on. I contemplated suicide on several occasions – and I started in with self-destructive behavior. One day I kind of realized what I was doing. So, when I heard about this program, I came down. And I want to say that I really appreciate the Tulalip Tribes for having this program because it’s been tremendous for me. Just being here and being able to identify what those issues are. I came to understand that I should not reject any offering of help – I appreciate this program more than I can ever say.”

The Tulalip Problem Gambling program is a national model program that many Indigenous tribes look to when designing and operating their own programs. They are also a part of a northwest intertribal problem gambling coalition, with the Swinomish, Lummi, Stillaguamish, Port Gamble, Suquamish, Puyallup, Muckleshoot, and Nisqually tribes, that meets regularly to discuss what is and what isn’t working for their programs. They also share ideas on how to educate their communities and provide prevention and treatment to those in need of assistance. 

The Tulalip Problem Gambling program has helped aid those in recovery over the years by developing a personalized plan with each person who walks through their doors. Since its establishment, the Problem Gambling program has served not only members of the Tulalip tribal community, but non-Natives as well who are also fighting a gambling addiction and live in our neighboring communities of Everett, Marysville, Arlington, and Stanwood.

A local woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, opened up about her personal recovery journey with the Problem Gambling program. She stated, “I was pretty much a daily gambler for about 15 years. I ended up getting fired from my job because of my gambling issues. My rock bottom was losing my job and when that happened is when I finally realized what I was doing. Those two weeks after I lost my job – that was probably the worst experience of my life. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, I was in physical pain all day long. I went through a couple of weeks of just really an all-consuming guilt and shame, and it was horrific.

“And then I thought, you know what, I just need to find a GA meeting. So, I went online and found a GA meeting and attended my first meeting in Everett where I met this guy who told me about the Problem Gambling Program that Sarah runs. The next week I went and had an assessment, and the rest is history. I have just over 10 months of sobriety and will reach my first year in April.”

Both Matthew and our anonymous speaker praised the Problem Gambling program for identifying the root of their addiction and for creating a space where gambling addicts can gather to support each other while on the road to recovery. And similarly, when asked to share some words of advice and encouragement for others who are currently caught in the cycle of compulsive gambling, they both wanted to share that recovery from this disease is possible with the help of the program, and also to extend an invite to anybody battling their addiction. 

This National Problem Gambling Awareness month, the Problem Gambling program will be hosting two major events to help bring attention to this issue that is plaguing many people throughout the reservation and region. The first event is the Positive Action Screening Day which will take place Tuesday, March 12 at the Tulalip Admin building from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Shared Sarah, “The screening day is another national campaign and it’s a non-invasive way for people to do a quick screen, for people to self-determine where they’re at with their relationship to gambling – is it healthy, is it not healthy, could it be better? It’s four questions and only three of them are related to gambling. We’ll be providing information cards and we’ll be giving out cookies, popcorn, cupcakes, and mini smudge kits in exchange for them to complete that four-question survey.”

The next event will be held on Sunday, March 24, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Tulalip Resort Casino. This is the popular and much anticipated dinner celebration that is held on an annual basis and offers the promise of good food, good entertainment, and eye-opening testimonies from local gambling addicts in recovery.  

“The dinner is held to raise awareness and provide a space for education about the addiction and about prevention but it’s also to celebrate those in recovery,” said Sarah. “We want to lift them up and have them be in a space where they’re cared for, celebrated, cheered-on, and honored for their work – and also for their contributions to the recovery community. Every person in recovery is contributing to the wellness to the whole, and that’s powerful.

“We’ll have a variety of entertainment; our 206 drummers, everyone loves them being there, they rock the house and bring that energy. Natosha Gobin is going to do the opening blessing and she’s going to share a traditional story that relates to addiction. Then we will have a GA speaker who will share their story, their inspiration. And our Master of Ceremony is Kasey Nicholson, he is a comedian and was also the keynote a few years ago. It’s free, it’s open to everybody, and everyone is invited!”

We hope you show your support during this year’s Problem Gambling Awareness Month. If you or someone you love is dealing with a gambling addiction, or if you would like to find out more information about the Problem Gambling program, please contact (360) 716-4304.

Dr. Karen Foster-Schubert joins Tulalip Health Clinic

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

On December 18, Dr. Karen Foster-Schubert, a seasoned medical professional with a rich background, has assumed the crucial role of the new medical director for the Tulalip Health Clinic. With roots in Seattle and a long career with the University of Washington Veterans Affairs (V.A.), Dr. Foster-Schubert brings a wealth of experience to shape the future of healthcare delivery for the Tulalip community. Emphasizing the collaborative approach needed for success, she notes, “There is so much to learn and many decisions to make going forward.” 

Karen achieved her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and did her internal residency in San Francisco. Then, she returned to the Pacific Northwest to finish her fellowship at the University of Washington before becoming a faculty member at the VA.

While immersed in roles at the V.A., Dr. Foster-Schubert found herself at the nexus of administrative leadership with an unwavering commitment to improving healthcare systems. Little did she anticipate that her extensive background, including spearheading the endocrinology department and serving as the Vice Chief of Medicine, would draw the attention of Jeremy Howell, the Health System Administrator for Tulalip. 

“I knew Jeremy from the V.A. and several specialty care work,” Karen said. “So when he reached out, I was like, this seems like a good opportunity to work with some amazing people, make a difference in how the healthcare system is organized, and bring in some specialty care. I am an endocrinologist, so I do a lot of work with diabetes and metabolic disease.”

Dr. Foster-Schubert’s decision to embark on this new chapter stemmed from a desire to make a tangible impact. Moving away from the expansive yet bureaucratic V.A. environment, she sought a more hands-on role where her insights could directly influence positive change. The pressing goal for Tulalip became clear – accreditation, which is a review process to determine if programs meet official regulatory requirements and standards of quality

“One of our biggest goals is accreditation,” Karen explained. “The accreditation process helps ensure a safety and healthcare excellence culture and improves access and equity. We have a consulting team to help look at every aspect that needs to be addressed to become accredited.”

Karen continued, “Another goal would be to focus on a culture of respect. That means that we all need to respect one another, respect everyone’s rules, and have a good understanding of everyone’s rules. This is not only for our staff and providers but also for our patients so that we are treating our patients with respect and, in return, creating a better sense of trust.”

As the tribe endeavors toward accreditation, Dr. Foster-Schubert lays out the multifaceted approach necessary for success. Addressing fundamental aspects such as the healthcare environment, safety protocols, and infection prevention systems, the tribe aims to overhaul its primary care system. 

While acknowledging the enormity of the accreditation process, Dr. Foster-Schubert views it as an opportunity for constructive change. She envisions a roadmap that aligns with Tulalip’s goals, emphasizing that accreditation isn’t a sign of past shortcomings but a collective journey toward more efficient and effective healthcare delivery. The tribe’s investment in training, particularly launching the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) process, underscores the commitment to coordinated care and continuous improvement.

“This is a little bit of a learning process for me,” Karen said. “I’m trying to understand how this system focuses on primary care delivery. I’m particularly concerned with ensuring efficient communication within our system and with external referrals. Since we can’t offer every specialty care in-house, it’s crucial to streamline the process for a seamless experience. We want to make it so that when we can’t provide the care in-house, and when they travel outside our health system to get the care they need, they know they have our support and understanding of navigating the health care system.”

Dr. Foster-Schubert concluded with a focus on change management and the importance of transparency and engaging tribal members in the process. “Change can be scary, and I want to do that in a way where everyone is engaged and excited. Be willing to be transparent; our tribal members must hear people’s voices around what perceived gaps we have and what needs aren’t being met.”

Focusing on you: Tulalip’s optometry office prioritizes community well-being

PR photo of Raven reading glasses by Trevor Angus, Gitxsan

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

Vision, a fundamental aspect of our daily lives, is undeniably crucial. And Tulalip Optometry is going beyond the importance of eyesight, to prioritizing patient care. The optometry office recently decided to part ways with its previous partner, opting instead for independence. This strategic move underscores their commitment to fostering community eye health through accessible and affordable optometry services.

“We hope to reopen in February,” said Tulalip Health Clinic Optometrist, Rachel Spillane. “The clinic used to operate on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, but now it will be open Monday through Friday. This change will provide our patients with better access to care, which was one of the primary goals when Tulalip took on running the eye clinic independently.”

Spillane continued, “We will also offer walk-in care. If someone has pink eye or gets a foreign object in their eye, we will be able to treat them. Additionally, we provide specialty medical eye care, reducing the need for external referrals. I see it as an opportunity for us to build a state-of-the-art clinic, one of the best for our tribal members, and that’s pretty cool.

“One noticeable improvement for tribal members visiting the optometry office is the incorporation of the latest technology for eye care. All the equipment will be new, and we will have more technology to provide patients with the care they deserve.

“For glasses, we plan to expand the selection of styles and brands you can choose from. Our supply was limited in the past, so we want to ensure everyone has an option. Some of the brands we will have include Luxottica, Ray-Ban, Gucci, St. Laurent, and native eyewear from artists in Canada. Additionally, we have negotiated with several brands to provide better rates.

“All tribal members will be able to receive services here, regardless of their insurance status. With everything now done in-house, it makes things easier for the patients. Having everything in one spot is particularly helpful for our patients, especially the elders, who used to have to travel all the way to Everett, and the journey was difficult for some.”

The new optometry office will be opening soon. If you have any questions or need to contact the eye clinic, please call them at (360) 716-4511.

New Year’s resolution series: Austin Orr’s 100-pound weight loss journey

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

As the clock struck midnight and we entered 2024, millions of individuals around the world embraced the tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions. Among the countless goals people commit to, a considerable number revolve around health and wellness. Eating better, exercising more, and losing weight routinely top most common resolution lists. This reflects a global desire for improved well-being and a healthier lifestyle.

New Year’s resolutions act as a powerful launching point for those in need of an annual reminder to mentally check-in and increase awareness regarding desired self-improvement. The process begins with individuals reflecting on their current habits, acknowledging areas for improvement, and implementing changes necessary for a healthier lifestyle. 

A commitment to positive change and holding oneself accountable in order to achieve the desired results can be difficult, and, yeah, most people fail to fulfill their good-intentioned New Year’s resolutions. It’s because of these very reasons that we now introduce a Tulalip citizen who embodies the most popular resolutions – eat better, exercise more, and lose weight.

Two years ago, Austin Orr weighed a whopping 293 pounds. He and his wife Dawna were caught in a depressive cycle after multiple attempts to grow their family resulted in devastating miscarriages. Their ensuing trauma responses revolved around seeking comfort in eating unhealthy fast food meals and the convenience of staying in and ordering food from mobile apps, like Uber Eats and DoorDash.

Knowing his nearly 300-pound body was at extremely high risk of a litany of life-shortening health issues, Austin made a resounding resolution to change.

“I needed to become healthier, both mentally and physically, which is easier said than done, but after my wife’s last miscarriage, we found out she has a super rare condition that made it nearly impossible for us to have a child,” divulged Austin. “That dream we had to grow our family was over, and in that finality came the realization that we have to rebound and continue pursuing other dreams, other passions.

“When I think back to what my life was like at the time, the best way to describe it is dark. Then, it’s like a light bulb turned on and lit a new path. That was the path to being the best version of myself, which meant making some drastic changes.”

The first of those changes was embracing physical activity. Committing to exercise more is a resolution with far-reaching health benefits. Regular physical activity is associated with improved cardiovascular health, increased muscle strength, enhanced mood, and better overall fitness. Whether opting for brisk walks, gym workouts, or engaging in recreational sports, the positive impact of exercise extends beyond physical health, positively influencing mental well-being and stress management.

“I found a local gym in Marysville that had a variety of weight lifting and cardio equipment, and made it a priority to hit the gym every day after work for 30-45 minutes. A lot of people think the gym is only for super jacked athletes and bodybuilders, but really there are way more people of all different ages and body types in there, getting after it in whatever way works best for them. I’ve seen fit seniors who never lift a weight; they stretch, hop on a cardio machine, and might mix in some bodyweight exercises, but just seeing them in there every day was added motivation,” shared Austin.

The Tulalip tribal member said he frequently watched motivational videos on YouTube. He credited listening to Eric Thomas, Jordan Peterson, and Mel Robbins for effectively changing his mindset from negative to positive, from convenience seeking to challenge seeking, and becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable.

“Anyone who starts a new exercise routine or workout plan is going to hit a wall early on, but that wall is nothing more than our initial reaction to discomfort, doing something we’re not used to doing. Yeah, you’ll be sore, but that soreness means growth. It means what you are doing is working. I remember in the early days, there were mornings I’d wake up and be sore in places I’d never been sore before,” chuckled Austin. “In those moments, I told myself that soreness was the new me defeating the old me.”

An example of one week’s meal prep. 

Stress reduction plays a pivotal role in the quest for a healthier lifestyle. Exercise, a key component of many resolutions, triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood enhancers. This contributes to stress reduction by alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. As individuals prioritize their mental health, the mind-body connection becomes increasingly obvious.

The popular New Year’s resolution of committing to eat better is all about mind-body connection. Having the mental strength or courage to reevaluate an individual’s dietary choices that have resulted in an undesired body. ‘Eating better’ often means including more nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, while minimizing the consumption of processed and sugary foods. The shift towards a nutritious diet not only improves daily nutrition, but also considerably contributes to weight management and a reduced risk of various health issues.

“In the first year of my weight loss journey, I lost 40 pounds by going to the gym 4-5x a week. I wasn’t too committed to the nutrition part yet. Instead, I was focused on turning working out and exercising into a lifestyle, something that I prioritized every day, every week, every month,” admitted Austin. “In year two, I paid for a coach who created a meal plan for me to follow. 

“It worked for me because I’d rather be told exactly what to eat and when versus just winging it and hoping for the best. Clearly, being close to 300 pounds at one point, I didn’t know what a true portion or serving size looked like. I ate whatever tasted good and ate until I was full. After the experience with the coach and meal prepping, I learned so much about what foods actually make me feel good and allow me to thrive not just in the gym, but day to day.”

Austin with his wife Dawna Orr and 7-year-old son Cypress.

For many, the resolution to lose weight is a primary focus, and for Austin, his journey began with that simple desire to shed pounds. In his pursuit to become slimmer, he became healthier. Beyond prioritizing his workout routine, which forced him not to be lazy and taught him better time management, and then finding a sustainable meal plan, which honed a mind-body connection with nutrient-dense foods, he crafted a positive self-image that reflected all the hard work and dedication he displayed on his weight loss journey. 

It was only a matter of weeks ago that Austin’s journey reached a remarkable milestone. He stepped on the scale and it showed 190. Two years filled with countless sweat droplets shed in the gym and more egg whites/chicken/ground turkey/veggies/sweet potatoes than he cares to remember culminated with the 29-year-old tribal member losing 100 pounds. A new body equipped with a new mindset. 

“Looking back at my journey, as cool as it is to say, ‘I’ve lost 100 pounds’, it’s even cooler to say, ‘I’ve gained a whole new outlook on life.’,” reflected Austin. “I used to be lazy, pessimistic and took little to no accountability. Now, I’m full of energy, optimistic for the future, and take full responsibility for all my actions. After learning to hold myself accountable in the gym and for what I eat, I’ve taken those skills and applied them to all areas of my life. 

“I’m accountable as a husband. I’m accountable as a father. I’m accountable as a friend. I’m accountable as an employee. Just being able to say that now is motivation for me to keep doing what I’m doing and continue to challenge myself.”

New Year’s resolutions, when approached with dedication and perseverance, have the potential to pave the way for long-term health benefits. Consistent efforts towards a healthier lifestyle, sustained by a commitment to eating better, losing weight, and exercising regularly, can significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases and enhance overall quality of life. The ripple effects extend beyond the individual, impacting families, and the greater community.

“After seeing the results from my consistent exercise and better eating habits, my mom (Kandy Ness), who works three jobs, has made the change, too, to prioritize her health. She’s working out and loving it,” beamed Austin. “I hope my story motivates others in Tulalip who want to get healthy. There are a lot of people who’d love to lose 10, 15, or 20 pounds but think it’s impossible, but I’m here as an example that it’s all about the mindset and positive attitude. If I can do it, they can definitely do it.” 

While the allure of a fresh start in the new year is undeniable, it’s crucial to approach resolutions with a realistic mindset. Change is a gradual process, and setbacks are a natural part of the journey. Seeking support from friends, family, or healthcare professionals can enhance accountability and motivation. 

After losing 100 pounds, Austin celebrates by eating a cupcake with his son. 

For any local community members who’ve made a resolution to eat better, exercise more, or lose weight, Austin wants you to know you’re not alone on this journey. He’s more than willing to share more detailed tips and strategies for success that were effective for him during his two-year journey to lose 100 pounds. Austin can be reached at 425-530-4397.

Nourishing Culture: A peek inside Tulalip’s food sovereignty kitchen

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

In a transformative and visionary step towards reclaiming their ancestral culinary traditions, the Tulalip Northwest Indian College (NWIC) recently unveiled the groundbreaking Tulalip Food Sovereignty Presentation Kitchen. This innovative kitchen space, formerly a conventional classroom, symbolizes cultural revival and health empowerment. The soft opening event on Friday, November 3, was nothing short of a culinary journey, inviting the community to savor the flavors of Indigenous cuisine while unraveling the profound concept of food sovereignty. Step inside this unique kitchen and discover how it’s poised to revolutionize the relationship between tradition, health, and community.

The newly renovated space has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis, evolving from a mundane classroom into a welcoming haven of culinary exploration. With an expansive, open kitchen at its heart, it beckons onlookers and perhaps even a camera crew to witness the intricate process of preparing Indigenous foods. The kitchen’s primary mission is to serve as an educational hub where students can immerse themselves in traditional food preparation. It’s a place where the rich heritage of Indigenous cuisine is brought to life, instilling in the next generation the knowledge and skills necessary to honor and preserve their culinary traditions.

“I grew up in a fishing and hunting family, and I didn’t know that I was already practicing food sovereignty,” said NWIC teacher, Linzie Crofoot. “Our food kept us a healthy community. Food sovereignty is about community health; our traditional foods and medicines and their direct ties with resource management. Traditionally, we have been the gatherers, hunters, and fishermen responsible for tending the land and keeping it healthy and our people healthy.”

Linzie continued, “When I am teaching Native Environmental Science, and I am teaching about our native plants, I am incorporating tribal health into it. I am incorporating our traditional values into it. That’s how I plan on using this kitchen; as a gatherer and a Native Environmental Scientist, I want people out on the land to be restored to their natural role on the land, and then be able to come back here and make meaningful relationships with each other and the community through food. That is how we have always built community. There’s nothing more traditional than feeding each other and coming together to make food.”

After the meal, Linzie demonstrated how to make a sweetgrass lemonade and started by creating a simple syrup. A mixture of sweetgrass water and sugar boiled create a tasty syrup that can be stirred into the lemonade. The goal of the demonstration was to show that you can start small with your introduction to a more native plant diet by creating one ingredient and building off that. 

“When we tell people they need to eat traditional foods, they don’t know where to begin and get overwhelmed. They think they must be a gatherer or a hunter, or they need access to a bunch of land, and then they freeze and continue to eat all the same Western foods they have been eating their whole life. I want to incorporate easy things that you can do in your everyday lives. So, start with one cup of tea a month and sweeten it with a native plant, then work your way up. And don’t feel guilty about it,” said Linzie.

“This is the first tribal sovereignty kitchen in the nation,” said Colette Kieth, NWIC site manager. “The primary goal is that students understand what food sovereignty is and what tribal food sovereignty is and use our traditional foods. I also wanted a place where our students could have a camera-ready place for great presentations, like on Instagram and Facebook. I want our students to feel what it was like to work in a nice kitchen.”

The Tulalip Food Sovereignty Presentation Kitchen will have its grand opening in May, where students can create in the kitchen. Registration for winter classes opened on Monday, November 6th. To learn more about NWIC, visit