Hosted by Indian Health Services and BGCA Native Services

This past March, the Indian Health Service (IHS) together with BGCA Native Services hosted the Generation Indigenous Youth Resiliency Panel Series webinar. This webinar explored how Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) grantees promote positive American Indian and Alaska Native youth development through the Methamphetamine & Suicide Prevention Initiative (MSPI). The foundation of MSPI is family engagement via implementation of early intervention strategies to reduce risk factors for suicidal behavior and substance abuse.

Three Boys & Girls Club executive directors were present to speak on this highly relevant topic: Lindsey Harris of the Boys & Girls Club of Chelsea in Oklahoma, Jay Abeyta of the Boys & Girls Club of Ohkay Owingeh in New Mexico, and Heather Peterson of the Boys & Girls Club of Lac Courte Oreilles in Wisconsin. Program staff member Jennalee Somes of the Boys & Girls Club of Bay Mills in Michigan, was also present to speak on the impact of these intervention initiatives at her Club.

Generation Indigenous Youth Resiliency Panel Series

The webinar began with an overview of Boys & Girls Clubs on Native Lands and their partnership with IHS led by the BGCA Native Services Vice President, Carla Knapp. Carla proudly explained that the BGCA is the largest Native youth serving organization and works with more than 86,000 Native youth across 100 different American Indian, Alaska Native, American Samoan, and Hawaiian communities. 

Carla went on to note that Native youth have benefitted from the partnership with IHS through a combination of the powerful goals of each organization coming together to create holistic support that is culturally relevant.

First to speak from the panel was Lindsey Harris, who discussed significant program highlights from her Club that included increased youth self-awareness and mindfulness of healthy decision-making. She noted that she saw the very clear and positive change in participants’ behavior at the Club in addition to school and at home. As a supplement to their programming, the Boys & Girls Club of Chelsea took steps to ensure success of the desired outcomes. The organization added an on-site behavioral health specialist, and outlined goals that included obtaining a partnership with local law enforcement, increasing parental involvement, and providing certified Mental Health First-Aid training for all MSPI staff and supervisors.

Jay Abeyta further emphasized the significant impact of their own evidence based curriculum, the Skills Mastery and Resistance Training (S.M.A.R.T. Moves) Program. He discussed projects and initiatives youth at their Club have been able to participate in through this program, one of which included a banner-creation activity and walk-a-thon to raise awareness on National Suicide Prevention Month. He rounded out his segment of the panel by discussing the importance of community collaborations as a way forward for both youth and youth serving organizations to build capacity.

These ideas were expanded upon by Heather Peterson, who discussed critical partnerships they have been able to develop through their prevention programs, including their local I.H.S. Behavioral Health Department. Through this valuable collaboration, the Club has been able to host community forums and trainings on the topics of trauma informed care and mental health-first aid. She also explained how these programs have greatly increased family and community engagement at their Club to further reduce risk factors of substance abuse and self harm.

Finally, Jennalee Somes provided local community statistics to summarize and highlight the need for prevention programs like S.M.A.R.T. Moves and Meth SMART in her area. In the Bay Mills community, 15% of youth felt there was a lack of culturally based programming, 23% of youth felt there were disparities in youth-serving departments working together, 55% felt there was a lack of family engagement, and 21% felt there was a lack of adult supervision in the lives of their young people. All in all, “S.M.A.R.T. Moves/Meth SMART was developed to address the needs above through MSPI funding.”

For more information on the topics discussed and to access the full webinar, please click here.