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IHS Highlights the City of Gallup for their Exemplary and Innovative Project in Support of National Recovery Month

by JB Kinlacheeny, Public Health Advisor, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Branch, Indian Health Service

Editor's Note: Author JB Kinlacheeny passed away in September 2023. He is recognized for his passion and commitment to improving the lives of others. The IHS extends our condolences to all who knew and worked with our friend and colleague.

September is National Recovery Month, a time to remind us all to honor those in recovery from substance use, promote treatment and recovery practices, and express appreciation to service providers who make recovery possible. Recovery is unique to all and most importantly, recovery is possible for everyone. The Indian Health Service supports recovery systems in Indian Country and is delighted to highlight the remarkable and innovative efforts in promoting recovery in the city of Gallup, New Mexico.

The IHS Division of Behavioral Health, through the Preventing Alcohol Related Death through Social Detoxification Program, partners with the city of Gallup through a cooperative agreement. In May 2023, Gallup was awarded a second round of PARD funding to provide social detoxification services. In addition to providing detoxification services, the PARD cooperative agreement emphasizes building clinical capacity in the region and with neighboring tribes and communities to support and foster substance use disorder treatment and services upon release from the detoxification center.

The City of Gallup PARD staff – City Behavioral Health Manager Debra Martinez, Clinical Supervisor Art Romero, and Evaluation Director Sindy Bolaños-Sacoman – learned quickly of the limited behavioral health workforce in the community and launched the “Grow Our Own” pilot project in May 2022, with support from the IHS PARD funding. The pilot project is designed to build behavioral health workforce capacity and assist with educational and career goals to local members seeking behavioral health professions in all stages of their careers. The pilot project was opened to participants seeking to become certified peer support workers, licensed substance abuse associates, licensed alcohol and drug addiction counselors, and licensed professional clinical counselors in the state of New Mexico. “Grow Our Own” is for those who live, work, and study in Gallup and surrounding communities.

The project started with a panel of behavioral health providers and a career fair focused on behavioral health. The panel shared their experiences in the field and provided insight of the services they provide. Participants of the event completed applications to participate in the pilot project. The facilitators learned that most of the applicants were in recovery and had a good understanding of the issues with substance use. A total of 11 applicants were selected to participate in the pilot project. The selected participants received an orientation and submitted educational and career development plans.

“Grow Our Own” has showed promising and successful results and will be fully implemented as a program in Fiscal Year 2024. A participant of the project stated, “I received my associates in human services with a concentration in substance abuse. I am also currently in recovery with one and a half years clean. Since I just graduated, all of this is new to me so I thought this would be helpful in guiding me along the way. The program works because just today I got approval as a licensed substance abuse associate!”

The IHS highlights the city of Gallup for their exemplary and innovative work to make recovery possible for everyone by using local resources and strategies, a great example that supports National Recovery Month. To learn more about the PARD activities at the City of Gallup, please visit their website.

Debra Martinez, city of Gallup behavioral health manager, and Sindy Bolaños-Sacoman, CEO, SBS Evaluation & Program Development Specialists, contributed to the writing of this blog.

JB Kinlacheeny, Public Health Advisor, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Branch, Indian Health Service

JB Kinlacheeny, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, served as the public health advisor for the Alcohol and Substance Abuse branch in the IHS Division of Behavioral Health. Prior to federal service, he served as the behavioral health epidemiologist at the Navajo Epidemiology Center where he worked closely with federal, state, and tribal leaders by providing technical assistance for the Navajo Nation on issues related to behavioral health.