Joan Magtibay

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ryan Zinke, tribal leaders discuss solutions to Native American opioid epidemic

SCOTTSDALE – Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke on Monday met with tribal leaders to discuss possible solutions for the national opioid crisis that affects Native Americans more than any other minority, Zinke said.

Zinke met with Delbert W. Ray, president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and other Arizona tribal leaders.

“It’s an American issue across the board but it tends to hit the tribes and nations much harder for many reasons,” Zinke said at a news conference.

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Plans to end the crisis include sending first-responder tool kits directly to tribes, which are sovereign nations, rather than the state. Zinke also said a task force on the opioid crisis is being formed and will coordinate with tribal government leaders and tribal police.

“We don’t have enough law enforcement on the border and that’s really why we are bringing a task force on board,” Zinke said. “Letting the drug traffickers know we are serious is very important. We’re going to go after the drug dealers.”

Ray said tribal leaders “welcome the opportunity to be a partner in this issue that affects all of the Indian community.”

Native Americans living in rural and urban areas had significantly high rates of overdose deaths and less access to federal help than other demographics, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zinke said that the 573 Native American nations in the country each have a different cultures that requires unique solutions to the opioid crisis.

“Make sure one size doesn’t fit all,” Zinke said.

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