Day two of the Tribal Fentanyl Summit

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It’s a state of emergency in Hoopa the fentanyl crisis continues to grow and that’s why tribal leaders held a summit in Blue Lake this week.

The medication-assisted treatment program (MAT) at the K’ima:w Medical Center in Hoopa offers supportive recovery care to clients. During their presentation, they shared their strategy for helping people recover.

“We want to get them the treatment,” said Jack McNertney, the MAT supervisor and counselor at K’ima:w. “We want to get them help, whether it’s outpatient treatment with our clinic in our suboxone program or whether it’s detox and some form of inpatient treatment.”

The K’ima:w Medical Center in Hoopa keeps clients for as long as they want to stay and not a set number of days. They currently have 48 active clients and 40 of them have accomplished returning to the workforce. Which has a big impact on the Hoopa community. Their tribal council declared the fentanyl crisis is a state of emergency and they’re looking to create a tribal action plan.

“We don’t make the fentanyl in our communities, the fentanyl is brought to our community,” McNertney said. “People who are struggling with life and the ruralness of life, not having a lot of opportunities, not having proper housing property, proper heat, proper this, proper that are our easy targets.”

The event host, Judith Surber, told me that the most touching part of the summit has been listening to personal stories from people who have lost their loved ones to addiction. 

“In Hoopa, we’ve lost two people to the pandemic and during that time we shut the whole reservation down and yet we have lost 27 people in three years to fentanyl overdoses,” Surber said. “So I feel like it needs the attention to be given to it to do whatever we have to do to save lives and families at this point.”

It’s not just the tribe hit hard by this crisis. According to the Humboldt Health Department, between 2022-2023, there were 22 fentanyl-related deaths. This was the first year of the Tribal Fentanyl Summit and organizers hope to make this an annual event.