“Liitfik – A place to come to your senses, a place of learning, and a sobering place”
The need for the Liitfik Wellness Center: Alcohol abuse is one of the biggest problems in the region, with the current solution involving taking intoxicated people to the emergency room at the hospital or Anvil Mountain Correctional Center, which is very expensive. The Liitfik Center aims to offer more resources and options to address the issue of substance abuse. According to the Wellness Center director, Marie Nelson, that involves a myriad of services, not only substance use treatment, but also anger management and trauma groups. A Cultural Committee made up of elders from many communities in the region guides Behavioral Health Services staff to offer these services in a culturally competent manner.
In order to create these traditionally-based substance use and mental health treatment services, the Cultural Committee interviewed elders about their thoughts on how the Liitfik sobering and treatment center should be setup. Through combined efforts between Norton Sound Health Corporation, BHS, Village-based counselors, and the Cultural Committee, a collection of interviews with regional elders was compiled and published a few years ago.
Here are few of the statements from a group of about 20 elders:
One elder believes having a sobering center in Nome is a good move. As this elder put it, “when people are ready to change their lives, they need that help now…” Yet others argued a sobering center could be more effective in one of the villages due to things like the availability of drugs and alcohol in Nome. Others think Nome is ideal; “It’s a good idea. Local communities don’t have the resources for help, other than giving ideas to stop drinking.” As a hub, Nome is a good place to serve people in the region.
It is the goal of the Wellness center, and the services it provides, to include cultural and traditional values. “It can be well organized with professional and paraprofessional and elders alike to be of service there.” All 19 elders interviewed agreed subsistence activities should be some sort of incorporated aspect of treatment. One elder said, “we need to know how to gather and put food away. It’s a way of life here. So if people don’t know how to do it, they lose part of their life.” Another felt using subsistence as a part of healing would be “our biggest tool to help people.”
As construction moves forward on the Liitfik Wellness Center, with the anticipated completion still being the Fall of 2020, the elders from the region spoke out as one in agreement that there is a great need for Liitfik. Already, elders assist in BHS substance use group sessions, and tribal healers are being implemented into a Trauma group.
In addition to the Center, a Day Shelter with a lease through 2050, will be initially remodeled to supplement NEST at night for the homeless. Ideally, later it may provide a housing option when the Patient Hostel is full which would allow those in need to remain in Nome while they undergo intensive Day Treatment at the Liitfik Center, rather than going away from the region into an inpatient facility.
As some of the elders say, the Liitfik sobering and treatment center could mean more people find sobriety, which translates to a second chance at a whole life.
“Sobriety means health, wholeness in life, family coming back together, picking up broken pieces.”