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Fond du Lac group continues to take action on drug use

Cousins, Brenda Diver (from left), Ashley Diver, and John Diver are members of the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are with Natives Against Heroin. The group holds these signs to inform occupants of known drug houses to offer support and to inform the residents that resources that are available to them. Clint Austin / Forum News Serice1 / 2
John Diver amember of the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa displays this Natives Against Heroin emblem on the back window of his car. Clint Austin / Forum News Service2 / 2

FOND DU LAC RESERVATION, Minn. — A group of people on the Fond du Lac Reservation are informing the occupants of "known drug houses" about available resources, and say they've had some success since they began the activity in October.

A few individuals have reached out for help obtaining a Rule 25 assessment, which is completed by a social worker to determine whether a person qualifies for government assistance to pay for chemical dependency treatment. The Tagwii Recovery Center in Cloquet has scheduled a day for people to do walk-in assessments, said Ashley Diver, one of the organizers.

"But we're struggling with the process to get them into treatment. That's a barrier that we face because there's not a safe house for them to go to, so we're really struggling with keeping them safe and in contact with where they get the Rule 25 done," she said. "It's good that people are actually reaching out and accepting the help when we go out there."

Diver said it can take several weeks for someone to get a spot in a treatment program and they need a safe place in the meantime.

"Throughout this whole process, I'm just bringing awareness to speed the process up to actually get a safe house. That's why I'm doing it, because it's opening the eyes of the higher-ups, like there's actually people that want help," she said. "What can we do for these people that are coming off of the streets, to get them somewhere safe before they go to treatment?"

Fond du Lac Band Chairman Kevin Dupuis didn't return requests for comment.

A group of people began in October traveling to homes on the reservation, where they put tobacco down in prayer and beat drums. They hold signs offering support to the occupants, and use a megaphone to tell anyone inside the home that they're not alone and they are loved. They leave pamphlets for Fond du Lac Human Services and Northern Lights Area Narcotics Anonymous at each house.

The group began the activity, with the help of Natives Against Heroin, after watching videos of similar actions on the Mille Lacs and White Earth reservations.

Diver has also started a new local chapter of Natives Against Heroin and she'd like for more people to become involved in it.

"I had a few people come up to me and tell me that they weren't comfortable going out to the houses. I was like, everybody in the community can play a role in the Natives Against Heroin chapter up here, whether it be the advertising or getting a fundraiser started," she said.

She said they hope to continue visiting homes in the future to encourage people to seek treatment. The group visited houses several times in November and also on days when Fond du Lac enrolled members receive their per capita distributions from the band.

They're not trying to stop people from getting their distribution, but are instead "trying to redirect them to spend their money in a better way," Diver said. She added that she helped a woman get away from a situation where she was going to spend her distribution on drugs.

"We also offer them sage if they want it. A few people had asked me to smudge with them and I did. We just hold conversations with them to see how they're doing," she said.

In addition to visiting the homes, Diver has also been distributing Narcan, a drug that counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose, and telling people how to use it. Handing out the Narcan kits is something that Diver began doing after she was given kits at the Tribal Opioid Summit in Mahnomen, Minn.

"One of the houses that we went to, one of the guys actually reached out and said that he had four people that he had to give Narcan to. I asked him if he needed more and he was like, 'Yes, please.' It kind of sucks," she said.

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