Osage Nation officials and health professionals commemorated the start of building a new Counseling Center Complex, including transitional living facilities to serve individuals in need of substance use, counseling and mental health treatments.
Located west of downtown Pawhuska, the forthcoming Counseling Center Complex will include new Primary Residential Treatment (PRT) facilities to treat both adults and adolescents. On April 5, ON government officials, as well as Counseling Center employees and health board officials attended a groundbreaking commemoration at the site located on Nation-owned property north of the Elks Lodge and U.S. 60.
“The new ONCC complex will provide the space necessary to further expand behavioral health and substance use services for those who need it,” said Stacy Lookout, director of the Counseling Center and PRT operations. Construction on the complex is anticipated to take more than a year with a late summer 2024 opening, she said.
Lookout read a history of the Nation’s counseling services with increases in client care through the years and said the higher number of clients will benefit from the expanded service and residential treatment facilities.
“It was originally called TASC (Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime) in 1995 and it was completely treating substance use disorders and the associated problems with that as far as case management,” Lookout said. “But in 2000, Osage Nation brought PRT, which is our Primary Residential Treatment Center and that really was a game changer, that was the first we were able to offer residential treatment in Osage County. Then fast-forward, we expanded our services, we were able to offer mental health services as well.”
In the first year of expanded services, Lookout said “we serviced 50 clients in our outpatient facility, 50 clients with a range of issues and we had 39 clients in our (PRT) and there were 10 Osages out of that. Fast-forward to 2022, our outpatient clinic has over 300 clients now. We did our averages recently and that totals 4,490 sessions that we did in 2022 – and that is face-to-face and telehealth – so we were able to offer more expansive services through our telehealth. We discovered that through this (COVID-19) pandemic and that was instrumental in being able to maintain contact with people who need it the most.”
“In 2022, PRT saw 71 men and women (clients) and 15 of those were Osages,” Lookout said. “For the past year, we have wait lists for people trying to get in for services … Being able to offer more beds in a state-of-the-art facility is amazing … Our residential services are available for any member of any federally recognized tribe from anywhere. PRT is a 60-day residential program that focuses on relapse prevention, anger management, mental health and trauma, (services) with an emphasis on culture … As I say that, connecting to one’s culture is so important and for us, we believe that’s where we get our strength from.”
According to the Nation, the Counseling Center project includes new access roads with approximately 22,500 square feet of building-related infrastructure. Lookout said the Counseling Center complex will include:
- Women’s PRT- 12 women (capacity) with one ADA-compliant room
- Men’s PRT- 12 men with one ADA-compliant room
- Adolescent PRT- eight females and eight males, which will have a school room to continue education while in treatment.
- Administrative Outpatient Office: Twenty offices and a large conference room for outpatient appointments, case management, peer recovery support, and group counseling. There will also be a medical suite for medication management available to both residential and outpatient clients.
- Transitional Living- six women and six men. The role of transitional living is to act as a step-down from residential treatment. The clients will be able to work and attend outside meetings while maintaining the supportive net of ONCC.
At the event, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear acknowledged members of the ON Congress in attendance who passed two appropriation bills to fund the ONCC project with American Rescue Plan Act funding. A former Congressman, Standing Bear noted it takes two-thirds of the 12-member Congress to pass legislation and saw at least two-thirds of sitting Congress members who passed the Counseling Center project bills with unanimous votes.
“That tells me you could do about anything with our legislature, the Chief’s office, all of us are united supporting this important work that you’re doing,” Standing Bear told the health officials, including Counseling Center staff. “The health issues we go through, diet issues, alcohol, all the issues, diabetes, everything, we don’t understand it all … You’re taking care of us; you’re taking care of those of us in need and there’s a great amount of trust that we’re putting into you and you’ve earned it … We’re glad to support you and this building.”
Congresswoman Jodie Revard, who sponsored appropriation legislation for the project also spoke and acknowledged current and former legislators who signed on as co-sponsors. She recalled meetings held at the time to decide on various projects funded with ARPA money “and this is the result of both branches working together to prioritize the needs of our people that are laid out in our strategic plan and our Constitution, most importantly.”
“The reason I chose to sponsor this was that we all know this is a need and everybody here has either been affected by mental health, addiction either with yourself, family member, a colleague, a friend, but within our community, and Indian Country alike, when we see someone suffering, it hits home, right? Because we know that person, we see that struggle within their family, we’re reacting to something that affects our community,” Revard said.
“We’re taking action by trying to address issues six generations ahead of us. And if it weren’t for this (PRT) program, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” Revard said. “It’s (also) personal because this disease is about life or death … I want to give that back and I’m standing here and chose to speak not for me … it’s to speak for those who can’t speak right now … This is just the beginning and I’m so excited and happy we chose to prioritize our dollars to address a need right in front of us.”
Cindra Shangreau, Chairwoman of the Si-Si A-Pe-Txa Board (Health Authority Board), said the ONCC project is important because “substance abuse, mental health disorders and suicide are disproportionately higher in Native Americans than the rest of the U.S. population and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic only exasperated these problems for our people. This project has been faced with some major opposition with a lack of land to build, increasing building costs due to economic inflation … However, our Chief, our Congress have never abandoned hope and our leadership has retained their focus and resources in this vision. They have worked seamlessly with the health board to ensure this project came to fruition.”
Shangreau also applauded Lookout’s involvement with the project. “She has spent countless hours working not only with the architects and engineers of this project, but the City Council and state officials. Mrs. Lookout attends all of our board meetings and keeps us informed. Mrs. Lookout: Your efforts to see this project become a reality have been invaluable to the Osage Nation, our health system and to the Osage and Native American communities that we serve.”
In her remarks, Lookout thanked the elected officials for their work, as well as her department staff and acknowledged the late Dr. Ron Shaw who was the Wahzhazhe Health Center’s first CEO and passed away in 2021. “This was a dream that he shared and we talked heavily about it as well about what it could be and where could it go. And if he were here today, he would be so proud,” Lookout said.
“We have some amazing people on our team, they’re all experts in their field and professionals and we have expanded services to offer,” Lookout said. “And finally, I want to thank our clients – past, present and future – for trusting us with your care. We don’t have a treatment center if we don’t have people that trust us enough to come see us and let us help you.”
As the ONCC project progresses, Lookout shared a list of current Counseling Center services offered (adults and children ages 3+) through individual counseling, group counseling and telehealth services including:
- Mental Health
- Substance Use
- Relapse Prevention
- Anger Management
- Peer Recovery Support
- Case Management
- Children/Teen Services
- LGBTQ+ Services
- Drug Court
- Drug and Alcohol Assessments
For more information about the ON Counseling Center, visit: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/services/counseling-center