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Ft. Washakie program gets honor for substance abuse effort

Feb 9, 2012 - By Martin Reed Staff Writer

The Wind River Tribal Youth Program in Fort Washakie is the recipient of one of five national awards directed at agencies that help with substance abuse prevention.

The U.S. government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration named the tribal program as a recipient of its Voices of Prevention Award.

"We're excited, and the thing about it is it's not only opening the doors for us and helping us move forward in a good way, it's also helping open the doors for other tribes and the different work that's being done in Indian Country is being looked at," said program director Donna Trosper.

The program serving the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes since 2000 is also making history with this year's award.

"It's the first time that a Native American program has received it," said Liz Salway-LittleCreek, the agency's re-entry coordinator as well as its Reservation Against Meth program coordinator.

In the notification provided to the Wind River Tribal Youth Program, David Wilson, the Voices of Prevention director, congratulated the staff members for their recognition.

"This award recognizes excellence in the field of prevention and behavioral health. The work you have conducted with youth in your community serves as inspiration to us all," Wilson said.

Staff members -- including Trosper, Salway-LittleCreek, Telano Groesbeck, Levi Salway and George Leonard -- will attend the awards presentation with about 1,400 others Feb. 6 at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

"This is from my heart: It's good to receive this award," Salway-LittleCreek said. "It's not something that we really worked for or wanted, it's just an everyday lifestyle for us and what we do. We're honored."

While Trosper and others at the program talk about how the agency continues to improve services and help youth and adults, one reason shines for earning the award above all others.

"My staff are dedicated. They're diligent and I'm very proud of them," Trosper said. "It's been a big challenge, but the thing about it is the people that work here are motivated and dedicated people to our community.

"A lot of the time they're not getting paid for what they do, but they'll do it, and that's dedication to me," she said. "They're dedicated to making things happen for the people and our community."

Leonard, who is the agency's suicide prevention coordinator, said the staff's work is the reason for the award.

"One of the things is that, myself, I never went after the recognition," he said. "It was all about the youth."

Others can learn by example from the work the agency performs, Leonard said.

"I always say something good will come from it," he said. "The ones out there on the national level that deal with prevention, they could hear that story and have an impact on other communities nationwide."

The other employees at the agency include Gerald Gambler, Mike Brown, Gerald Redman Jr., Willard Gould and Lolita Trosper.

Donna Trosper said a reason for the award is the agency has worked to combine many services under one umbrella.

"I think it was the fact that we pooled all our resources together, not only the ones we have inside the program itself but utilizing what we already have here on the reservation to build a network and create a collaboration," she said.

The agency helps with truancy issues, helping youth before and after they get into trouble, HIV/AIDS testing and assisting individuals returning from incarceration.

"I think what they really were looking at is we pulled all these components together and pulled them under one roof," Trosper said, adding the program's model will likely replicate in Indian Country and elsewhere.

"From this award, other people are going to see what kind of work we've done and the model is going to be used nationally," he said.

"None of this would have come together without the help of Carol Justice and the mentoring of James Oldman Sr. who was our judge. He has since passed away. It was his dream to see something like this happen," Trosper said.