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Cherokee Nation announces proposal to use opioid settlement funds to build drug treatment facilities

The Cherokee Nation has proposed a plan to use tribal opioid settlement funds to construct drug treatment facilities for tribal citizens.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation citizens can expect construction on a new drug treatment facility to begin soon, financed by a settlement reached between Native American tribes and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and the country's three largest drug distribution companies. 

On Thursday, April 7, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner announced the plan to use the tribe’s initial opioid settlement funds to start constructing drug treatment centers for tribal citizens.

“It is altogether fitting that the same industry that inflicted so much injury and generational trauma on our Cherokee people is now paying to help build facilities that will generate hope and give our citizens a welcome space here at home to focus on healing,” Chief Hoskin said. “We will make steps in phases. We are developing long-term plans for a comprehensive behavioral health system that features in-patient and outpatient services. But, in the meantime, we need to start building facilities to provide other tiers of treatment for those dealing with addiction, such as transitional living centers.”

Chief Hoskin and Deputy Warner’s proposal is attempting to amend and strengthen the Public Health and Wellness Fund Act of 2021.

The Cherokee Nation recently finalized a $75 million settlement with opioid distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen to be paid over six years. In a separate settlement, Johnson & Johnson reached a settlement with all federally-recognized tribes for $150 million with the Cherokee Nation estimating receiving $18 million over two years.  

The proposed law would set aside $15 million of the initial opioid settlement over the next three years to help construct drug treatment facilities. The tribe says it is evaluating uses for the remaining opioid settlement funds, which will likely be used for additional behavioral health capital projects.

“Good health for our Cherokee people means having good mental health just as it does physical health,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “I’m confident strong investments in both areas will have lasting impacts in not only increased physical health but also help us reverse the damage done by the opioid industry which preyed on our citizens.”

Former Cherokee Councilman Canaan Duncan leads the Wellness Task Force which will make recommendations for other physical wellness programs and services across the reservation.

If the amended Public Health and Wellness Fund Act is approved by the Council of the Cherokee Nation, the tribe’s Health Services Department will evaluate potential sites for construction with the location and number of facilities to then be determined.

The proposed legislation goes before the Council’s Health Committee on April 11 and could be approved by the full Council later that day. 

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