Addressing Leadership Needs for American Indian and Alaska Native Behavioral Health Workers

January 19, 2016

Lena Thompson, MPH
Research Support Coordinator
National American Indian & Alaska Native ATTC

Behavioral health disorders are highly prevalent in many American Indian and Alaska Native communities, both urban and tribal.

Combined 2003 to 2011 data indicate that American Indians or Alaska Natives are more likely than persons from other racial ethnic groups to have needed treatment for alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year (17.5 vs. 9.3 percent).  
     Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (November 2012). The NSDUH Report: Need for and Receipt of Substance Use Treatment among American Indians or Alaska Natives.  

Treatment approaches need to consider American Indian and Alaska Native cultures and healing practices, as well as the generational and historical trauma that affects native communities. In addition, the changing health care system in the US requires health care that health care leaders acquire additional knowledge and enhanced leadership skills to navigate both public and private funding opportunities, as well as administer a complex behavioral health agencies.

To address the need for culturally informed leadership development for American Indian and Alaska Native behavioral health providers, who can navigate the rapidly changing health care environment the National American Indian and Alaska Native ATTC offers the American Indian and Alaska Native Leadership Academy. This leadership program is based on the ATTC Network Leadership Institute Model that was offered annually between 2004 and 2011. The curriculum has been culturally adapted for American Indian and Alaska Native needs for leadership development.

A mentorship programEach year, mentees are selected through an application process and paired with mentors. This year’s cohort is made up of 10 mentees and 9 mentors. Mentees complete a personal assessment before the first face-to-face meeting where they learn about their leadership strengths. The group met on the Meskwaki settlement in August 2015 for a five-day immersion training.

Since then, mentees and mentors have met for three face-to-face meetings. Mentees have had frequent contact with their mentors, participated in monthly webinars and conference calls, developed personal leadership plans and a leadership project in collaboration with their mentors.

The group will meet again this week (January 21-22) for Enhancement Training on Miccosukee Tribal Land in Florida. Mentees will present their projects and receive feedback from the group of mentors. Special guest Dr. Clyde McCoy (Cherokee) will present “Bitter Tears,” a Native American history presented through a musical drama. 

Watch the ATTC/NIATx Service Improvement Blog for a follow-up post featuring stories from the American Indian and Alaska Native Leadership Academy attendees. 

Related resources: 

2015 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize Winners
Waaswaagabubg Anishinaabeg Lac de Flambeau Tribe, Wisconsin 

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