California Tribe Combatting Opioid Crisis With Casino Donation

Posted on: August 25, 2023, 10:39h. 

Last updated on: August 27, 2023, 11:38h.

A California tribe is helping combat the ongoing opioid crisis that’s impacting natives at higher rates than the general public by donating funds generated by its casino resort located north of Fresno.

California tribe opioid crisis fentanyl
A sign on the Oneida Nation reservation issues an appeal to end opioid addiction in Native communities. A California tribe is helping the cause by donating money for law enforcement to acquire additional dog-sniffing canines. (Image: US Department of the Interior)

The Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians tells that it recently donated $36K to the Fresno Police Chiefs Foundation to purchase several K-9s specialized in fentanyl detection. The drug-sniffing canines will join the Fentanyl Overdose Resolution Team, a coalition backed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, US Attorney’s Office, Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, Fresno Police Department, and Clovis Police Department.

Fentanyl is killing people around the world and in our communities, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting that native communities had the highest drug overdose death rates in 2020 and 2021,” said Laurie Arriaga, vice chairperson of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians. “This type of program will save thousands of lives, but we also need to work together to continue to implement other impactful initiatives to combat this epidemic.”

The CDC says more than 107K people died last year as a result of a drug overdose. Of those deaths, more than two-thirds (68%) involved synthetic opioids other than methadone, with “illicitly manufactured fentanyl” the greatest culprit.

California Crisis

Nearly every state in the US is battling the opioid crisis, with much of the illicitly manufactured synthetics flowing into the country via the southern border.

In 2021, the CDC’s most recent state-by-state breakdown of drug overdose deaths, California topped the country with the most drug overdose deaths at 10,901. In terms of deaths per 100K residents, West Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Delaware are the top five.

West Virginia in 2021 reported 91 drug overdose deaths per 100K residents, far above Tennessee at a distant second at 57 drug deaths per 100K residents.

Black market opioids continue to drain society, and the issue is only getting worse in many states.

In California, opioid-related deaths are up 131% from 2019. Tribal officials with the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians say Native Americans are among the most impacted populations by the drug crisis.

“Public education campaigns are crucial in raising awareness about the risks of opioid misuse, signs of overdose, and the proper use of naloxone. As a tribe, we are dedicated to reducing stigma, increasing knowledge, and encouraging people to seek help for themselves and their loved ones,” said Arriaga.

Arriaga’s tribe owns and operates the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, which is the tribe’s primary economic engine. The 73,000-square-foot casino is equipped with 2,000 slot machines and 40 table games. The casino hotel offers more than 400 guestrooms.

Opioid Disorder Program

The National Institutes of Health is currently conducting research to develop intervention and support programs that will serve American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

We need a more holistic view that goes beyond a person’s biology. We must integrate culture, societal factors, and even spirituality, when appropriate, into mainstream medical institutions and education,” said Kamilla Venner, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Mexico and a member of the Ahtna Athabascan Tribe.

An 18-member collaborative board of tribal leaders and elders, opioid disorder treatment providers in tribal communities, and drug researchers oversee the NIH program.