Tribe’s new Wellness Program nets certification

SUQUAMISH — A new and impressively improved Suquamish Wellness Center program has “risen from the ashes,” tribal officials announced.

The revised program received its initial certification March 8 from the Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

In six months state officials will review the program and in all likelihood give it a permanent certification said Ken Stark, division of alcohol and substance abuse director.

The former Suquamish Wellness Program was de-certified and buried last summer. According to a Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse investigation last year, the Wellness program failed to report patient noncompliance with court ordered treatment.

Now it’s a whole different story, Stark said.

“We were pretty impressed with the commitment and the time the tribe put into this,” Stark said.

Several of the staff members have been replaced, according to Stark. The program’s director, Chuck Wagner will continue with the new program in a more administrative role.

Wagner said three of the four employees were replaced and two new staff people have been added.

“The changes to the program have only strengthened it,” he said.

The Suquamish Tribe requested technical advice from the state, Stark said, which resulted in changing policy and procedures and developed a clearer reporting system.

Tribal officials are pleased with the program’s rebirth.

“We responded to some of the concerns. We’re ready to get back to work and help people conquer alcohol and drug problems,” said Leonard Forsman, Suquamish Tribal Council Secretary.

Over the years, Forsman said he has seen the Wellness Program help a lot of people in their battle against drugs and alcohol. He had also seen it improve lives of people dealing with family and mental health issues.

As for the past program and its inconsistencies, Forsman said, “I don’t think there is a treatment facility in the state that is perfect. If you find one let me know,” he said.

According to Stark in the past 10 years fewer than five drug and alcohol treatment facilities they have contracts with have had their certifications revoked. But the dedication the tribe has shown is noteworthy Stark said.

“This tribe is committed to having a quality drug treatment program for its people,” he said.

Suquamish Tribal Executive Director Wayne George said this program is part of the tribe’s overall goal to have a clean and sober reservation.

“I think it’s going to work real well for us,” he said.

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