While we’ve made great progress as a society, race, ethnicity and cultural issues still need special attention to ensure we are on a path of constant progression. A new program aimed at offering mental health services for young persona with Native American or Alaskan Native heritage.

http://tinyurl.com/93ac8ayThe Kelso School District will pilot this program starting in the fall of 2013, said Chris Lange, mental health counselor with Cowlitz Tribal Health Services.

The program has also been extended to the Longview and Toledo school districts, but is awaiting a memorandum of agreement in both districts, Lange said.

“We also will be working on getting a memorandum of agreement with most or all of the school districts in Clark, Cowlitz and Lewis counties,” Lange said, adding that he hopes to have this accomplished before school begins.

Kelso, which has a strong Indian education program, has agreed to provide a place to counsel students and offer referrals, he said.

Lange and Kara Frizzell have modeled their program on one that has been running about three years in the Seattle area. The local effort is paid for through a grant from the Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative, but “once the grant goes away, we will not cut the program” due to its importance, Lange said.

The difference between traditional counseling and the type Tribal Health will offer is that theirs is culturally based, Lange said. The tribal culture of the student will be “a big part of their treatment,” even for those who have not been raised to know their own heritage and traditions.

“This ties in a lot to suicide prevention,” he said. Research shows that being “tied to something, such as a tribe, is a great preventer of suicide.”

Lange and Frizzell will offer therapy for individuals, groups and families; art and outdoor therapy; parenting classes, home-based services, trauma and grief counseling and medication management. In addition to schools, sessions may be held at the Cowlitz Tribal Services Center on Fir Street in Longview or even outdoors.

He described a hike with 7- to 12-year-olds when “a fawn came up on our path.” The children crouched down and the fawn came right up to them, he said.

“These are things that we can bring back with us from that journey so they can talk about the peace that they felt when the fawn came toward us,” he said. “If they’re struggling with a difficult time at home, they can go back to that time and it eventually will bring a lot of peace.”

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