Principle 4

Sustain and enhance substance use services for youth.

Indigenous youth deserve access to high-quality, accurate information about substance use that is strengths-based rather than fear-based, and reflective of their lived experiences. Indigenous youth experience higher rates of substance use than their non-Indigenous peers (SAMHSA, 2018). This calls for spending settlement funds on enhanced education, services, treatment, harm reduction, prevention, and supports made specifically for and by Indigenous youth. Abstinence-only messaging has historically been the primary content of substance use education for youth, though it is shown to be less effective than education that meets the lived realities of youth (Slemon et al., 2019). To create effective resources, youth perspectives need to be included within the work, and it is vital to invite Indigenous youth to the table when revising, creating and launching Indigenous youth-specific resources on substance use.

How can tribes adopt this principle?

1. Support creation and funding of culture-based youth programming.

To support substance use services for youth, tribal communities can create, support and enhance youth-centered cultural and traditional activities, which can include activities such as coming of age ceremonies, culturally-based youth programming (hunting, fishing, having conversations, teaching traditional language, etc.) and hosting culture camps, where youth can participate in these cultural activities.

2. Provide education, workshops and resources on youth substance use created specifically for AI/AN youth.

Youth need services that meet them where they are at, that allow for conversations about and tools for opioid prevention, harm reduction and treatment. The following list of youth-centered prevention, education, and treatment programs are examples to consider for creating or supplementing youth-specific programming in your community.

3. Offer youth-focused mental health services and programming.

Mental health, spiritual and emotional support for youth are a vital part of supporting Indigenous youth, especially for those who use substances. A great example of this work is the Two Feathers Native American Family Services: A.C.O.R.N program. This program provides opportunities for Native American youth to learn about “cultural values and how they apply physically, mentally, spiritually, and culturally throughout our everyday lives”.