Chris Standingbear, Osage Nation grants manager, recently announced the Osage Nation Prevention Program is one of only 25 tribes across the U.S. selected to receive the new Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative — Generation Indigenous (Gen-I), Initiative Support Grant from the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Behavioral Health, Office of Clinical and Preventive Services. The grant award is for $295,551 and covers a one year time frame, with the opportunity to apply for three additional years of funding.

The focus of the new grant is to promote early intervention strategies and implement positive youth development programming to reduce risk factors for suicidal behavior and substance abuse. In Osage County, the statistics on these behaviors are not good. The youth suicide rate in Osage County for ages 15-24 from 2004-2013 was 42.7 percent higher than the state average. It was double the state average for 15 to 19 year olds. To reveal substance abuse data, over 1,000 Osage County public school students were surveyed by the ONPP. The team discovered the average first use of cigarettes and alcohol is the eighth grade, the average first use of marijuana is the 10th grade, and the average first abuse of prescription drugs is the 11th grade. Those are very alarming statistics when the 2010 U.S. Census reports nearly a quarter of the Osage County Native American population is comprised of youth under the age of 25.

Attention will be placed on working with Native youth up to and including age 24. Emphasis will be placed on increasing youth access to prevention activities and include opportunities to promote family engagement. Titled the Guarding Our Future Project, this program will be under the management of Anthony Shackelford, ONPP Director. It will implement evidence-based and practice-based approaches to build resiliency, promote positive development, and increase self-sufficiency behaviors among Native youth.

This project will be accomplished through a three part approach. The first part provides for two grade school prevention programs, the Too Good for Drugs, targeting grades 3-5, and the Too Good for Violence, targeting grades 6-8. The second part is aimed at high schoolers and will include several Safe Night After Prom events. These events provide a safe youth activity that is substance free so the prom experience can continue into the night in a positive and harm free environment. The third part will be the development of an ONPP Youth Leadership Development Center that will provide Osage Nation and Native American young adults with a place to gather for family oriented activities, structured activities, and fun activities of all kinds.

Work on the rollout of the Guarding Our Future Project has begun with the news of this major grant award. Tentative plans are underway for a November start for the Too Good for Drugs and Too Good for Violence programs at local schools. Planning recruitment for the SNAP events should start in October and culminate with local proms in the spring. The ONPP Youth Center also hopes to start opening every Friday in November at the ONPP location at 128 East 6th Street in Pawhuska. Contact the Osage Nation Prevention Program at 918-287-5595 for further details.