Monday, April 08, 2013

Hale speaks to Native American leaders about youth drug abuse

Hale speaks to Native American leaders about youth drug abuse
         
PALA, Calif. Arizona Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), shared stunning statistics on youth drug use with a crowd of Native American leaders and community members at the annual Native American Youth Forum on April 5 at the Pala Casino and Resort in Pala, California. 

This gathering is the first of its kind asking Native American leaders to focus on drug abuse in Indian Country. Leading the group with his call to action, Hale announced that native youth have the highest percentage of illicit drug abuse, which leads to other crimes and dysfunction in the community.

“I am deeply concerned about all the youth incarcerated in the federal system, 79 percent are Native American. This is unacceptable. We must act and do something to stop this now,” Hale said.   

“Our children deserve more.  They are not a promise in a campaign; they are our priority. We must include them in the conversation and show them that we love them and hold ourselves accountable for their future,” Hale said. 

Hale addressed the challenges found in most Native lands such as high poverty, low employment, high dropout rates, and lack of infrastructure.

“When our kids come home after school, what is there for them to do? We don’t have youth centers, we don’t have basketball courts, we don’t have libraries – we have little to offer them.  So what do they turn to? They turn to drugs and gang activity. We know this. We are responsible to do something about it now,” Hale said.

The Native Youth Forum featured additional guest speakers from Arizona including Bernadine Boyd Burnette, vice president, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation; Mary Thomas, former governor of the Gila River Community; Dr. John Molina, Phoenix Indian Medical Center; and former Arizona State Attorney General Terry Goddard.  All shared statistics and concerns about the youth they serve.

The event was hosted by Loretta Avent, former deputy assistant to President Clinton for intergovernmental affairs, White House liaison to Indian Country and liaison to First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton’s Office. Avent said she decided to collaborate with Millennium Laboratories, based in San Diego, to bring Native American Youth Drug Education for a Community Response to tribal leaders. 

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