Congresswoman Kristi Noem spent a day on Pine Ridge listening to the concerns of Lakota youth who are dealing with the tribes suicide epidemic. Twelve Pine Ridge students have committed suicide this year.
Tribal officials are concerned that one key effort in combating suicide, The Sweet Grass Program, is about to run out of funding.
Tribal leaders praise Noem for her efforts to help the youth of Pine Ridge, but they say more much needs to be done.
Congresswoman Kristi Noem says the meetings on Pine Ridge can help inform legislation in congress. She also believes the Sweet Grass Program has been highly successful and needs funding.
“That’s a program they’ve used to give hope to suicidal students and youth and turn their lives around. The fact that that’s ending here in December means that we’ve got to get busy to figure out how to extend that program and keep their funds flowing,” says Noem.
Noem brought Congressman Timothy Murphy of Pennsylvania with her. Murphy is a psychologist who serves veterans at Walter Reed Military Hospital. He’s also a prime sponsor of a new Mental Health bill.
Tiny Decory is among those who met with Murphy and Noem. She is one of the youth advocates leading the effort to reduce suicide. She says despite the difficult work ahead, there is hope. Decory praises Noem for coming to hear the concerns of youth first hand.
“She was here not long ago and now she’s come back. And the kids say the same thing, you know, she’s here, maybe she’s willing to listen to us. Maybe something is going to come out. Before that our kids said why do we need to go back and get emotional and tell them our stories when nothing is going to get done,” says Decory.
Tribal leaders stress the need for a treatment facility on Pine Ridge that can provide culturally appropriate care to young people in need. They say right now there are no mental health crisis centers on Pine Ridge and a trip to the nearest facility in Rapid City can overwhelm a family’s resources.