Traditional medicine and self-determination in resolving mental health problems among southwest Oregon native Americans Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/736668865

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  • Native Americans in southwest Oregon are a heterogenous group comprising one-quarter of the state's total Indian population. Despite their notable size, Native Americans in this six county area are either ineligible for, or inaccessible to, federally sponsored Indian health facilities available to Native peoples elsewhere. Research was conducted over an eight month period to determine the prevalence of Native American mental health problems, rates of service utilization, and cultural appropriateness of available services. For thesis study, inquiries focused on use of traditional medicine and Indian providers as viable alternatives to the established non-Indian mental health system. Under the supervision of the Southwest Oregon Indian Health Project, interviews were held with service providers, clients, and members of local Indian populations. Results show that southwest Oregon Native Americans underutilize county mental health facilities due to real and/or perceived barriers to treatment. Among these are cultural barriers in which non-Indian therapists do not, or are unable to, respond appropriately to tradition-oriented Indian clients. An exception is the alcohol programs which Native Americans use more often. It is clear that participation in these programs is greater due to the higher prevalence of alcohol problems, increased cultural sensitivity among staff, and differing attitudes toward being alcoholic as opposed to "crazy". Three Indian-specific alcohol programs within or adjacent to the service area are particularly attractive to Native American clients. Native peoples frequently expressed interests in developing their own programs, accessing traditional medicine people, and having more input within the existing county system. Indian alcohol programs have become a rallying place for Indian self-determination in mental health care because they adhere to Native beliefs and values, and are refuges for traditionally- oriented providers and clients. Unfortunately, their existence is tenuously linked to non-Indian funding sources and regulations -- a situation difficult to improve from either side. Research conclusions indicate that Native American mental health treatment is in a transitional period. A resurgence of interest in the use of traditional medicine has been part of the transition. Improved legislation for Indian health care and religious freedom have contributed to the articulation and organization of Native American concerns. Answers to self-determination in southwest Oregon Native American mental health care will become more evident as Pan- Indian issues are resolved and communities develop better communications and referral networks with local Indian populations. Infringing economic constraints can be alleviated if community treatment facilities use more sensitive, personalized outreach to Native Americans in their areas, and if they allow them greater control in determining traditional treatment alternatives.
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