A sign at the entrance to the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin. Photo: Royalbroil
Health | National

Bad River Band declares 'emergency' to address substance abuse on reservation

The Bad River Band has declared a state of emergency in response to substance abuse on the tribe's reservation in northern Wisconsin.

According to Chairperson Robert Blanchard, the tribe has seen a rise in opioid, heroin and methamphetamine addiction. Impacts are being seen in child welfare, the criminal justice system, education and even in housing.

“This is a public health emergency,” Blanchard said on Tuesday. “Our communities need the resources necessary to address drug addiction. The tribal leaders communication and designating state of emergency will help make that possible.”

In hopes of addressing the problem, the tribal council passed a resolution on November 1 that establishes a task force consisting of health, social services, law enforcement and other officials. They will work together to establish "comprehensive, coordinated strategy to respond to the opiate abuse and other illegal drugs," the document reads.

Additionally, the tribe is calling for assistance from state and federal agencies. And the tribe might even consider going after pharmaceutical companies, an option being pursued by a number of states as well as the Cherokee Nation.

At Bad River, the tribal housing department has had to evict a number of residents for violating methamphetamine laws. Homes that were vacated tested positive for meth, executive director Robert Houle said, resulting in unanticipated costs to make them livable again.

“This process not only costs housing extra unplanned dollars (thousands of dollars per home) for this remediation clean-up but results in families who are displaced and the impact this has on children and elders is especially difficult to grasp," Houle said.

In testimony to Congress in May, Blanchard said 9 homes at the time tested positive for meth while another 5 were still being tested. The housing department spent $60,000 to clean up the contaminated houses, he said.