Since opening in 1989, the Sitka-based Raven's Way (Yéil Jeewáx) youth substance abuse treatment program has become a model for similar programs on a national and international level because of its integrated treatment of co-occurring disorders. By diagnosing and treating these co-occuring disorders, Raven's Way now has one of the highest success rates of any adolescent treatment program in the Indian Health Service system.
During the 2005-06 fiscal year, 57 percent of Raven's Way students were diagnosed with some type of mental health issue in addition to their primary substance abuse problems. A majority of these students also have histories of abuse and neglect, which can lead to substance abuse or other issues such as sleep disorders, relationship problems, anger and depression. Substance abuse often masks and compounds these underlying mental health issues.
On arrival at Raven's Way, each student undergoes a comprehensive assessment to identify substance abuse, mental health issues, physical and educational needs, goals and interventions. The assessments are done by licensed medical and behavioral health providers, certified substance abuse counselors and a certified teacher, who work together to create individualized treatment plans for each student's unique needs.
Some of the specific co-occurring disorders Raven's Way treats include attention deficit disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, and traumatic brain injury and fetal alcohol effects. SEARHC psychiatric staff are available to provide counseling and any needed medications for those students with co-occurring disorders.
Raven's Way uses a holistic treatment approach that works on the body, mind, emotions and spirit. This approach works well with co-occurring disorders, and includes healthy food, daily exercise, physical challenges and regular sleep; teaching group social and living skills in a small family style setting; group and individual counseling; talking circles and sweat lodges; journaling and the sharing of life stories; and chances to develop leadership skills. These methods help the students develop the coping skills and positive self-image they will need for life after they complete treatment.