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Addiction recovery service uses Indigenous approach to healing

The Indigenous Wellbriety Program opened in Cortez earlier this year. The staff, from left: Indigenous Peer Recovery/Outreach Elton Beletso, Indigenous Peer Recovery Coach Frankiana Tsosie, Indigenous Peer Recovery Elder Howard Yazzie, Program Manager and Recovery Coach Imo Succo, and Young People in Recovery Coach Dante Downey. All staff are White Bison Wellbriety Certified Peer Recovery Facilitators. (Courtesy photo)
New chapter hosts free group therapy sessions at Cortez Cultural Center every week

A new support group in Cortez approaches substance abuse recovery through the perspective of Native American culture and healing practices.

The Indigenous Wellbriety Program provides a safe space for people who seek help with drug and alcohol addiction and other problems, said program manager Imo Succo.

“There is a need for an alternative treatment here where Indigenous people who are struggling can connect with their peers and see counselors who have that cultural Native background and experience,” she said.

A key component of the program are weekly talking circles where participants share their experiences in a group setting led by trained counselors.

The free “Mending Wounded Hearts” group therapy sessions are held at the Cortez Cultural Center on Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Medicine Wheel 12 Steps program begins Jan. 5, with weekly sessions held on Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Participants also can join the talking circles online. The link for the Tuesday meeting is https://ucdenver.zoom.us/j/94784129402.

For the Thursday meeting starting in January, the link is https://meet.google.com/zjb-cwqs-ahh.

Succo started the Welbriety chapter in Cortez because she saw a gap in care in the region for tribal members.

“Seeing others that look like them helps to open up about themselves, they share spiritual and cultural lifestyles unique to Indigenous people,” said Succo, a Navajo who has a master's degree in social work from University of Denver.

Social worker Imo Succo is the program manager for the Cortez Indigenous Wellbriety Program in Cortez. It offers free substance abuse recovery services. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

The team includes Indigenous peer recovery coaches Frankiana Tsosie and Elton Beletso, Indigenous Peer Recovery Elder Howard Yazzie, and Young People in Recovery Coach Dante Downey. All staff are White Bison Wellbriety Certified Peer Recovery Facilitators.

The program uses the White Bison Wellbriety model for addiction recovery which honors the role that Native American culture plays in wellness and resilience.

Indigenous Wellbriety programs are certified and managed under the Southwestern Colorado Area Health Education Center.

The local chapter was started this earlier year by Succo with funding support from Southwestern Colorado AHEC and the LOR Foundation. She said participation has been growing.

“Our purpose is to provide support for people struggling in the community,” Succo said.

The recovery services are open to anyone. Non-natives in recovery also will benefit from the spiritual Indigenous approach to healing that is less common in more conventional therapy programs, she said.

The group also leads sober activities for clients, such as an upcoming Healing Through Art event and a Zumba dance class.

The Indigenous Wellbriety Program staff and volunteers also conduct street outreach with the Sih Hasin Street Medicine team in the Cortez area since September 2022.

The street medicine team is from Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock. They have served those experiencing homelessness in the Shiprock and Farmington regions during the COVID pandemic

For more information on the Cortez chapter of the Indigenous Wellbriety Program, call Succo at 970-564-3723. Program details can be found on the program’s website.