MILLINOCKET — Maine’s tribal leaders are celebrating the launch of the Wabanaki Healing and Recovery Center.
“This is something i have dreamed about,” said Chierf Clarissa Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseets.
Sabattis said COVID-19 threw a wrinkle into their plans but the time has finally come.
“With the opioid epidemic and the issues with behavioral health, those things have been magnified because of COVID-19,” Sabattis said.
She said their recovery and wellness center will place an emphasis on culture.
“It encompasses the sacred fire you see today. The ability to have sweat lodges or talking circles,” she said.
Other tribal leaders said having a central location was a vision they all shared
“Tribal chiefs came together about a decade ago to have a conversation about healing and recovering services,” said Wabanaki Public Health Director Lisa Sockabasin. “We do not have culturally centered recovery services available to us.”
Passamaquoddy Chief Elizabeth Dana said the program is needed.
“We have a lot of addictions. A lot of problems that come from that,” she said. “And now our people or all the tribes have a place to come.”
Paul Jacobson, acting regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the plan has been in the works since 2010.
He said it’s something he and his team are happy to be a part of.
“After meeting the tribal chiefs and the Wwabanaki group I felt like they can’t adopt me, I‘m too old, but I really wanted to be a part of this,” he said.
In addition to recovery and wellness center, there will be a residential center for women, a center for men, and a mobile food pantry.
The ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for september.