The Sweet Grass Project is a three year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration with the focus to develop and implement suicide prevention through community awareness and support and also to help strengthen resources for early identification of at risk youth.
At the re-orientation Lisa Dillon, OST health administrator and Anne Eagle Bull, assistant director presented the historical accounts of the need for a suicide awareness project. Several years ago, a committed group of tribal members met and worked together to achieve two grants. The first proposal was to Shakopee for $50,000, which was granted and the second proposal to SAMHSA was awarded to the tribe for $500,000 for three years. Dillon said the name 'Sweet Grass' came from Jess Taken Alive, Hunkpapa Lakota, "who said the answers for our youth are amongst us within our culture. Understanding the use of sweet grass with prayer alone could save a youth, by teaching them to acknowledge oneself and the world we are in through prayer." In a survey, youth identified the need of better parenting and a desire for more spirituality in their lives.
In the three days of sessions, the staff and volunteers developed strategies to strengthen the project's goals and they also heard presentations from a cultural view point from Ethleen and Rick Two Dogs who presented a Lakota Mental Health model, Leonard Little Finger on Connecting the Whole Spiritual Belief, Sam Moves Camp on discipline through sun dance and learning from research and Philomene Lakota on Lakota traditional roles.
The project has enlisted more 75 volunteers and has provided training in various prevention models which include Question, Persuade, Refer prevention, Yellow Ribbon training and the Lakota Health Model. Several of the staff are certified to give training in QPR and the Yellow Ribbon and have been making presentations to youth program, schools and community organizations.
Carol O'Rourke, acting director of the project, said, "The project has been working to promote educational awareness out in the 56 communities on the reservation." One of the goals of the project is identify four to five committed volunteers per community that can be trained in suicide awareness and prevention methods.
Other project goals is to improve the reporting of suicide attempts, strengthen the processes for referral and follow-up suicide attempts, increase teachers and professionals and social workers in early identification and response and provide training to schools and the college. O'Rourke encourages schools, organizations and communities to call the project to set up training.
The project also has a weekly radio show is held Tuesdays at 10 a.m. on KILI radio of Porcupine. Two suicide hotlines were established including the Native Youth Crisis Hotline (877) 209-1266 and The Sweetgrass Project Tribal Suicide Hotline 605-867-HOPE.