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Oshki Manidoo now accepting youth referrals

Jill Hewitt, director of the White Earth Oshki Manidoo "New Spirit" Center in Bemidji, stands near the center's entrance. The center is now licensed and accepting youth referrals. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The White Earth Oshki Manidoo "New Spirit" Center in Bemidji is now licensed and accepting youth referrals.

Director Jill Hewitt said the center plans to take youth on or around Monday.

As of Dec. 19, Oshki Manidoo is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services as a children's residential facility with a chemical dependency certification. Substance use disorders will be the primary need of the youth at Oshki Manidoo.

The White Earth Nation acquired the former Episcopal Community Services Gilfillan Center on 15th Street Northwest last summer as the site for Oshki Manidoo. The tribe bought the 40-acre campus that includes five lodges, basketball courts, a sweat lodge and a lighted ski trail for $5.6 million, in part with money from the state Legislature with matching funds from the Mdewakanton Sioux and additional donations.

"We're a holistic healing center for youth," Hewitt said.

She said Oshki Manidoo will have culturally specific services for American Indian youth. However, it also will welcome non-native youth who can benefit from its services.

Oshki Manidoo is licensed to serve 30 males and females ages 10-18. While the center will serve youth from across the United States and Canadian territories, it will focus on local communities, Hewitt said.

The center is working with the Bemidji School District to provide educational services.

Oshki Manidoo's clinical staff includes licensed alcohol and drug counselors, licensed mental health professionals, a registered nurse and staff knowledgeable in the Anishinaabe culture.

"We have great, great qualified staff," said Hewitt, noting that staff members are positive thinkers and committed to the mission of the center.

Hewitt said one unique aspect of Oshki Manidoo is that the cultural foundation is the basis for treatment and the clinical staff is culturally sensitive to the needs of American Indian youth.

Many youth have lost their identity as native people, Hewitt said. The center, she said, will help them find that identity with the assistance of elders and communities.

Hewitt added that there has been an overrepresentation of native youth in the correctional system, and the center's holistic healing approach is a positive healing alternative to it.

"Hopefully, we can get to youth sooner before they get too deep in the correctional system," she said.

As the center prepares to open its doors to youth, it's also preparing for the future.

Hewitt said the center would like to obtain additional certification to help youth who have mental health needs but not a substance use disorder.

"I really think it's important that we address the mental health needs of youth," she said, adding that mental health is sometimes the underlying cause for substance use disorders.

Hewitt also said Oshki Manidoo is developing its Ningiiwè Continuing Care Program for when youth return to their communities.

Also, Oshki Manidoo has a Program Advisory Committee with representatives from the White Earth, Leech Lake and Red Lake tribes and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Hewitt said the committee's major focus is to represent the needs of youth and families from those communities. She also said the committee will help the center develop programs and ensure quality and effective services.

Additionally, the center will partner with families to help their youth heal so they can return home through its Family Connections component of treatment.

For more details, call Oshki Manidoo at 751-6553.