Social & Health Programs
In regard to despair, especially prevalent in the young on Rosebud Reservation, St. Francis Mission responds by promoting hope and wellness among those at risk of suicide. There is a suicide epidemic among the Lakota, especially among teenagers. The per capita rate of completed suicides on the reservation was the highest in the world—until we started our crisis hotline.
Dr. Gail Mason, an Ojibwa woman, is the director of the suicide prevention program. The crisis hotline is a 24/7 service receiving as many as 27 calls per week from people experiencing crisis or who are at risk of immediate suicide. The volunteer responders facilitate numerous successful interventions each month.
The program seeks to recruit and train more responders with master’s degrees in psychology or counseling. The goal is to have responders available to ride along with patrol officers, so they can take the lead in crisis interventions. After an intervention, the at-risk individual often requires counseling and other support that Dr. Mason can provide.
St. Francis Mission has responded to the humanitarian disaster of alcohol and drugs by providing effective recovery programs. We have a vision to break the debilitating, cross-generational cycle of alcohol and drug abuse. Substance abuse is the most severe problem on American Indian reservations today. The abuse damages the individual, his or her family, and the entire community. Addiction breeds other dysfunctions including criminal activity, suicide, unemployment, poor academic performance, child abuse, and spiritual desolation.
St. Francis Mission has partnered with the Betty Ford Institute to provide ongoing recovery programs throughout the reservation. The Betty Ford Family Recovery Program has helped over 300 individuals and their families break free from dependency, co-dependency, and addiction. In support of individuals seeking sobriety, we host Alcoholic Anonymous and Al-Anon meetings numerous times each week.
The Family Recovery Program is led by two Lakota directors, Geraldine Provencial and Jim Stands. They are sometimes called upon to share their advanced expertise and practice with leaders on other reservations. The successful Family Recovery Program is a beacon of hope for many on Rosebud Reservation, but requires continuous effort to bring about a culture of sobriety on Rosebud Reservation.
At St. Francis Mission, we have a vision of adequate dental health for all people on Rosebud Reservation. Last year, we opened the St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic to give Lakota adults and children the dental care they have long needed. A recent American Dental Association study found that 90 percent of the Lakota people on Rosebud Reservation have chronic tooth decay or gum disease. This dental health crisis is the result of living in one of the poorest counties in the United States.
Volunteer dentists and assistants, some of them from the School of Dentistry at Creighton University, are providing many services in the St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic. These services include dental exams, x-rays, fillings, cleanings, treatments, follow-up checkups, and education in preventive care.
Most people on Rosebud Reservation, especially children, have never seen a dentist and have never learned how to care for their teeth. The St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic is providing treatment first to the youngest children, then working up in age, with priority to anyone with an urgent need. There is a focus on preventive care and dental health education.
The clinic was founded through the philanthropy of Dr. Jack Boarini and his dentist sons. The Boarinis spread the word about the dental needs on Rosebud Reservation and inspired many dentists to donate equipment. By their efforts, and gifts from many others, Rosebud Reservation has an operational four-chair dental clinic with a license to treat patients through Dr. John Kharouf of Rapid City, South Dakota.