The Allegany and Cattaraugus territories in Western New
York are home to roughly half of the tribal members of
the Seneca Nation. Like many Native American populations,
the Seneca Nation has experienced disproportionate rates
of opioid, alcohol, and substance misuse. Researchers
linked these behavioral health problems to historical and
intergenerational trauma experienced by Native
populations. Collectively, the Seneca Nation decided to
prioritize prevention, intervention, and treatment of
substance misuse across both territories.
In 2014, Seneca
Strong was founded by the Seneca Nation's Council
and Executives to address the gap in opioid treatment
and increase prevention and awareness efforts. The
program enables Certified Addiction Recovery Coaches
(CARC) to guide community members who have substance or
opioid dependency disorder through recovery. Seneca
Strong uses innovative and strengths-based intervention
approaches that support both individuals and families.
The program has adapted an established model that is
sensitive to the cultural, social, psychological, and
inter-generational traumas their community experiences.
Seneca Strong operates within the Seneca Nation Health
System (SNHS). Healthcare providers within SNHS refer
patients with a substance or opioid use disorder to one
of 4 Certified Addiction Recovery Coaches employed by the
Health System. Currently, there are 2 additional Peer
Recovery Advocates in the process of becoming certified.
These advocates have also struggled with substance
dependency, are currently in recovery, or have been
affected by addiction in their lives. By walking the
client through a sequential program, the advocates'
experiences often resonate with their clients and provide
a positive example of overcoming dependency.
Seneca Strong coordinates with Behavioral Health
Counselors employed by the SNHS who are Licensed Master
Social Workers (LMSW), Licensed Certified Social Workers
(LCSW or LCSW-R), Licensed Mental Health Counselors
(LMHC), or Certified Addiction Substance Abuse Counselors
Referrals to the
Seneca Strong program are most often related to legal
concerns. The substance abuse referrals coming to the
SNHS Behavioral Health Unit can be from law enforcement,
court systems (i.e. Peacemakers Court, drug court,
local/county court, or family court), as well as other
New York hospitals and social service agencies.
Meaningful partnerships, described below, have also
formed as a result of this program.
- By working with the court system and the Cattaraugus County
Probation Department, Seneca Strong accepts
individuals who are on probation or who may have legal
concerns. A probation officer collaborates with the
client's peers to better serve the individual.
- Seneca Strong has partnered with
Seneca Nation's Peacemaker's
Court in the implementation of the Comprehensive
Opioid Abuse Program (COAP) grant administered by the
Bureau of Justice Assistance. Seneca Nation is one of the
first tribal organizations to be awarded this grant.
Seneca Strong's Outreach Case Managers work in
conjunction with legal entities, the SNHS Behavioral
Health Unit, and Peacemaker's Court to provide
assistance, navigate resources and identify any gaps in
services. This grant is ending in September 2022. The
SNHS Behavioral Health Unit and Seneca Strong have
applied for the 2022 COSSAP grant to continue to provide
services to those struggling with addiction and legal
The program is funded through the Seneca Nation's general
fund, with additional support from the Tribal Opioid
Response grant and SNHS.