TAHLEQUAH, OK – The Cherokee Nation is investing in developing behavioral health careers by creating two new scholarship opportunities that support Cherokee students pursuing their degrees.
In February, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner announced the tribe would establish a $5 million endowment fund with Cherokee Nation Foundation to support Cherokee citizens living inside and outside the reservation as they enter behavioral health fields.
The tribe has also partnered with Northeastern State University (NSU) to support scholarship opportunities that will help develop and grow its public health efforts.
“Through these scholarships, we will better address the challenges we see throughout the reservation and across the country by encouraging and supporting more Cherokee students going into the field of behavioral health,” said Chief Hoskin. “Generational trauma affects every facet of our tribe and our society, so we must continue to address this plight head-on. Cherokee Nation took on the opioid industry and secured over $100 million in settlement funds for the Cherokee people. Earlier this year, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I asked for and received the council’s support in investing $5 million of those settlement funds into a permanent endowment to support Cherokee students going into behavioral health fields. This coupled with the new public health scholarship through NSU means more Cherokee students will have the opportunity to one day work for their tribe. Together we can break the chains of addiction and help put many of our citizens on the path to recovery.”
The Cherokee Nation’s Behavioral Health Scholarship, funded by the tribe’s historic opioid industry settlements and administered through the Cherokee Nation Foundation (CNF), is available to eligible undergraduate Cherokee Nation citizens who demonstrate a likelihood of providing professional services within the Cherokee Nation reservation upon graduation and successful certification. It is also open to eligible graduate or doctoral recipients who are agreeable to a period of grant payback in service to the Cherokee Nation for a period that is equal to the number of scholarship years provided while pursuing a behavioral health graduate degree.
“We’re investing in opportunities to work together as community partners with the same end goal in mind: educating Cherokees who have an interest in serving their people and bettering the lives of our communities,” said Deputy Chief Warner. “We know that tribal populations are better served with demonstrably better outcomes when cared for by a clinician who understands their cultural worldview. These scholarships are the first step in a long-lasting plan for the betterment of our people and our healthcare needs.”
Separately, the Cherokee Nation Public Health Scholarship is providing more than $76,000 per year over the next three years between four eligible Cherokee graduate students pursuing a Master of Science in Counseling Program at NSU on the addiction counseling track. The scholarship is meant to recruit applicants into NSU’s graduate program for addiction counseling to help fill the current void of licensed Cherokee providers in addiction counseling. Each recipient will dedicate two years of service to a Cherokee Nation health facility for every year in the program.
In February of 2023, Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner signed into law an amended Public Health and Wellness Fund Act to dedicate $100 million in opioid settlement funds and nearly $2 million in settlement funds from e-cigarette maker Juul. Aside from establishing the $5 million endowment with CNF, the legislation allocates $73 million for a behavioral health capital fund to construct facilities across the reservation dedicated to behavioral health services, including drug treatment and prevention. The balance of the funding supports innovative drug treatment strategies and the financial consequences of seeking recovery over the course of a decade.