Substance use-related deaths disproportionately affect American Indian and Alaska Native communities

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced that it will host formal consultations with Tribal leaders later this month to examine how Federal drug policies can better support the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native communities. These discussions, entitled Nation-to-Nation Addiction Epidemic and Other Substance Use Challenges, will support White House efforts to include the priorities and recommendations of Tribal Nations in addressing the addiction and overdose epidemic.

The rising number of substance use-related deaths is a nationwide public health crisis that disproportionately affects American Indian and Alaska Native communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, Native Americans (who were not also Hispanic) died from drug overdose deaths at rates higher than the national average. (The rate of overdose deaths among Native Americans was 39 percent higher than the national average of 21.6 deaths per 100,000 people). ONDCP is committed to providing information on best practices and resources to address the addiction and overdose epidemic in Indian Country.

“We are eager to learn from Tribal Nations and discuss their experience with the addiction and overdose epidemic,” said ONDCP Acting Director Regina LaBelle. “ONDCP is eager to use these discussions to better inform Federal drug policies and ensure that they meet the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, families, and communities.”

Today’s commitment aims to build deeper engagement with Tribal governments following President Biden’s January 26 memorandum, which expressed respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, fulfilling Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and ensuring regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal officials.

The Federal Government has multiple prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery programs that respond to the consequences of substance use and substance use disorders, and their impact on public health and public safety. However, there is a need to better align, leverage, and coordinate Federal efforts and resources at multiple levels within each department to ensure comprehensive substance use services and programs are available to American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, families, and communities.

ONDCP will hold three tribal consultation sessions this month to hear Tribal leaders’ recommendations for improving Federal substance use policies. The sessions will be conducted via teleconference as follows:

  • Tuesday, March 23, 2021 (2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EDT)
    States: Alaska and Washington
  • Wednesday, March 24, 2021 (2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EDT)
    States: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah
  • Thursday, March 25, 2021 (2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EDT)
    States: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin

The deadline for written comments on the consultation series is 5p.m. EDT on March 31, 2021.


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