New Belcourt recovery facility in construction

Submitted Photo First Lady Kathryn Burgum speaks at a ceremony held when ground was broken for the Turtle Mountain Recovery Center in September 2022. At right is Jamie Azure, chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

BELCOURT – A new facility that will enhance addiction recovery services available on the Turtle Mountain Reservation is expected to open by this fall. Completion of the two-year construction project will enable more people seeking treatment to obtain it close to home.

“Science has shown that, keeping the family together during the treatment, if you heal one you heal them all,” said Erin Belgarde, Community, Innovation, Research and Development director and board member with the nonprofit Turtle Mountain Recovery Center.

The $19 million center is being built in a natural setting just outside Belcourt.

“We wanted to make this facility a beautiful place for them, where they felt at home and it provided cultural healing, and that’s something that we can’t get at any other facility,” Belgarde said. “We want to make sure it’s a place that they love being at and they have a higher success rate.”

Care also was taken in program planning to ensure treatment protocols selected are those shown to have the highest effectiveness.

“We’re taking a Native American curriculum that’s been proven to work, and that’s going to be implemented in the new facility. So much planning was put into it, thinking of every little aspect,” Belgarde said. “We’re even talking about confidence courses and equine therapy because those have proven to help those battling substance use disorders.”

There will be a healing forest, which will allow for walks and for learning spaces. There will be medicinal gardens for clients to work as well as sweat lodges and tipis.

“It’s going to be very traditional healing,” Belgarde said. Some of those cultural pieces could be in place by the time the recovery center opens, with others to follow.

Planning for the recovery center began in 2019. Tribal council member Stuart Lafountain had promoted a treatment center, which was carried on by supporters after he left the council in 2021.

“It was five years of just research and getting a good business plan in place. COVID happened so that slowed us down a little bit,” Belgarde said.

In securing funding, they worked with consultants to obtain the New Market Tax Credit, working with Midwest Minnesota and Bremer Bank as the Community Development Entities. A loan from Native American Bank, guaranteed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is providing additional financing.

Turtle Mountain Recovery Center Foundation was created, along with a land-holding company that holds the lease on the building. A seven-member board of the nonprofit Turtle Mountain Recovery Center guides the operations.

Board officers are President Brock Baker, law enforcement representative; Vice President Robert Upton, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa who is in recovery; and Belgarde, secretary-treasurer. Other board members are Sheila Trottier, higher education representative; Kellie Hall, K-12 representative; Shelly Harris, healthcare representative; and Francis “Fatti” Davis, elder representative.

The 16-bed recovery center will offer residential services. Six four-bedroom mobile homes, once used as quarantine housing during the COVID-19 pandemic, are available for outpatient services. There also will be group rooms for outpatient services in the center. The lower level of the building will have office space.

An existing treatment center in Belcourt that has been around for many years, also provides 16 beds in residential care as well as outpatient treatment under the umbrella of Indian Health Services and the Master Health Program. The tribal council oversees those activities. That program, 5th Generation Healing Center, offers a Mommy and Me program at a housing site that enables children to stay with the parent. Heartview’s facility in Cando also has served the Turtle Mountain area.

However, an analysis through Purdue University found a need in the tribal community for treatment services for 700 members a year, which is more than existing facilities can accommodate.

“So there was definitely a need for another facility,” Belgarde said.

Although the facility is under construction, Turtle Mountain Recovery Center has been offering outpatient services for nearly three years in preparation for opening its building.

In 2022, the program served 53 clients with 202 appointments. In 2023, there were 98 clients and 704 appointments, and so far this year, the program has served 36 clients with 222 appointments.

The program employs about 10 people but will be hiring to fill the remainder of the 42 positions that will be needed to operate the facility once open, Belgarde said. Currently, the program is advertising for a director but other staff will be needed in areas such as fitness coordinator, receptionist, peer support, coaches, building and kitchen staff, housekeeping, maintenance and security.

Belgarde said relationships are being formed with other local service organizations to meet needs of clients as they tradition away from the center. Ensuring clients have needs met for housing, education and family support are part of that long-term recovery.

Jared Nadeau, project manager with the recovery center, said a partnership with the local community college will enable clients to take career and technical classes, including courses for commercial driver’s licenses.

As the board and staff continue to gain insights from other successful programs as they prepare to open the new facility, the Turtle Mountain Recovery Center is drawing attention of its own as a model for other programs. Belgarde said the board already has been contacted by a couple of other tribes interested in the plans taking shape in Belcourt.


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