Members of three Potawatomi tribes and their grant writers display an overisized check for almost $4.2 million from the federal government for a substance abuse program. (Courtesy Gun Lake Tribe)

Potawatomi Tribes Receive $4.2 Million Children’s Health Grant

Gale Courey Toensing
11/6/12

Three Potawatomi tribes in Michigan have received a grant of almost $4.2 million from the federal government to help promote children’s wellness through a five-year Project LAUNCH program. The federally-recognized Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and Gun Lake Tribe Potawatomi, also known as the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi, formed a consortium to apply for the grant and received a total of $4,198,250 from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)  during the last week of October.

The Project LAUNCH program seeks to promote the wellness of young children from birth to age 8 by improving the systems that serve young children and address their physical, emotional, social, cognitive and behavioral growth. The goal is for all children to reach physical, social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive milestones and to have all young children reach their developmental potential so that they can  enter school ready to learn and experience success in the early grades. Representatives from the three tribes accepted an over-sized check and posed for a photo at the Pine Creek Reservation in Fulton, Mich. on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012.

Many tribal members and friends of the community, along with children from the Pine Creek Reservation’s Head Start program, attended and celebrated the occasion. “This grant means a lot to the future of our tribe,” Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Chairman Homer A. Mandoka said. “This prevention-based grant will aid many children, expectant mothers, and their families.”

Project LAUNCH, an acronym for Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health, is a unique and highly ambitious pilot program that promotes young child wellness in a five-prong approach: screening and assessing social and emotional development in a range of child-serving settings; integration of behavioral health into primary care settings; mental health consultations in early care and education; enhanced home visiting through increased focus on social and emotional well-being; and family strengthening and parent skills training.

The program uses a holistic approach that addresses physical, social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development of young children to ensure that children are on track developmentally. Unlike a treatment-based program, Project LAUNCH is based on prevention; it aims to promote wellness and prevent unhealthy behavior. It is grounded in a public health approach, with the aim of developing coordinated programs that adopt a comprehensive view of health.

A critical aspect of the public health approach is that it addresses the health needs of a population rather than just individuals. Project LAUNCH helps to nurture resilience and healthy development that can protect individuals from later social, emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioral problems, including early substance and alcohol use. The program’s expected resulted are to have or children thriving in safe, supportive environments and entering school ready to learn and able to succeed. Project LAUNCH also seeks to address health disparities among communities of color and other minorities by encouraging the implementation of strategies to decrease differences in access, service use and other outcomes among minority young children and families served.

The grant monies will be used to hire highly-qualified young child wellness staff, conduct a thorough environmental scan, develop a strategic plan and form a Young Child Wellness Council, all of which are expected to play a key role in the success of the program. Four new jobs will be created: one Young Child Wellness Expert and three Young Child Wellness Coordinators throughout the three tribes, with the hiring process set to begin in early 2013. In addition, the program incorporates a rigorous evaluation process to ensure both fidelity to interventions and curricula, and the overall success of the project.

The consortium’s plan incorporates culturally appropriate curricula, including Positive Indian Parenting, developed by the National Indian Child Welfare Association and Families of Tradition, produced by the White Bison Society. The Project LAUNCH grant program is available to states, federally recognized tribes, and U.S. territories. The State of Michigan has had a Project LAUNCH award since 2009. The tribal consortium will work with the state as a collaborative partner. Only five other tribes in the country have received Project LAUNCH grants.

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