PCSO, OST to offer diversion program for pregnant Native American women

Through an agreement between Pennington County and the Oglala Sioux Tribe, pregnant Native American women with a history of drug related issues could have their criminal records erased.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — A signature and handshake, signifying unity and a hope for change.

Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo and Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer, signed an agreement Tuesday, that will look to provide help to pregnant native women, who have drug related issues on their arrest record.

Through the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Agreement, the diversion program will expunge the records for the women who complete steps set forth by Native American medical professionals and obey all laws for a year. Those in the program can be in it for as long as needed in order for the individual to learn to be productive in society.

Vargo says that sovereignty by the tribes will maintained, by way of its own medical professionals handling of the specific referrals and cases.

He also said that if someone is brought into the criminal justice system, who is arrested for the possession of a controlled substance like methamphetamine and heroin, that person would do an intake with Pennington County and they would explain what Native Healing Healing, Native Women Health Care and Community Health Workers Collaborative of South Dakota offer in options for recovery, which would be carried out by said organizations.

A first step – officials hope – in helping these women succeed.

Mou Agreement Signing 11

“What we’re hoping to do is light their path, give them an opportunity to become the best version of themselves and if they are successful, they put in that effort, they put in that commitment, if they’re successful, we forgo the criminal prosecutions,” Vargo said.

It’s an opportunity for cooperation between the OST and Pennington County for the betterment of lives.

“As our region kinda grows more diverse, as our community grows more diverse, we gotta have these kind of collaborations and partnerships that will make our communities and populations successful at all levels of society and I think this is what it does,” said OST President Kevin Killer.

The agreement will help address major obstacles facing the native american community, specially those with drug related charges.

Obstacles that organizations like the native women’s healthcare clinic and native healing program, continue to help with, especially for those who they say have lost their way.

“One of the things that we experience here, our native people in general is homelessness, inability to find employment, inability to get apartments, inability go to school because they have drug records and this project will abolish that,” said Roxanne Two Bulls, the Director of the Native Women’s Health Care Clinic.

Two Bulls also said that the MOU Agreement was delayed due to the pandemic.

However, some of the agencies, like the Native Healing Program believe that helping the people in needs, has a deeper meaning.

“In our culture, we feel that a lot of these people have lost their spirit and what we’re trying to do is bring their spirit back,” said Stan LaRoche, the Program Director of the Native Healing Program. “If we do that, then they have a better chance at better lives.”

A program for those looking to erase mistakes and make right by their pasts.

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