BANGOR, Maine — As the coronavirus pandemic continues into 2021, some good news is coming to Maine's Indigenous population. On Tuesday, it was announced Wabanaki Public Health and Wabanaki Health and Wellness will merge to form Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness (WPHW).
“What this allows for is for us to come together and offer a more comprehensive set of services and programs for our communities to be well.," Director of Wabanaki Public Heath Lisa Sockabasin said Wednesday.
COVID-19 has impacted all of Maine and the four-member tribes of the Wabanaki. Sockabasin said Indeginedous people know when a pandemic comes, they get hit hard.
“We knew that with pandemics, throughout history, Ingenious populations were impacted greater," Sockabasin added.
This new merger will help members from the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac, and Maliseet tribes in different ways broken down into three divisions:
First, Wabanaki Public Health will provide public health services and disease prevention programs.
Second, Wabanaki Health and Wellness will provide direct wellness programs and social services, like its crisis line, added last fall.
The crisis line is monitored 24-hours a day by staff from Wabanaki Health and Wellness.
Third, Wabanaki Healing and Recovery will provide medication-assistance treatment, recovery housing, substance use treatment, and recovery support.
Sharon Jordan, the Executive Director of Wabanaki Health and Wellness, said the wide range of services that will be offered under this new organization was a goal of the merger.
“From behavior health, peer support, some supportive housing, HIV prevention," she added. “This merger is giving so much help to the future, that I never thought was possible.”
One reason why the Wabanaki are struggling during the pandemic is a lack of infrastructure to support tribe members if they are sick or need medical attention.
Sockabasin said the Wabanaki have great funding streams at the state, federal, and private levels to expand its infrastructure. The plan is to add a healing lodge and recovery center to the Wabanaki Health and Wellness Center in Bangor.
“This is an opportunity for our folks to be well and reconnect with culture and health," she added.
That project is expected to be completed in the coming months.