The Indian Health Service approach to alcoholism among American Indians and Alaska Natives.


The transfer to the Indian Health Service (IHS) of 158 alcohol treatment programs that had been administered by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism began in 1978. Today, approximately 300 alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs offer services to American Indians, among them primary residential treatment, halfway houses, outreach, and aftercare. This system provides a national network upon which additional activities may be established. Along with increasing its attention to health promotion and disease prevention, the IHS has moved toward the prevention of alcoholism. A variety of preventive programs are in place that emphasize improved self-image, value and attitude clarification, decision-making, and physical and emotional effects of alcohol and substance abuse. Many begin as Head Start programs and continue through adulthood. In 1986, after consulting with both academic and tribal experts, the IHS devised a strategic plan for alcoholism control that stresses comprehensive care and prevention activities; it serves as a guide for further program development. The Secretary of Health and Human Services created a Task Force on Indian Alcoholism in 1986 to serve as a coordinating body for activities carried out by the IHS and other agencies and units of the Department. Passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act in 1986 added resources for the development of adolescent treatment centers and, more importantly, for community-based pre- and post-residential care for youths and their families. Concomitant with these initiatives have been several instances of increased attention by various tribes to the problem of alcoholism.