Tester Secures Resources to Strengthen Fort Peck Families

Senator Helps Expand the Reservation’s Family Healing to Wellness Court Project

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester has secured funding to help keep struggling families together on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

Tester announced that the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes have received over $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund their Family Healing to Wellness Court Project, which provides children and parents going through the family court system with support, counseling, training and treatment.

“This grant will help folks on the ground working to help stem the tide of drug, alcohol, and domestic abuse while assisting children and families most affected by addiction,” Tester said. “By helping Fort Peck families overcome this type of adversity, we give the next generation of leaders a better opportunity to succeed.”

Despite minimal and inconsistent funding, the Fort Peck Family Healing to Wellness Court has helped support about 20 families since January of 2016. Fort Peck Tribal Court Administrator Rita Weeks says this grant-the Court’s first major infusion of funding in more than a decade-will enable them to expand the quality and reach of their services to around 35 families at a time.

“We work with children and families going through a rough time on the reservation to help strengthen bonds, provide parental counseling and assistance, and cultivate healthy, loving relationships,” said Weeks. “I have always believed these programs work and despite very few resources we’ve been helping 7-8 families at a time over the last year and a half with really promising results.”

Specifically, this funding will go towards hiring a new fulltime Wellness Court Coordinator and a new Alcohol and Drug Counselor, while also expanding the Court’s residential treatment program, which often has a long waitlist due to a limited number of beds.

“I was just knocked over when we received this award,” Weeks said. “It’s not only going to help us improve the quality of services we provide, but increase the number of families we can provide them to. I honestly think, with the right amount of funding, this program could help up to 90 families at a time!”

Weeks notes that the Wellness Court has succeeded thanks to its team of service providers, who volunteer their time and effort to the program. The team consists of Judge Stacie Smith, Program Coordinator Janell Hopkins, Public Defender Terry Boy, Prosecutors Lafon Copenhaver and Lisa Grubbs, as well as the Spotted Bull Recovery and Resource Center, BIA Social Services and the Montana Division of Child and Family Services.

“They have been committed and dedicated to making the Fort Peck Healing to Wellness Court work,” Weeks said.

As former Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Tester has been a leading champion for Indian Country in D.C. He recently secured funding to help families across six Montana reservations-including Fort Peck-stay warm next winter through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Last Congress he also introduced a bill to expand Tribal Healing and Wellness Courts throughout Indian Country.