FORT TOTTEN, N.D.-A partnership that will create the Spirit Lake Nation's first residential substance abuse treatment center is one step in making sure the tribe's future generations have a healthier future, officials said Friday, Feb. 16.

Leaders with Cankdeska Cikana Community College (CCCC) and the nonprofit United Health Foundation announced in Fort Totten it would use a $1.2 million grant to renovate the Spirit Lake Recovery and Wellness center into a 15-bed residential substance abuse treatment center. Renovations should be completed in about 10 months, United Health said.

The goal of the facility is to provide treatment and support for adults in the Spirit Lake Nation who are dealing with drug addiction in a culturally sensitive environment. The project comes a year after a community assessment found the No. 1 priority on the Spirit Lake Nation was addressing substance abuse, said United Health Group CEO Dave Wichmann.

"This new partnership is bringing forward new opportunities for our people," CCCC President Cynthia Lindquist said. "Yes, there's much work to be done, but that's OK. We're all hard workers. Today is truly a good day and a historical day."

United Health's mission is to help communities by making targeted investments to establish health care facilities and training medical professionals that will staff those facilities, Wichmann said. The grant should cover the cost of renovations for the treatment center, but United Health plans to make an additional donation by offering "in-kind clinical expertise and counsel" to support care providers for the facility, as well as 12 North Dakota students pursuing degrees related to substance abuse treatment, he said.

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"The center will be the first residential treatment center in the area," he said.

Wichmann credited Lindquist for the success of the partnership's formation, but she said the project was a community effort.

"We all know that the work we do today is for those to come," Lindquist said. "Everything we do today reflects tomorrow."

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who spoke at the event, called United Health a "builder of change," adding the project brings hope and opportunity for change.

"There is one ingredient a leader cannot provide, and that is hope," Heitkamp said. "That has to come from all of you. We cannot be a culture of despair. We cannot simply say, 'That's the way it is.'"

Lindquist told Forum News Service the partnership would work to identify tribal members who could potentially help treat those who battle drug addiction. She said the tribe needs more resources to address the issue, but the effort must be community-based.

Lindquist hopes the project will serve as a model to other communities in a state that has sought to mitigate increased substance abuse.

"We don't need to have our people dying," she said, adding the project could be the beginning of the Spirit Lake Nation becoming a happier and healthier people.