The federal government wants to open a drug rehabilitation facility for Native American teens. The center would occupy 12 acres of American Indian land, near Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University, locally known as D-Q University.
The 643-acre Yolo County plot is owned by the federal government, but the deed designates the land to be zoned for educational purposes.
In early March, the federal government asked D-Q’s Board of Trustees to sign a land transfer approval letter. The Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would own the land and build the treatment center.
Gary Ball, IHS staff architect for the center, said his agency is hoping to have the letter signed in the next 90 to 120 days.
The board deciding on the transfer is composed of eight members, all from different tribes.
Dunn Eggink, one of the trustees, said the trustees have not agreed on any plans but will likely pass the land over as a good deed.
The school lost its accreditation in 2005, though they continue hosting classes and projects.
Eggink said before the school considers regaining its accreditation, the board will first work on the infrastructure of D-Q, then on offering accredited courses through other schools.
“Our focus right now is to thrive with a unique identity and purpose,” Eggink said. “We’re working on new workshops and living sustainably. This is an ongoing process.”
At the Yolo County Board of Supervisors’ March 1 meeting, former IHS
Public Affairs Adviser Steven Zerebecki said the big unknown is if federal funding will come through for the project.
Funding to purchase the land from the U.S. General Services Administration is coming from money left over from finished construction projects. The project’s development budget is $17.6 million, with $1 million for planning and $1.4 million for the design. Construction is set to cost $15.2 million. The annual operating budget would be $4.5 million, with 70 full-time employees.
The center’s workforce would include a board-certified psychiatrist, 10 registered nurses, and 10 psychologists, therapists and counselors. The project would help IHS meet a 1992 Congressional mandate to open detox centers in its 12 geographic service areas, including two in California.
The service investigated 80 properties in 17 counties, and the D-Q land proved to be the most promising. IHS hopes to buy land in Riverside County for a Southern California treatment center as well.
Margo Kerrigan, director of California IHS, said these drug treatment centers are being misinterpreted as detention centers and that the patients would not jeopardize public safety.
“These are voluntary treatment facilities where the kids decide they want to go to treatment,” Kerringan said at the meeting. “It’s not one where they’re sent to treatment. They go to treatment because they want to.”
Formed in 1984, the Affiliated Obsidian Nation opposes the construction of the treatment center.
The Nation’s spokesman and former Davis City Council applicant Steve Jerome-Wyatt said the group believes the federal government will use the center as an excuse to overtake the rest of the D-Q land.
“The IHS is a branch of the federal government, and if the youth treatment center is built at D-Q, it won’t be long before the feds will be making plans to take even more of the land at D-Q back,” Wyatt said. “The proposal is nothing but an elaborate smoke screen.”
There is no law that says the federal government has to ask the board for prior permission to build the IHS project.
“The feds are going through the motions of asking and cooperating with the board, for the sake of positive public relations,” Wyatt said. “The proposal is the first shot in the feds’ plan to take back the land at D-Q; the land that hundreds of American Indians fought, struggled and sacrificed to keep for over forty years.”
IHS intends to start construction in December and to open the center by 2014.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached email@example.com.