Strengthening our Native Connections

The GLIIHC joins the fifth cohort of Native Connections Programs whose main goal is to reduce suicidal behavior among Native youth and provide support as they transition into adulthood.


The Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center Department of Behavioral Health has been awarded 1.2 million dollars over the next 5 years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for Native Connections MKE.  Native Connections MKE will focus on creating a solid culturally informed suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention infrastructure for our Urban Native community.  The Department of Behavioral Health currently provides treatment and ongoing monitoring of individuals at risk of suicide and self-harm. 


“This program will allow GLIIHC to enhance and strengthen all facets of our suicide prevention programming.  Native Connections will be looking at providing an extensive amount of outreach to our Native youth and young adults on college campuses and off.  Our team is prepared to mask up and meet with college students in-person or via zoom to connect and provide support through any avenue necessary.”

Deborah Black, MS, LPC

Acting Director, Department of Behavioral Health, Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center


Native Connections MKE will continue the very important needs highlighted by the Suicide Listening Session held at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino last year (September 2019).  A Native student panel candidly spoke on their individual experiences with mental health and suicide. The panel identified the stress of leaving their tribal communities, entering college student life, being separated from family and cultural traditions, feeling alone, and encountering the pressures to do well in school as risk factors for depression and suicide.  One standout theme from the Listening Session was the importance of having culturally sensitive health professionals, and “go to” people on campus, during times of mental health struggles.  Through GLIIHC’s work with Native Connections MKE we want the community to know that GLIIHC is that “go to” place if you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm.


“Through our work with Native Connections MKE we want the community to know that GLIIHC is that “go to” place if you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm.  We are here for you, and we will make the time.”

Deborah Black, MS, LPC


The Department will be taking a collaborative community-based approach to this programming through reaching out to the community, survivors, universities, schools, and community partners that have supported and identified suicide prevention a priority.  This new program has brought on Ms. Maria Farias (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs) as the Native Connections MKE Program Coordinator.


“As the Native Connections MKE Coordinator, I look forward to this journey of promoting emotionally healthy youth within our Native American communities.  We should no longer wait until the crisis stage to address mental health and severe mental health illness. I am honored to advocate for change and raise awareness when addressing the issues of suicide within our community.”

Maria Farias

Native Connection MKE Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center

For information on how Native Connections can help you, contact Maria Farias at 414-316-5074 or at