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Substance Abuse council meets with Dept. of Legal Affairs

Tauese Va’a Sunia
Substance-use challenges often impact entire families

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Battling drugs in the territory should be a “collective effort” between government, villages, churches, classrooms, and households, says Deputy Secretary of Samoan Affairs Tauese Vaa Sunia.

This is outlined in a statement issued by the government regarding the Comprehensive Substance Abuse Council (CSAC) meeting held at the Veterans Affairs Office last week.

The meeting was to seek updates and presentations from its committees and the Department of Legal Affairs.

 The 23-member Council of government, private, and community stakeholders was created by Executive Order #003-2022 and signed by Governor Lemanu in 2022 to address drug issues in the Territory.

Tauese presented some data points on the growing issue of Methamphetamine, which has rapidly become the drug of preference in American Samoa, providing a comprehensive overview on the distribution, manufacturing, and economics of methamphetamine and emphasized that the data doesn’t accurately paint the full picture of the meth problem in the territory.

 Rather, he suggested that one person facing substance- use challenges often impacts entire families to include spouses, children, and the extended family.

 “He stressed to the Council and committees that collective efforts must be taken by the entire community — government, villages, churches, classrooms, and households.”

Tauese shared a schedule of upcoming outreach events taking place at CCCAS for the remainder of the month.

 The agenda concluded with both questions and recommendations from Council members on proposed use of Opioid settlement funds for further consideration by the Council and final remarks by Samoan Affairs Secretary Mauga Tasi Asuega and DPS Commission Lefiti Pese.”

According to the statement the Department of Legal Affairs’ Assistant Attorney General Lynne Blankebeker explained new funding that has been made available to the Territory as a result of the opioid settlement.

 “Blankenbeker discussed the core strategies that have been laid out regarding the authorized usage of these opioid settlement funds.

 There were no details on the amounts allocated to Am Samoa from the opioid settlement, however the  Department of Legal affairs indicated it would release further details to the media and public.

Some of the outcomes shared by the Department of Health include a single point of entry, improved collaboration and coordination, and the involvement of community partners.

 In addition, DoH Director Motusa T. Nua, provided brief updates to the Council on the planning of the $24 Million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funded rehabilitation facility.”

The statement further outlined that Council Chairman, Acting Governor Talauega E.V. Ale spoke on the importance of this council and its members in furthering the Administration’s priority of combatting the growing substance use issues in the Territory.

 “The work we have to do is great and the only way we can succeed is if we work together. If you’re wondering whether we have a drug problem, it’s yes, the acting governor said.

 “It is very profitable and we have a difficult task ahead in preventing our youth and community members from falling victim to this disease,” he said.

The next CSAC quarterly meeting has been scheduled for May 18 and committees have been encouraged by the chair to continue meeting to advance their respective committee goals