Ernie Turner Center finds new home near Eklutna

Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s new Ernie Turner Center will provide inpatient addiction recovery services. The traditional winter homes of the Dena’ina people inspired the design for the open, two-story space, which sits on a six-acre lot near Eklutna. (Erin McKinstry, Alaska Public Media)

Horseback riding and a carving studio: Those are some of the services offered at a new recovery center that opened near Eklutna yesterday.

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A packed house filled Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s new Ernie Turner Center for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The traditional winter homes of the Dena’ina people inspired the design for the open, two-story space, which sits on a six-acre lot. But the services there will be available to both Alaska Natives and other Alaskans.

The facility will offer six-month-long inpatient services for those recovering from addiction. CITC President and CEO Gloria O’Neill said a retreat is exactly what they had in mind when they decided to move residential services from Anchorage two years ago.

“And so it becomes more of an oasis. Not only are people engaged with their recovery, but they also get to connect back to nature and themselves,” O’Neill said.

The old Ernie Turner Center in Anchorage is now owned by Southcentral Foundation and will focus solely on short-term detox services. Both add to larger efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and substance abuse in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna region. O’Neill said they’ve upped their recovery support services by 40 percent since the governor released a disaster declaration last year. That includes investing in peer support, outpatient treatment and assessment.

“Unfortunately there’s such a need in the community, but how can we do what we do well and ensure that we’re that partner,” O’Neill said.

President of the Native Village of Eklutna, Aaron Leggett, spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Ernie Turner Center. The village’s corporation sold the land to Cook Inlet Tribal Council and was involved in the construction of the facility. (Erin McKinstry, Alaska Public Media)

The new facility uses a model that is rooted in Alaska Native traditions and focuses on community-building and peer support. Eklutna’s village corporation sold CITC the land and was involved in the construction of the facility. Aaron Leggett is the village’s president.

“It’s a huge need for our community, it’s long overdue, and we still need more obviously,” Leggett said. “But when we all come together, it really strengthens us as a people and our community in general.”

Current regulations limit the facility to 16 beds, but Cook Inlet Tribal Council hopes to eventually expand to accommodate long waiting lists. Residents will move in as early as this weekend.