Health Equity for Abenaki Indigenous People: Improving Access to Quality Mental Health and Substance Use Services

Maria Mercedes Avila, Christine Begay Vining, Joshuaa Allison-Burbank, Christine Velez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Purpose: The purpose of this study was to learn about the Abenaki Indigenous communities' access to services, specifically, their beliefs and knowledge about different types of mental health and substance abuse services and supports within their communities. Methods: This was an exploratory qualitative study using a focus group approach. Two focus groups were conducted in spring 2020 with community members and tribal leaders from different Abenaki Bands in Franklin, Chittenden, and Addison Counties and the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont. Participants were recruited via a mix of convenience and snowball sampling approaches. Results: A total of 15 Abenaki community members participated in 2 separate focus groups, including 5 current and former Chiefs who served or were currently serving as the primary leadership of this state-recognized tribe. Members of the Abenaki community communicated that the loss and erasure of their culture combined with lack of trust of community support agencies impacted the ways in which the Abenaki community conceptualizes health and wellness for themselves and thus impacts parenting and youth substance use as well as opioid use and prescription drug misuse for participants in this study. Conclusion: Abenaki Indigenous experience many obstacles to effective prevention and intervention services. Recruitment of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) individuals, specifically Abenaki, into the health and mental health workforce can support health equity efforts for this population. Finally, better efforts to foster and support AI/AN culture, specifically Abenaki culture, can support substance use and suicide prevention with this vulnerable community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)787-793
Number of pages7
JournalHealth Equity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • Abenaki
  • health equity
  • mental health
  • substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Information Management
  • Health Policy


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