- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - An activist is urging Sioux City and Woodbury County officials to open an alcohol treatment center for its Native American population.

Frank LaMere told officials at a forum Monday that a facility could help lower the disproportionate number of Native Americans arrested for public intoxication in Sioux City.

“We want to pull our families back together,” LaMere said.

The meeting at the Four Directions Community Center was a follow-up to a September round-table discussion that focused on what community leaders say is a growing problem of alcoholism and homelessness in Sioux City.

Sioux City Police Chief Doug Young, who led the forum with Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew, said that a ban on single-can beer sales, which had been previously discussed to curb public intoxication, would not be possible because the state of Iowa regulates liquor sales.

Young also said that he would like to see a treatment center to address the issue of alcoholism in the community. According to the police chief, there were concerns from the Native American community that the high number of arrests was due to racism or prejudice.

“I can assure you our arrests are not racially motivated,” Young said.

Michael O’Connor, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, criticized a lack of attendance from elected government officials in the city and county. Young apologized on behalf of Mayor Bob Scott, who did not attend the forum because of a scheduling conflict.

Mark Monson, chairman of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors, said supervisors also were not formally invited to Monday’s forum.

Paul Gausman, superintendent of the Sioux City Community School District, said he did not attend the Monday forum because he was not informed about the event, but he did say that alcoholism was an important topic for the school district.

We do have students that are homeless, and we do have students that are going through the challenges that were being discussed,” Gausman said.

The Sioux City Journal (https://bit.ly/1lHiILU ) reports the city did have a Native American Alcohol Treatment Program that was funded by the Indian Health Service before it closed in 2005.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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