FARMINGTON — Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts met with Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly on Tuesday to address the problem of people getting drunk on Farmington's streets.

"Farmington has made a lot of progress with street inebriation over the years," Roberts said during the hour-long meeting.

Roberts added that better relationships with the Navajo government and people has helped the city make progress in dealing with some of the social issues in the city.

Shelly agreed.

"You are changing the attitude toward Native Americans," Shelly said to Roberts and former Mayor Bill Standley.

However, Shelly spoke more about the history of race relations in Farmington.

Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts speaks on Tuesday during a meeting with Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly at Farmington City Hall to discuss public
Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts speaks on Tuesday during a meeting with Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly at Farmington City Hall to discuss public drunkenness. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

He said he remembered when Farmington was an "outlaw town," and the attitude was one of "the only good Indian is a dead Indian."

"But you are changing that," he said.

The meeting was organized by Bert Sandoval, a community organizer from Shiprock, to express appreciation to Farmington for the efforts that have been made to address the street inebriate issue, as well as improving race relations in the city.

"I wanted to tell the city 'thank you,'" Sandoval said.

Four Winds Recovery Center, Totah Behavioral Health Authority, Presbyterian Medical Services provided updates about their programs and the role they play to address the street inebriate issue.

Jolene Schneider, Four Winds Recovery Center executive director, said that last year, her center admitted about 3,500 clients who were considered street inebriates.

She said as a director, she is concerned with what hasn't been done to address the issue.

"(We are concerned with) what's not happening rather than what's happening. That's 3,500 people that were walking the street," she said.

Schneider said the staff at the center is 65 percent Native American, and about 95 percent of the clients they admit are Native American. She estimates that 90 percent of those are Navajo.

Four Winds is a detox center and keeps clients up to 72 hours in their 32-bed facility.

Schneider said another solution would be allowing the center to keep clients for a longer period of time.

A major problem is "the inability to keep people ... with us long enough to get them that message of recovery," she added.

Sandoval, who has been sober for 28 years, said adding a traditional Navajo component to recovery efforts would be beneficial.

"Traditional counseling is good," he said.

But in terms of helping the area centers with funding, Shelly said the tribe has few resources.

"This is something I'd like to help you with, but I am limited," he said.

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.