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Pit River Health Services


Pit River Health ServicesThe Basics

Located in rural Burney, California, Pit River Health Services (PRHS) offers outpatient medical, dental and behavioral health care mainly to members of the Pit River Native American tribe. Its small alcohol and substance abuse program is run by Onita Viramontes, a substance abuse counselor who tailors her program to the unique needs and culture of the Native American population. “I treat people by helping them find what feeds their spirit,” she explains. “I use the trees outside as inspiration. There are many different kinds of trees, but they share roots and support each other.”

Treatment and Staff

After an initial evaluation, an individualized treatment plan is created for the client that includes a combination of group and individual therapy. Since PRHS is a smaller program, those who need detox, inpatient care, an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) or other treatment beyond simple outpatient care are referred elsewhere.

According to Viramontes, members of the population she serves require a unique approach to substance abuse treatment. She recommends that her clients follow the steps laid out in The Red Road to Wellbriety in the Native American Way, a book that combines the teachings of the Native American Medicine Wheel with 12-step traditions.

PHRS clients with underlying mental health problems are referred to other clinical staff for those issues, while Viramontes treats their substance abuse. The staff also includes a psychologist, an MFT and an LCSW. A psychiatrist visits bi-weekly to prescribe medication and deal with mental health issues.

Many of PRHS’s substance abuse clients have been referred by law enforcement agencies so their length of treatment is determined by court order. Those who attend of their own volition receive treatment for as long as it takes for them to get better. Because it is funded through the Indian Health Service and other grants, PRHS’s treatment is free for eligible tribal members.


Along with substance abuse treatment specifically geared toward Native Americans, PRHS provides medical and dental care through its physicians, dentists and nurse practitioners. Free transportation is available to clients for clinic appointments or referral appointments made by Pit River providers.

In Summary

Pit River Health Services aims to provide a high level of care to an often overlooked population. Its substance abuse program is specifically tailored to the local Native American population and reflects the culture of those it serves. “In the Native American world, what happens at home tends to stay at home and you don’t talk about it. So they carry everything with them,” Viramontes says. “But as the years go by, it’s changing. People are opening up more and letting go. I try to earn their trust.”

Pit River Health Services
36977 Park Ave
Burney, CA 96013

Pit River Health Services Cost: Free for tribal members. Reach Pit River Health Services by phone at (530) 335-5090.

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