Monthly Archives: August 2016

Pain Killers and OPIOIDS Kill! Estimated 28,000 People Die Annually in America! Look at Lincoln County Oregon!

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Chandler Davis, Musician, Community Activist, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

Lincoln County Oregon

From Chandler Davis…Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

HOW BAD IS IT? Here are some brand new statistics that the Lincoln County Addiction Prevention Recovery Committee (APARC) requested and has just received this month from the Oregon Health Authority (and which we have forwarded to the Lincoln County Department of Health & Human Services):
At this time the OHA data is only specific to the Medicaid population, but they show that in Lincoln County:
….20.2% of young adults ages 18-25 NEED addiction or substance use disorder (SUD) treatment — only 1 to 2% are GETTING any treatment!
….7.5% of youth ages 12-17 NEED SUD treatment. — fewer than 1% are RECEIVING it!
….7.2% of adults over 26 NEED treatment. — only 1.5% to 3.3% are RECEIVING treatment!
According to the Oregon Health Authority: There is “lots of work to be done in your county and across the state for outreach and engagement into treatment especially in the transitional age group 18-25.”
Oh yeah, and the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH, in Oregon and Lincoln County, according to the Oregon Health Authority, is OPIOID OVERDOSE!
That bad.

Read more…

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Substance Abuse Statistics…click image for larger view…

Prescription Drug Overdose Guidance Measures…

The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.

Opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers  and heroin) killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, more than any year on record. At least half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.

Pentagon getting serious about Apparent over-prescription of anti-psychotic drugs

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Stan and Shirley White of W.Va., whose son Andrew, a Marine, suffered from PTSD. When he died in 2008 at 23, they blamed a “lethal cocktail” of drugs. They were in Phila. fighting the use of antipsychotics for service people. DAVID SELL / Staff

Combat veterans are especially at risk… click here for more…

“During about 300 missions, Andrew had a steady diet of death and destruction.
A combat engineer, Andrew cleared mines and improvised explosive devices from roads before they blew up his fellow Marines, soldiers, and civilians. After nine months, White was sent home and eventually received a medical discharge for PTSD.
“It changed him,” Stan White said of combat. “He became a recluse. In the last four months of his life, he ate two meals with the family. He would take his food to his room.”
On Feb. 12, 2008, when Andrew had failed to meet her for a planned lunch at a restaurant, Shirley White went home. She found him dead in his bed. He was 23.”

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The above quote from the referenced website article is becoming an all too common tragedy by combat veterans who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD.  Since the illness is invisible and soldiers will not even talk about their pain, they become a suicide risk without loved ones getting any warning.  The diet of prescription drugs and use of alcohol as well can cause a person to lose hope and no longer have a desire to live.  I know from my own experience that the side effects of medications can cause psychotic episodes that put you and others at risk.  I remain hopeful that the continued monitoring and research of anti psychotic drugs, especially mixing with other prescription medications, including alcohol will help mitigate a troubling trend.

Pain killers came into my life after decades of using alcohol for self-medication.  Physical health challenges hit me like a baseball bat once entering mid-life, especially in my 50’s.  My doctor was very stern with me about the risk of mixing prescription medications or opioids with alcohol.  I drank too much back then anyway, but my ego and self-talk rationalized a determination to start on pain killers and continue my self-medication ways of the past.  After just 12-18 months on this new regimen of pain, sleep, and anxiety medications along with alcohol, I was a total basket case to say the least.

At age 55 with strong support from my family, doctors, and own hyper-vigilance, I stopped drinking, period!  But what I didn’t do is curtail or manage effectively the use of prescription drugs.  I became addicted and kept taking prescription drugs as long as recovery from multiple surgeries to replace joints and fix a severe arthritic condition with chronic pain.  It took me until my mid 60’s to finally get off of pain medications and other opioids, only to discover then the many alternatives of non-narcotic medications and mindfulness exercises.  Now at almost age 70, my life is completely free of narcotic based medications for pain, sleep, and anxiety challenges.

And what a gift in life it has been not to take anything related to narcotics or alcohol!  I feel very lucky to still have a relatively healthy body and mind for the coming golden years of new opportunities and adventures in life.  I’m thankful for my wife and soul-mate who has been so supportive and loving for all of our 32 years of marriage.  I treasure the many years of happiness together.  But without a close friendship and dedication to working together confronting our life challenges, there would not be a future of hope and joy in these later years.

My passion to give back and help others who suffer from post-trauma stress has been strengthened by my own life experience.  I know we can save lives through building awareness and in advancing the conversation of post-traumatic growth that literally saves the lives of so many children and families in life after trauma.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff…from Amazon.com.

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

Mental Health First Aid for Older Americans…Why do Aging White Males Commit Suicide in Alarming Numbers?

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Steve Sparks during a visit with Mom, Marcella Sparks, in 2015. Mom passed away at 97 on January 1, 2016.

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Sun Valley, Idaho, May 2016

Mental Health First Aid for Older Adults  from NYC Health…City of New York…

“Mental illness and aging can often be a double stigma. According to the National Council on Aging, the number of Americans 85 and older will triple by the year 2050. Older adults and care partners are less likely to identify a problem as a symptom of a mental health disorder. Furthermore, older adults have high rates of late onset mental health disorders (anxiety/depression) and low rates of identification and treatment. This curriculum module will help existing Adult MHFA Instructors in good standing reach this population with updated prevalence data, a new film, and scenarios.”

Go to…Mental Health First Aid 8 hour training…  The Mental Health First Aid USA for Older Adults curriculum is primarily focused on information participants can use to help adults ages 65 and over.

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I didn’t know until listening to a 2 hour presentation on mental health and depression in older adults, that among the elderly population, aging white males commit suicide in America at a 98% higher rate than all others.  I was actually shocked at first but now understand why (Colorado State University report). “In the United States, older men of European descent (so-called white men) have significantly higher suicide rates than any other demographic group. For example, their suicide rates are significantly higher than those of older men of African, Latino or Indigenous descent, as well as relative to older women across ethnicities.”

Depression is the culprit, especially for those who have difficulty being as opposed to doing.  I consider myself in the category of an older white male who loves living in the moment or being, but also thrives in doing the things I care about.  When my own retirement became a reality, it was very tough to find the the new chapter of doing something that provided me with the same ego fulfilling experience as did my long corporate and business career.  I found after experimenting with volunteer work in the community and public service that making a difference for others gave me the balance needed to thrive and preserve a healthy mind and body.  We older Americans, by choice, can map out our lives by being ourselves in the context of all we care about, including pursuing professional and vocational outlets for continued growth and personal rewards.  We can also take in the romance and adventure offered in life by fulfilling your bucket list of the amazing places to visit and explore around the globe or at home.  There are so many things to do as we age, assuming our good health is maintained.

In terms of mental health awareness, there is a higher probability of achieving and maintaining a healthy frame of mind by staying actively engaged, especially in social groups in the community.  Humans are herding beings and starve for social interaction and attention. Humans are not designed to be alone.  We are also challenged in today’s world when families become separated by great distances and live their own busy lives.  Older adults can become lonely and depressed over time.  A healthy body can take a big hit over time if one’s mind becomes depressed.  Being alone and less than engaged or active with others can cause a person to stop eating in healthy ways and exercising to stay in good shape.  Health issues can take shape gradually by not being active.

Sometimes though it feels like there is no place for us older Americans, so giving up is a risk. There will be starts and stops along this journey of aging, even some failures that are painful or hurtful.  But never give up…keep pushing and trying with your heart and mind.  Yes, take a break when needed, then try something new.  Get engaged with a reset attitude with new goals and opportunities.  Never say, “I’m done, it’s over.”  It is not in our nature to give up on anybody or anything, so keep on keeping on.  We live so much longer now in the 21st Century.  We boomers in our 70’s are needed in our community with our exceptional leadership qualities, wisdom, and new energy.  My grandson told me several years ago that older adults are needed to  mentor the younger generation succeeding us.  We are needed, so don’t run away.  Get busy and make stuff happen.  And don’t forget to create a balance so that the needed nap in the afternoon comes easily.  Go on the adventure to Alaska or Australia.  Take in the cultural events in your community.  Spend quality time with your family and friends and experience all the joys that life has to offer.  Remember, getting older is a privilege…many never see the morning sun of old age.  We owe to ourselves and others to show the way with our wisdom until the very last day of our lives…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page and to order books and other stuff on Amazon.

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee

 

 

Jails and Prisons were Never Built to Warehouse People with Mental Health Illnesses! The “Stepping Up Initiative” provides hope for change in America…

Stepping Up Initiative

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Each year, there are an estimated 2 million people with serious mental illnesses admitted to jails across the nation. That’s equivalent to the populations of Vermont and New Hampshire—combined. Almost three-quarters of these adults also have drug and alcohol use problems. Once incarcerated, individuals with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail and upon release are at a higher risk of returning to incarceration than those without these illnesses.

Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails

The Stepping Up Initiative  Click here for this important message…a short video clip.

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I want to recognize the heroic, passionate, and tireless work of our law enforcement, emergency services, and public health community in Lincoln County Oregon, and elsewhere in America!  It is an honor to know the top professionals who work each and every day on our behalf who have done so much for so long to create better conditions for the care of those in need who risk ending up on the wrong side of the law.  Please thank those in uniform for their service each time you see them.

I had the opportunity as a citizen of Lincoln County Oregon to visit our County Jail in Newport Oregon to see for myself what is considered a crisis in America that we must fix.  In our beautiful coastal community of Newport, Oregon, we warehouse people, upwards of 35% of jail population, with a variety of mental health and substance abuse illnesses. This unfortunate circumstance started to evolve way back during my childhood when we were closing down institutions for the mentally ill, forcing the challenge and responsibility back to our local communities, as we well should.  But the only place to send these troubled and challenged souls in our community has been to jail, period!  We were never prepared to provide adequate and humane treatment, transitional services or housing to help those who are sick to return to a healthy, responsible, and productive quality of life.  Lincoln County Oregon is a small rural county among 4000+ counties in the United States of America.  A crisis now exist at a critical mass that is completely unacceptable in America by our own well established moral obligations as well as constitutional rights.  

The law enforcement community has been screaming about this for many years to little or no avail until now…  The Stepping Up Initiative was formally launched during a summit in Washington D.C. this past April 2016.  Each and every county in America is in the process of launching the Stepping Up Initiative, including Lincoln County Oregon.

I’m proud and honored to have been invited to join the Lincoln County Oregon Board of Commissioners team, as a project consultant, to help guide the County in building a community wide collaborative strategy and implementation plan to launch the Stepping Up Initiative.  This effort is a true call to action by all citizens and stakeholders of Lincoln County Oregon and for all counties in Oregon and across America.  

I plan to provide updates on our progress in the County using this website as a platform for outreach on this important topic.  Mental Health affects children and families everywhere. Some families suffer for a lifetime without treatment or care.  We must build the capacity to take back our innately human responsibility to care for our citizens who are not able to care for themselves.  We must help our fellow citizens and neighbors get back on their feet so that they have the same opportunities in life to realize dreams of good health, happiness, and success as the rest of us. We can no longer ignore the inhumane conditions in our jails and prisons that we most often do not even see for ourselves, so we do not know.  I know now after a profoundly meaningful and emotional visit to our own Lincoln County Oregon Jail in Newport Oregon.

Please feel free to engage with me as I go on this new journey of public service in Lincoln County Oregon. You can do your part by sharing this blog post on your own social media networks.  Start the conversation with friends and neighbors to reform jails and prisons…it is our duty to fix.  You can also help directly as volunteers in your own community to make a difference at the local level.

Steve Sparks click here for my author page…

Steve2016

Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee