I can never appreciate enough all the love and support received over the years from the person who has been my rock for over 35 years, my soul mate, and wife, Judy. As a person seriously affected by addiction and mental illness with lifetime recovery implications, I would not be here today at age 73 without the profoundly life saving unconditional love of Judy… This is what I truly believe…
With all the decades of loving support from Judy and caregivers like her everywhere, it takes its toll and often presents a risk of Secondary PTSD on the person caring for a loved one or as a friend, colleague, clinician or peer support professional. Along with the joyful times in our life together, my physical and mental health issues have been ever present from day 1, and a work in progress, indeed. I was in denial for most of my life so the “work in progress” part was much harder and reactionery with bad results. Now, in these later years with a much higher level of awareness, we work more as a team and help each other as a family. Healing is a team effort. Don’t try it alone, please!
Take a moment each day to thank the caregivers in your life and hug them often, Check out the reference links above to learn more about how to support your special caregiver(s).
I spent the first 6 decades of my life trying to figure out what was wrong with me and everything else in my life. When I finally started learning about post trauma stress (PTS) and trauma informed care, it was clear that empathy and compassion were possible once we changed the conversation to “what happened” not “what is wrong.” This seemingly basic concept allowed me to begin my own journey of healing in 2011 at age 64. Everytime I talk to a person suffering from PTSD, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health challenges, I try to find out what happened, not what is wrong. Once we change the conversation to what happened, the talk shifts immediately to a greater mutual understanding of the roots of the emotional struggles of your friends, neighbors, and loved ones who are suffering from a past traumatic life event. Imagine a combat veteran who came home from war a different person because of being exposed to the terrible violence of war. Think about a child who suffers from persistent and pervasive emotional and physical abuse in a profoundly dysfunctional home. In all these circumstances of severe trauma, we know now that the human brain is rewired, the brain chemistry changes and adapts to extreme survival circumstances and danger to life in war or at home living in fear. Because we know this as human beings we can have more empathy and compassion for others who suffer for a lifetime. The emotional baggage of war, the violence and carnage, losing a buddy, seeing little children dead in the streets as collateral damage is too much for a once healthy mind to process and get past once home to resume life as a typical citizen. It is far worse to see traumatized children grow up with serious mental illness, including PTSD and life long major depression, that must be treated for a lifetime. It is heartbreaking to know that too many people of all ages resort to suicide or overdose on opioids because there is no hope and the emotional pain is too horrific to live with.
The life long journey of healing takes a highly disciplined personal effort of awareness of one’s own symptoms and strong support from family, close friends and a sustainable clinical and community based peer support treatment/recovery plan. Even so, the 24/7 intrusive thoughts and emotional pain stick for a lifetime for those of us who suffer from a major depressive disorder. I feel lucky to have a strong support system in these later years of my life. There are too many people in my community suffering from mental illness, including co-occuring alcohol and drug addiction, who are not as lucky. We see it in communities everywhere, the homeless and most vulnerable citizens who live among us. The way we treat the most vulnerable population in our community is a direct reflection of who we are, a loving community with great empathy and compassion.
So, with much empathy and compassion, reach out to the most vulnerable members of your community with kindness and love. Listen to them and help them find a safe place to begin living a healthy and happy quality of life.
It has been a lifetime honor and privilege for me to help our community of Lincoln County Oregon launch this important initiative.
The Problem…quote from the above website…click here
“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.”
Since the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on October 5, 2016 to start the formal process of implementing the Stepping Up Initiative, we have been hard at work to win public and stakeholder support to build a community owned treatment continuum that effectively diverts those with mental illness and addiction from being incarcerated in the first place. As a community, we have ignored our responsiblity of caring for our less fortunate citizens for many generations. For decades we have pushed folks with mental illness and addiction into County jails because being arrested and incarcerated was the only public safety option. We have been grossly under resourced in communities all over America because we have failed to step up as a community to fix a problem we clearly own. We delegated our moral responsibility to law enforcement, criminal justice, hospitals, and public health resources for the last 40 years. Along the way with hard lessons learned, we discovered that the longer term solution must be owned by local communities as a family of peer support and services specialists, who are much better at intercepting our friends and family members who are suffering from medical and mental health illnesses, and addiction. We can do this work far better and at a much lower cost than our local government institutions.
To help my readers with where we are in Lincoln County Oregon with the Stepping Up Initiative, following is a report submitted on August 1st that shows where we are and where we are headed. It is a very exciting time in Lincoln County and in other counties in our region to know that we are changing with a sense of urgency.
Stepping Up Initiative August 2017 Monthly Report… September 1, 2017
By Steve Sparks, Project Consultant, Lincoln County Oregon, Board of Commissioners (BOC)
Quality preparation for the GAINS Center, Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) workshop on August 29/30 paid big dividends! The attendance and participation far exceeded expectations. Most importantly, everyone who attended the workshop came ready to be engaged in a meaningful way. Everyone who has been involved in the leadership and planning for the Stepping Up Initiative and the SIM workshop planning this past year are just outstanding and professional in every respect. We are well positioned to move forward with the post SIM priorities voted by participants during the workshop. I will review these critical actions in this report, especially the top priority, intercepts 0-1.
Sequential Intercept Mapping Priorities for Change
Establish Intercept 0-1 diversion, including mobile crisis response, peer services, tri-county partnerships, etc. (17 votes)
Establish Intercept 2 diversion through pre-trial services/intervention (14 votes)
Increase cross-Intercept peer-delivered services and provide education regarding justice involvement (11 votes)
Provide formalized reentry planning in Intercept 4 (i.e., closed loop referrals) (10 votes)
Establish/increase supportive housing for individuals with mental illness (7 votes)
Increase Intercept 1 diversion options for law enforcement (both voluntary and involuntary) (6 votes)
Provide cross-training across Intercepts (6 votes)
Establish Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) in the area (4 votes)
Provide more timely access to services upon reentry (3 votes)
Enhance recruitment and corporate housing for mental health staff across agencies (3 votes)
Increase awareness and screening of gambling disorders and training/referrals to treatment (3 votes)
Enhance care coordination model for community services in Intercept 0 (3 votes)
Provide a faster handoff from law enforcement to the hospital, reducing wait times for officers (2 votes)
Enhance cross-Intercept utilization of data and technology (1 vote)
The GAINS Center, Policy Research Associates, workshop facilitators, Travis Parker and Ashley Krider will prepare a detailed Sequential Intercept Map (SIM) tailored after the workshop outcomes presented as priorities above. We have very detailed and measurable post SIM forward actions developed in breakout groups during the 2nd morning of the workshop. In the coming weeks and months, the breakout work teams will continue to be engaged in the process. The excellent professional support from Policy Research Associates and facilitators, Travis Parker and Ashley Krider, will continue as we implement a sustainable strategic plan for Lincoln County that includes participation and collaboration from tri-county partners, Linn and Benton Counties, Samaritan Health Services Hospitals, Samaritan IHN-CCO, and a diversified group of community treatment stakeholders. All are dedicated to building a community treatment continuum that addresses the larger needs of jail diversion, jail re-entry transition, mobile crisis response and peer support services. After the workshop, it was abundantly clear that we are all on the same team.
Establish Intercept 0-1 diversion, including mobile crisis response, peer services, tri-county partnerships, etc. (17 votes)
For starters, we are launching immediately into the highest priority action identified for intercept 0-1. In the near term, my role as project consultant will focus on orchestrating the forward progress of intercept 0-1. Lincoln County was awarded an OHA mobile crisis response grant over a year ago that has become a severe challenge to execute because of our inability to recruit and retain qualified crisis response clinical professionals to staff the 24/7 needs of a mobile crisis response business model. The 0-1 intercept breakout group spent considerable time discussing this problem, the broader complexities, and implications. We agreed to move to a higher-level post SIM workshop action by engaging tri-county partners and other stakeholders in this effort to find solutions for Lincoln County, and potentially drive a stronger regional collaboration. The peer support services component offers opportunities for scale, leverage, and staffing a more regionally focused mobile crisis response business model. CHANCE, https://www.chancerecovery.org/ a peer services and support non-profit from Albany, is committed to supporting this effort and have in place existing peer services contracts with both Linn County and the IHN-CCO. Our goal is to maximize the potential of peer support and services in Lincoln County going forward. Also new in Lincoln County is Powerhouse Residential Treatment https://www.powerhousetreatment.com/ opening soon in Otis. We have already started early discussions with Powerhouse to bring them into the Stepping Up Initiative mix. Also, on the table for discussion is a peer support and services criminal justice model in the State of Montana, Montana Peer Network, “Peers as Crisis Service Providers,” from SAMHSA. There is a strong business case and outcomes in the Montana model that could be considered and replicated in the LBL tri-county. Reference the Montana business case… http://mtpeernetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/White-Paper.pdf
Future Funding Opportunities
As we all know, the funding environment is highly competitive. The Stepping Up Initiative, especially the completion of the highly regarded SAMHSA GAINS Center Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) platform, will open funding opportunities for Lincoln County and LBL tri-county that we were previously not prepared to compete effectively and win support from diversified funding sources. One such example we are looking into right now is the Laura and John Arnold Foundation RFP, just released. We now know that private foundation funding is very much in the mix as we build a competitive public private partnership business strategy.
My work continues to include high-level interactions with community stakeholders and tri-county partners to strengthen collaborations and build awareness. Commissioner Hall and Sheriff Landers along with other team members have joined me consistently in various community venues, meetings, and radio programs to spread the word. We are receiving much more media attention as well. We are attracting more volunteers and attention from higher education. Keith Nelson, a retired IRS/DOJ professional has been volunteering his skills on baseline data collection and connecting Lincoln County to higher education resources at Washington State University, Criminal Justice, in Pullman and potentially OSU. Shelby Houston, a Creighton University graduate student, is completing her practicum with Lincoln County Community Justice and Probation under the guidance of Suzi Gonzales and Jennifer Landers. LPSCC MH subcommittee, MHAC and APARC advisory groups are very important forums as well. I personally and professionally enjoy the outreach role very much and appreciate the opportunity to reach out to our broader community.
As your Stepping Up Initiative project consultant, I couldn’t be more pleased with the leadership commitment and support this past year since the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners passed the Stepping Up Initiative Resolution on October 5, 2016. I have been able to do this work at a very high professional level with very few roadblocks. The wind is at our back as we move forward with the post SIM workshop action plan. We have the passion and motivation among all stakeholders to move to a sustainable business plan.