CCMH Blog & News
New executive director plans to bring CCMH out of the shadows
Source: Julie Thompson : thechronicleonline Jul 25, 2018
Changes are on the horizon at Columbia Community Mental Health (CCMH), spearheaded by new Executive Director Julia Jackson.
She is likely not what one would expect from such a position: young, energetic and rocking a nose ring, Jackson is making no bones about the problems the organization has endured and the damage their reputation has taken in the community. Never one to shy away from a challenge, she is determined to create an agency that is transparent and caters to community needs.
Jackson’s first job in the field involved the Jason K v. Eden trials in 2001, a landmark case in Arizona in the field of behavioral health concerning the concept of “Wraparound Care.” In that case, a federal district court judge ruled that the State of Arizona was obligated to revamp its entire children’s behavioral health system so that the needs of the children and their families came first.
The ruling came as the result of a suit brought by the family of a child in the system, Jason K., who was denied services by the state despite the recommendations from his counselor. “Wraparound was the term that came from the trial based on the fact that the family had suffered from the lack of a wrap-around system approach to care,” Jackson said.
She worked as a Child and Family Team case manager, promoting the concept of wraparound care. Within two years with the Arizona Children’s Association, Jackson became the director of training and professional development.
“Statewide, we really pushed this initiative of curriculum training and professional development for folks to be team based, you know, wrap around care and all-inclusive type care for folks who needed services,” she said.
Jackson has a background in therapeutic foster care, therapeutic adoptions and behavioral health. From there, she earned her graduate degree in marriage and family therapy, as well as one in community counseling. She has a postgraduate certificate in health care management and is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) as well as a nationally certified addictions counselor. At one point, she worked for the State of Alaska as the Vice President of Behavioral Health.
Then, Jackson took her turn in the private sector working for the Ken Starr MD Wellness group in California, learning new ways of approaching addiction medicine through the use of NAD therapies, and how to approach the business side of running a clinical practice.
“It was great because it was so much more than clinical administration. It was also like running the business, marketing it, making money, you know, and that was great,” Jackson said. “All of those skills should happen in nonprofits. They don’t, but they should. No one’s trained in clinical to look at budgets, to know how to make smart financial decisions. You just don’t get that.”
Jackson said gaining that insight allowed her to look at the best way to do medical practice, what to do with financial resources, what can be done in clinical work and ambulatory medical detox and partial hospitalization, outpatient level of care and integrated healthcare. “We really pushed the limits on innovative scientific research because we had the funds to do that,” she said.
Suffice it to say, Jackson stays busy. “I’ve always been a very passionate, ambitious person,” she said. “Any opportunity to be in leadership positions, I took advantage of.”
Following her time in California, Jackson said she’d learned a lot but found that a career there provided little in the way of upward momentum.
“So, I thought, I think I am going to jump back into nonprofit because it would be awesome if someone who knew what they were doing financially and clinically was actually helping nonprofits rather than folks who grow up in nonprofit and never get that experience in those perspectives and those resources, or just having those talents and skills,” Jackson said.
“Those people need to be running nonprofits to be helping really change and transform how things look in the community for everyone,” she said.
A new human resources director, Jodie Barker, was also hired in tandem with Jackson, and she said their partnership so far has been rock solid. “When you look at who really runs and sets the tone for the agency, it’s the executive director and the HR director that really go hand in hand, and God, she’s awesome. She’s your typical HR, super perky and people-focused,” Jackson said.
Jackson is acutely aware of the relationship between CCMH and the community at large, and she knows mistakes have been made and a certain amount of trust has been lost.
“Just today I was at a court meeting with all the attorneys and defense lawyers and judges and DHS and everyone was kind of apologizing, like, “I’m sorry, but – “and I’m like, “why are you sorry?” I realize it. I’m not going to take personal injury to feedback about CCMH,” Jackson said.
“I think in order to do this type of job, even a year down the road, you have to able to know there are almost 300 people working for me. I can’t control every single behavior, and I need to be able to distance myself a little and take in feedback and say, ‘I’ll figure it out and address it,’” she said.
In that endeavor, Jackson stresses that she is very open to feedback and communication from any member of the community who wants to reach out. She is aware that, in the past few years, CCMH has taken steps “back into the shadows.” Jackson said she has heard stories from people who have the perspective that, though the organization has been providing services, some believe it has not been tracking their care or concerning themselves with the outcome.
“It’s been like a McDonalds, just giving you the hamburger and not really caring about your weight gain or your health or what it’s doing for you,” she said, adding that the first task is opening the lines of communication.
CCMH has now revamped their website with the inclusion of a clear testimonial and feedback page and the addition of a survey link that citizens can fill out. Those surveys are also being sent out via email and in paper copy to CCMH clients for the next three months for input into their strategic plan - something Jackson said has been lacking.
There is an added footer for questions, concerns and comments where those who are interested can email email@example.com. That email goes directly to Jackson, HR Director Barker and the operational director so that no email will go unseen. “Basically, I don’t want any complaint to get to someone who can’t inform change,” Jackson said. “We’re taking that feedback and we’re putting it into the first ever really livable, useful strategic plan that is going to actively inform everything we do. It’s not going to just sit in a binder and be done.”
Jackson is also working to address the mission, vision and values of CCMH. In an organizational sense, Jackson said she is also addressing tightening the hierarchy within the system. There has been a big push behind the scenes on dealing with the culture of the organization.
“We’ve got diffused leadership and we need tight leadership all the way down, from that direct service worker who’s on the ground floor to that supervisor directly above them,” she said. “We have an agency full of really good people, really talented staff who have been operating in an unclear, inconsistent system. We have staff here who have been here over 20 years. They’re invested and passionate and committed to the community and I respect them so much for having stayed. I mean, that says a lot.”
For example, Jackson said, if someone is working in drug and alcohol services and need supported employment services, the ability to access that internally has been difficult due to CCMH’s departmental silos. Jackson said they haven’t had avenues where the teams can mingle and get together to share ideas and talk.
“The other piece, I think, is it’s been really hard for folks to get into services the first time and so we want to clear up any confusion or inability of how to access services and how to get in in a timely manner,” Jackson said.
CCMH will be making the admission process shorter in the beginning so that clients can get in sooner through a more comprehensive screening process. They will then immediately be assigned to a team that can help them with their most immediate, basic needs.
Jackson will also be hosting a “Meet the Executive Director” night in the coming weeks, as well as a tour of the facility. She believes it’s important that visibility is a priority, even in terms of signage and media presence.
Ultimately, Jackson is looking to build a more transparent CCMH. In the long term, Jackson hopes to add satellite offices so that CCMH can reach the parts of Columbia County that needs better access to their services.
However, for now, Jackson’s philosophy is simple. “Whatever we’re doing right now, we’re going to stop growing and focus on doing it really, really well,” she said. “The mood is lightening, but what I’m really focused on is to walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.”
SAFE trauma-informed yoga
CCMH is partnering with SAFE of Columbia County to provide yoga and meditation for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. SAFE of Columbia County obtained a grant earlier this year to provide community yoga services for survivors, and CCMH, as a community partner, is benefiting from this opportunity. The trauma-focused yoga classes are designed to help participants connect more deeply with themselves and to assist in stress reduction. Yoga is gaining more attention as a healing modality for trauma survivors, and staff from SAFE of Columbia County have participated in a Trauma-Sensitive Yoga training through the Trauma Center in Boston.
Michele Wilson, a certified volunteer advocate for SAFE and owner of Wild Spirit Sanctuary, is the instructor for the regular Tuesday and Thursday classes being offered at CCMH. People who want to participate in a class should call SAFE or their contact at CCMH for a referral. The classes occur at 4 pm and class attendance requires a referral for purposes of safety and confidentiality.
Sande School of Horsemanship breaks ground for ADA expansion
Source: Rigmor Angel Soerensen : thechronicleonline Jun 19, 2018
Executive Director Kassi Euwer and Nick Terry.
Sande School of Horsemanship breaks ground for ADA expansion. On Monday, June 11, Sande School of Horsemanship in Warren held a groundbreaking ceremony where they received a $15,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation. It was local Oregon Community Foundation volunteer Kannikar Petersen that presented the check for $15,000. Also at the groundbreaking were Judy Thompson of National Alliance on Mental Illness, St. Helens City Councilor Susan Conn, St. Helens City Councilor Ginny Carlson and St. Helens Mayor Rick Scholl, among several other community members. The donation is helping to expand the property with a confidential meeting space, classroom and weatherproof viewing area complete with ADA amenities, including a mounting platform, wheelchair ramp and mounting lift for people experiencing limited mobility.
Founder, Instructor and Executive Director Kassi Euwer said the school started in 2008 and that it became a non-profit in 2010. “The inspiration for originally starting a program dedicated to serving underserved populations was a student by the name of Paige who was severely affected by autism spectrum disorder,” Euwer said. “She was non-verbal and had a lot of violent outbursts. When she would get on the horse her whole body would be calm and in the three months that she rode with us. At the time, I was just giving lessons when I would come home from college. In just three months, she started using her voice to express things other than frustration, and according to her foster mom and her speech therapist that was the first time she had ever used her voice to express something really other than frustration or discontent.” When Paige would get on the horse she would have different kinds of pleasure sounds with her voice, according to Euwer.
“She would indicate things that she wanted with different intonations in her voice. It was such a breakthrough for her foster mom and speech therapistit was really just the inspiration for founding the program,” Euwer said. Euwer said the school has worked with hundreds of students since their founding and of those, 25-30 percent are people with special needs. Program and Development Manager Brooke Crews said Sande provides regular lessons and camps for anyone who wants to enroll, and two special programs. “One for people of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities and another one called the barn buddy youth enrichment program,” Crews said. “We pair up kids, mostly who have been involved in the foster care system with mentors and instructors and they get to do horsemanship and horseback riding once a week out here.” Crews said.
Crews also said the school is going to launch a partnership with Columbia Community Mental Health where they are going to start providing on-site mental health services for the kids. “They will be out here. It’s youth counselors who specialize in providing mental health services for kids, so they will do fun, interactive activities that have kind of mental health lessons incorporated into them and they will connect them to the horsemanship curriculum,” Crews said. “They have co-authored a curriculum with Kassi, and we are launching it in July. It is really exciting and I think it will be tremendous for the kids to have that extra support.” In the winter, Crews said the school is launching a stable foundation curriculum where they will have adults with disabilities learning workforce development along with horsemanship activities. “This new space in particular is going to allow us to dramatically expand the number of clients we can serve, because we have been limited with the range of disabilities.
People have to physically lift the person and it’s not exactly accessible for a wheelchair, so it’s going to open up so many possibilities for people with a broad range of disabilities to utilize the space,” Crews said. “Not will it only expand the year-around capacity, but people with a broader range of disabilities,” said Crews, saying any given week about 60 people participate in lessons. Once Sande has the space established, they plan on serving 250 people a year through the non-profit programs, according to Crews. Nick Terry is one of Kassi’s clients whom horseback riding has been therapeutic for. “When he started it was a big deal for him just being able to stretch his legs,” Euwer said Now, Terry can hold on, hold his hands up using his core, is able to trot and can use his leg muscles to stand. “One thing about therapeutic riding is everybody has their own avenue depending on what their disability is and how they are affected by it,” Euwer said.
“Nick is really affected physically. He lives in a wheelchair, does some amount of walking, very limited a few times a week. We don’t plan to try to teach him how to ride independently but his goals are strengthening his core, stretching his muscles and releasing the stress in his spastic muscles.” Euwer said Terry is a huge success in how far he has come physically. “When he started, he was able to walk 50 yards and now he can walk 400 yards. He doesn’t do regular physical therapy outside of the barn. He does swimming and this every weekend, and they attest the majority of that progress to horseback riding,” Euwer said. Euwer said she feels incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with people and have a positive impact in their lives. “I feel like my dad has worked so hard to build this legacy that I owe it to him and my mom, and myself to do something worthwhile and serve the community,” Euwer said.
Jessie, Executive Director and Founder Kassi Euwer, Melissa Riddell, Nick Terry and Benjamin Murphy.
Columbia County's 1st "Out of the Darkness" Walk
On Sept. 10th, 2016, 144 Columbia County residents walked a 2-mile loop through Scappoose, OR. This was for a generous cause to create awareness around suicide. Hosted by Scappoose Police Dept. and sponsored by Columbia Funeral Home, this was just one of the 375 walks that take place nationwide to support suicide prevention and awareness.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) promotes the idea that it's okay for people to talk about this critically important topic. It's okay for people that have been affected by suicide to have hope. For those thinking about suicide, to understand that there are people who care and can support you in whatever hardship you may be suffering. The AFSP has a goal to reduce the rate of suicide by 20% by 2025, and the best way to do so is to get people to understand and talk about it!
The walk was a huge success with encouraging speeches from CCMH's own Brianne Mares, prevention specialist, who worked along side the Scappoose Police Department's chief, Norm Miller, and SPD's records specialist, Hailey Holm, to create this special event for our community. There were also special appearances and speeches from Deborah Zwetchkenbaum, assistant director for Lines For Life Crisis Hotline, and Marilyn Grover, vice president for the Suicide Bereavement Support Group.
For Columbia County, we raised over $9,900 which will go towards research and bringing more awareness nationwide. This topic touches one in every five Americans, and in Columbia County it was found that an average of 11 suicides occur annually. As it stands right now Oregon is ranked 10th in the nation for rates of suicide, and our nation as a whole leads 2nd in the world for people ages 12-24. Can you believe that? There are so many suicides that occur through our home that we are ranked 2nd in the world!!
What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid is a curriculum that teaches about recovery and resiliency and how someone can respond to a person who is having a mental health crisis or struggling with a mental health challenge. MHFA teaches the mnemonic ALGEE:
- Assess for Risk of Suicide or Harm
- Listen Nonjudgmentally
- Give Reassurance and Information
- Encourage Appropriate Professional Help
- Encourage Self-Help and Other Support Strategies.
Columbia Community Mental Health started offering Mental Health First Aid training in May of 2011. Since then 22 classes have been held and 294 participants certified. Since starting MHFA trainings, CCMH employees (3 currently) have also become trainers in the youth version of Mental Health First Aid, which assists participants to offer help to youth who are experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis until appropriate help is received or the crisis resolves. Different areas of the community have shown interest and some have already participated in a training and become certified Mental Health first aiders. We have trained people from the court system, schools, and juvenile department to mention a few. Because our community first responders had an interest in Mental Health First Aid training, we had 2 trainers take the specialized public safety curriculum supplemental training. We have participated in 4 Public Safety trainings, 3 of which were full week Crisis Intervention Trainings.
If you would like more information on the Mental Health First Aid Trainings offered by CCMH please contact CCMH