Nenana Wellness Coalition
August 18, 2015
The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate, masticate and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.
We had nine participants today: Kat McElroy, Cassandra Thomas, Jeannie Bennett, Bonnie Reed, Harriett Borst, Mary Alexander, Miles Martin, Therese Titus and Virginia Young. We enjoyed spaghetti squash stuffed with pork and pine-nuts, spinach salad, and Ritz crackers with sliced cheese for lunch.
WELCOME and READING OF MISSION STATEMENT: By this week’s chairperson, Jeannie Bennett.
SPIRITUAL MOMENT: Harriett Borst
PRESENTATION OF AGENDA AND CALL FOR MODIFICATIONS: No additions to the agenda.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES: No minutes submitted last week.
INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS: Therese was welcomed back after her several year sojourn to Arizona. Kat introduced her sister Cassandra who is visiting again from Reno; her last visit was five or six years ago.
Trauma Informed Care: Kat reported on the Circles of Care training she attended in Fairbanks last week. This 2-day training was the first of 8 trainings that will be provided by Tanana Chiefs Conference through their Circles of Care grant which will be held quarterly for the next two years to local providers to learn about trauma-informed care. This is a Systems of Care model of services, an organizational philosophy and framework that involves collaboration across agencies, families, and youths for the purpose of improving access and expanding the array of coordinated community-based, culturally and linguistically competent services and supports for people with a serious emotional disturbance and their families. Systems of care engage families and youth in partnership with public and private organizations to design mental health services and supports that are effective, that build on the strengths of individuals, and that address each person’s cultural and linguistic needs, to help people and families function better at home, in school, in the community, and throughout life. The training was led by Native clinical providers from across the nation, many of whom have been involved in providing clinical services for decades and used didactic segments of learning interspersed with small group break-out sessions to discuss and process the information being provided about personal trauma, early childhood trauma and historical trauma and how these play out in the lives of people coming to us for services. The consensus of providers is that too often our current system of care actually re-traumatizes the people we are trying to serve, which is distressing to all. Future trainings will assist us in strategies for incorporating trauma informed care into our programs.
One of the common themes that percolated up during small group discussion was provider’s experiences of frustration, confusion, anger and despair at not being able to help the people that come to them needing assistance and a general sense that providers become traumatized themselves not by the work but by the system within which they attempt to do their work. Discussion frequently came back to how addiction, mental health, poverty and cultural displacement have been increasing criminalized so that people dealing with these issues are doubly burdened as they become enmeshed in the criminal justice system, which today in the USA is the single largest provider of mental health services.
Synchronistically, Kat said that she had the opportunity to attend the Fairbanks Diversity Council meeting Tuesday evening after day one of the above training, a part of which was a lengthy presentation by the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission.
The Alaska Criminal Justice Commission was created by the Alaska State Legislature when Governor Sean Parnell signed SB 64 into law. The Commission, which consists of thirteen members, has a limited term ending on July 1, 2017. The Commission is tasked to evaluate and make recommendations to improve criminal laws and practices, keeping in mind the goals of enhancing public safety, offender rehabilitation, victim restitution and reducing costs. The Commission may recommend legislative or administrative action to the Legislature and to the Governor. The Commission had its first meeting on September 22, 2014. They have been looking at some of the many “factors impacting recidivism rates and barriers to successful re-entry back into community upon release from incarceration. If you are interested in knowing more about this commission, go here: http://www.ajc.state.ak.us/acjc/index.html
They reported some of their findings to date, information about which may be found here: http://www.ajc.state.ak.us/acjc/recommend.html
It was particularly interesting, Kat noted, that the newly completed Goose Creek prison is running at 110% capacity and if changes are not made to our present criminal justice practices, we will find ourselves needing to build yet another large penal institution to house the many new inmates we are creating. The presenter at Tuesday night’s meeting noted that the largest number of people currently incarcerated in Alaska were those being held in “presentencing status” meaning they have not even been to court yet on their current offense but do not have the financial wherewithal to make bail and thus be released until their trial, and people who are being held for minor probation violations. Many offenders also end up pleading out on reduced charges (often of offenses they did not actually commit) so as to be able to serve their sentence and get released. The commission encourages input from the public. Anyone wishing to provide testimony via email is encouraged to do so at email@example.com
WELLNESS THOUGHT: “You have to have confidence in your own ability to be able to go it alone, to go against what the rest of the culture is doing.” —Eunice Baumann-Nelson, Ph.D., PENOBSCOT
Harriet: Her grandson in Idaho has been evacuated to a town in Oregon due to wildfire. Her son is in wait/see mode after receiving cancer treatments and will be re-evaluated in three months.
At Meda Lord, they continue having Game Night Mondays 6:30-9:30 PM; Hymns Singalong Wednesdays at 7PM and they have been doing Thursday evenings knitting and crocheting during which Nancy Jones generally brings a soup to share at 5:30 PM.
They will be starting Yoga up again.
Therese: Says they are predicting a good fish run this season. She and Tom have their net ready to put in and a buyer already lined up.
She is glad for WIN, says it makes coming back to Nenana better to know we are all still here plugging along, focusing on solutions for change from a grassroots level.
She said she has been learning about Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises which were developed by trauma specialist Dr. David Berceli to reduce the impact of traumatic experiences on the body and was designed to be taught to large populations for whom trauma and PTSD are pervasive (such as military personnel, and natural disaster survivors), but also benefits anyone who may be holding stress and tension in their body.
She also said she is currently unemployed and so looking for projects to keep herself productively occupied.
Virginia: Plotted out the next six peony plots which will hold about 500 plants. Reports that the Nenana Saturday Market continues to grow and prosper. We will be having Saturday Market next week and subsequently at the Civic Center instead of the Rec Center. They have obtained a 35 foot banner to go over the street to advertise it. Marilyn has been selling fresh produce from the school garden at Coghill’s.
Bonnie: Turned 86 on Monday. Happy Birthday, Bonnie. Don’t forget the Joint Meeting next Monday night, August 24, 6:30 PM, at the Civic Center.
Kat: We are interviewing for a new psychiatrist at Railbelt. Leon leaves for the Job Corps August 25; until then he will be working with Lee planting peonies. Therese has been coming over to work in the garden; she weeded and we found the squash plants which had become completed subsumed by chickweed and lamb’s quarter. Kat has spaghetti squash galore and will bring many to the Saturday Market.
Cassandra: Has been enjoying her visit.
Mary: They have really been on the go, flying to many villages to perform music. They always get to come home with good fish. Next weekend they will be flying over to Galena. She went to the Fair with Grandma Nina and the seniors and really had a blast.
Miles: In reference to the Circles of Care training, he was thinking about Galena back in the day, and Nenana, too, people in the community knew one another and had a sense for what each person needed and how we could take care of each-other. He thinks it is ironic that the system has begun to come full circle back to an understanding that care needs to be community-based, involve the family, and take into consideration how all people are different, with different needs and abilities.
Jeannie: The next Freecycle will be September 4th, 5:30 PM, at the RV Park, with Mexican food for pot luck.
ADJOURNMENT: 1:40 PM.