This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Jade-Heather Lepotokisi, who is doing an awesome job as dual coordinator for Blackfeet Tribe’s Methamphetamine & Suicide Prevention Initiative (MSPI) and Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative (DVPI)! Jade-Heather is a Blackfeet descendant and an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. CHEER provides technical assistance for every MSPI and DVPI program in the Billings Area alongside the Indian Health Service under a contract with the Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center RMTEC. CHEER helps MSPI and DVPI programs create data measurement tools, design evaluation strategies, and complete their Local Data Collection Plans.
“I am a survivor of severe abuse and trauma and I share the same story as many of the people I work with,” Jade-Heather openly shares. “It's easier to help individuals if you know where they're coming from. I understand their struggles but can also help motivate them to overcome them and become successful in following their dreams and making positive changes. I am the result what can be achieved in Indian country by helping to build resiliency in Native people. Our traumas are only a chapter of stories but are not the entire book.”
For the MSPI, Jade-Heather created and facilitates year-long groups for at-risk middle and high school students with the focus of overcoming trauma and building resiliency in Native American youth. These students work weekly with elders from their community, who share traditional teachings and offer mental health support. Jade-Heather also works closely with the families of enrolled students and offers trauma-informed trainings for principals and teachers.
For the DVPI, Jade-Heather is helping to educate people of all ages. She trains facilitators on: the “Good Touch, Bad Touch” training booklets for Blackfeet Head Start (ages 3-5) and Browning Elementary School students (grades 2nd-3rd); a “Safe Dates” curriculum for middle and high school students; and a “Healthy Relationships” course for adults, a curriculum created by the Native Wellness Institute. The “Good Touch, Bad Touch” booklets teach children how to be mindful of their bodies and take control of uncomfortable situations. The “Safe Dates” curriculum focuses on adolescent dating abuse prevention and is part of a required course for all freshmen and sophomores at Browning High School. The DVPI has also established a referral system with the Blackfeet Tribal court system to help community members in regards to their domestic violence cases.
Jade-Heather is excited that both the MSPI and DVPI were successful in developing Memorandums of Agreement with the Browning Public School system and the Blackfeet Tribal Council. This allows the MSPI and DVPI to work openly with these two entities and allows them more access to the public schools, thus creating more outlets of learning for Native youth.
In addition to her job, Jade-Heather is pursuing a Master of Social work at Walla Walla University. She hopes to one day become a behavioral health therapist for Native youth. She is also the mother of 6, a role she balances with the help of a supportive spouse and time management skills. In her free time, Jade-Heather enjoys being a disc jockey on a country music show on her local radio station.
Congratulations, Jade-Heather, on your inspiring life journey, family, and career!
This week’s CHEER Champions of the Week are Windy Burd and Lynette Raining Bird, members of the Blackfeet Tribe and the local Blackfeet grassroots group, the Silent Warriors Coalition. Silent Warriors is comprised of community members who are working hard to expose addiction, educate youth, and support people on their recovery journeys. They are dedicated to helping the community find solutions to help prevent and treat addiction.
Silent Warriors is an active member of the Opioid Prevention Taskforce (OPT) in Blackfeet. CHEER facilitates the OPT, which is working towards establishing a medication assisted therapy (MAT) clinic on the Blackfeet Reservation. The Blackfeet Tribe, Tribal Health, the Indian Health Service Blackfeet Community Hospital, the Silent Warriors, and many other community groups, with CHEER’s technical assistance, aim to launch the clinic in the coming year at the Southern Peigan Health Center in Browning, Montana. Initially, the MAT clinic will be for mothers with opiate addictions, but eventually plans to expand services to a larger population.
Windy and Lynette were guest speakers at the OPT meeting on December 7, 2017 in Browning. They are both recovering from addictions and shared their journeys through addiction and answered a lot of questions the group had. Their stories brought tears, laughter, and a sense of connection to the people the OPT hopes to help through the MAT clinic.
“When providers understand and know people, they are able to empathize and consider approaches with more gentleness. We (the OPT) want to make sure that we are involving the people we are trying to assist in the solutions,” says CHEER Project Manager and OPT member, Kirsten Krane.
In the question and answer portion of the meeting, participants were given small pieces of paper on which they could anonymously write questions for Windy and Lynette. The questions were thoughtful, and Windy and Lynette answered them with honesty. The group wanted to know if traumas played a role in the women starting drug use and what kinds of things acted as the wake-up call for the women to realize that they needed to seek help to stop using.
There were also questions about how people in the Blackfeet community smoke and inject (also called "slamming") methamphetamines and opioids. The women shared how people sometimes use the older, non-LED lightbulbs and the empty part of a ballpoint pen to smoke meth. Pipes used for smoking substances are commonly referred to as “loaks” in Blackfeet. OPT members discussed the increase in meth injection over meth smoking these days because it takes less to get high and the smoke won't be detected by people testing their home for drugs. Windy and Lynette also showed the OPT what a "bindle" looks like so that they could spot them on the street (a folded piece of paper used for carrying meth). They even folded one for the group to show them the approximate size.
CHEER and the OPT are grateful to Windy and Lynette for graciously sharing their stories and information. We feel honored to know them and to have their help as we offer assistance to the Blackfeet community in opening their first MAT clinic.
Congratulations to our very own Nathan Nickel, PhD, MPH, CHEER Data Consultant, for winning the prestigious University of Manitoba Falconer Emerging Researcher Rh Award for Outstanding Contributions to Scholarship and Research in the Health Sciences category! The University of Manitoba officially announced this award on April 10, 2018. The award honors Nathan’s excellent research contributions and provides him with future supplementary support for his research. In addition to working for CHEER as a Data Consultant, Nathan is an Assistant Professor of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba and a Research Scientist at Manitoba Centre for Health Policy.
Nathan’s work for CHEER has mostly been related to our CHAMPS program. By analyzing hospital data, Nathan has looked at relationships such as whether CHAMPS is improving breastfeeding outcomes, whether CHAMPS is reducing racial breastfeeding disparities, and whether certain Steps out of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are especially important for certain racial groups versus others. CHEER hopes to publish Nathan’s research findings soon.
“Not only do the Ten Steps work,” Nathan enthusiastically shares, “they do seem to be reducing racial inequities, at least in Southern United Sates. And they are really important for African-American and Hispanic moms. All this adds motivation and impetus to why it’s important to do everything we can to overcome structural barriers. Some think that stats can be dry or dull, but this is the evidence that what we’re doing is working.”
Most of Nathan’s other research comes out of his work at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, his research “lab” located at and affiliated with the University of Manitoba. His work there involves looking at large datasets to find out what is helping to reduce maternal and child health inequity in Canada. Nathan says there are over 80 databases at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, and that they include indicators such as healthcare, education, income assistance, social services, and housing. He and other researchers put all that information together to see which programs are working to improve maternal and child health.
“What I enjoy most about the work I do is finding out how we can help families lead healthier lives,” Nathan says. “We’re not just doing research for the sake of research. We’re asking, ‘How can we improve the health and wellbeing of families?’ I feel really fortunate that I get to do what I do.”
Nathan is the recipient of the Kenneth Hughes Young Investigator Award for Health Services Research and the Sidney S. Chipman Award. He also teaches the University of Manitoba’s School of Medicine’s graduate course in Epidemiology, and he participates on a federal working committee through the Canadian Institute for Health Innovation to look at ways Canada can reduce health inequities.
Congratulations, Nathan! It’s great to have you on our team!
This week’s CHEER Champion is an organization dedicated to equity at all levels. Orange House is a shelter in Athens, Greece for up to 20 refugees, and a day center for many more. Around 200 refugees a day visit Orange House to learn English, Greek, French, German, French, music, yoga and dance. Orange House provides free daycare for children whose parents are attending class, lunch daily for anyone who stops by, and free showers – very necessary with many refugees living in cramped accommodation with poor sanitation. Orange House also provides lawyers, social workers, psychological support, and referral services to free medical care.
Refugees who come to Orange House are from all over the world – Afghanistan, Congo, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria to name but a few. Zaatar, the parent NGO (Non Governmental Organization) also runs a support service for LGBT refugees and a back to school program to help refugees enroll their school age children into local Greek schools.
Right now, about 62,000 refugees are stranded in Greece, many of them from war-torn nations in the middle east. Many arrive after dangerous mountain treks, or cross from Turkey in small rubber boats to the Greek islands, where they can spend many months before being relocated to the Greek mainland. Other European nations recently closed their borders to refugees, which means Greece, a nation already suffering from severe economic depression, is now dealing with an additional crisis involving hosting and managing tens of thousands fleeing from their countries.
Marina Liakis founded and directs Orange House, which is staffed by volunteers from around the world, many of whom are from the refugee community themselves. CHEER congratulates Orange House on their great work!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each week, we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the work they have done for CHEER (Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research)/CHAMPS (Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices).