This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Pastor Joel Toppen, Lead Pastor at Four Winds Assembly of God Church in Browning, Montana and Spiritual Advisor for the Silent Warriors Coalition, a group of community members dedicated to fighting drug and alcohol abuse in Blackfeet Nation. Pastor Joel is also a member of the Opioid Prevention Taskforce (OPT) in Blackfeet, and his church offers meeting space for the Silent Warriors and weekly support groups for men and women, many of whom struggle with addiction.
“I wear a number of hats in the community,” shares Pastor Joel. “Several people in my congregation are in the Silent Warriors, and that’s the primary reason I got involved with that group and the OPT. As a pastor, I deal with the same issues as people in healthcare. I try to be involved in whatever I can to bless the community.”
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.
Pastor Joel has offered his unwavering support for the MAT since the OPT first started. He says the reason he does has to do with the Lummi Tribe in Washington and how he and others from Blackfeet saw a MAT clinic working successfully there. Lummi’s model involves a lot of follow-up and regulation, a different approach than prescribing medication for extended periods of time without contact throughout that time.
“I envision a MAT clinic on Blackfeet doing it properly,” says Pastor Joel. “More hands-on with dosage and people ready to council. And to recognize when someone is not in a good place. Instead of just treating the addiction, we need to ask why they are going to drugs. Merging with mental health is where we need to go with this.”
Currently, Blackfeet does not have an outpatient opioid-replacement therapy program and people travel to other cities in the Northwest for treatment. Ideally, Pastor Joel sees the MAT clinic as a core component of a multi-faceted drug addiction program on Blackfeet. Such a program, says Pastor Joel, would “holistically treat families” and teach people how to “cope and do life skills.” Having a local program would also allow families to remain together while getting treatment and reduce the risk of foster care, he says.
Pastor Joel lived on the edge of Navajo Nation for 24 years before he moved to Blackfeet in 2015. His wife, Erica, volunteers at the church and offers individual counseling to those in their church community, many of whom have been affected by substance abuse, domestic violence, or both.
Congratulations, Pastor Joel, and thank you for everything you do!
Brocade Stops Black Eagle is this week’s CHEER Champion of the Week. Brocade (Crow-Mandan-Hidasta) is an RN at the Indian Health Service (IHS) Crow/Northern Cheyenne hospital on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana and Project Leader on IHS’ Healthy Mothers, Healthy Tribe initiative in that area. CHEER is the Billings Area contractor on this initiative, which is funded by an Inter-Agency Agreement between the Office on Women’s Health and IHS. Healthy Mothers, Healthy Tribe aims to improve prenatal care and drug use prevention and treatment within the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribes and the facilities that serve them.
“My goal for the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Tribe project is to improve prenatal care in the community,” says Brocade. “By providing the best health care to women, we will have a healthier future generation. They are our future.” Substance abuse is high in the area, and reducing this is one of the main focuses of the Healthy Women, Healthy Tribe project.
Brocade’s prenatal support group, held in partnership with the Secret Shawl Society, has been inspiring and well-attended. Brocade is not only a nurse but an artist, and she is teaching the women in her group how to bead and to make cradleboards and moccasins. Check out this inspiring youtube video about her beading work.
Brocade shares, “On Christmas Day 2016, I lost my mother to gynecologic cancer and then 6 months later my sister died in a car accident. After I lost my sister I slipped into a depression. I didn’t want to get out of bed. The only way I could get myself out of bed was by beading from sun up to sun down. It helped me to get through all those feelings and emotions. I hope by showing the women who are struggling with substance abuse how to bead, it will help them in the ways that it helped me.”
Brocade has jumped into her role as Healthy Mothers, Healthy Tribe Project Lead with both feet, and is taking a tremendous amount of initiative to make the project effective. Her role includes: providing project oversight; collaborating with local providers; culturally integrating the initiative with the patients; developing a designated ambulatory clinic for the project; establishing a prenatal support group; coordinating with Tribal representatives; ensuring hospital preparation for prenatal services; and hosting events to attract patients.
In the past year and a half, Brocade has hosted 3 successful prenatal clinics. First, she reaches out to various hospital departments to find a date that works for everyone. Then, she informs the community about the prenatal clinic with flyers and telephone calls. When the women arrive to the all-day clinic, staff members greet them, evaluate their needs, and create a personally tailored schedule of visits to applicable departments: behavioral health, dental, optometry, Public Health Nursing, benefits, OB, and WIC. Representatives from each of these departments are situated throughout the hospital and the OB clinic rooms, and the women travel around to meet with them. Each of these clinics has attracted many new patients, with an average of 10 women completing each clinic. In addition to achieving a healthier pregnancy, women who complete the clinic receive a free car seat.
We are very fortunate to be working with you, Brocade! Keep up the great work!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Brittany Butler, CLC, WIC Peer Counselor-3 for the Mississippi Department of Health. Brittany was nominated for doing a great job supporting women with breastfeeding within and outside of WIC, and for meeting her personal breastfeeding goal of 2 years!
“My favorite part of my job is seeing a mom's face when she has successfully breastfed,” said Brittany. “I've had mothers who cry with happiness and some who grin ear to ear with excitement. I love helping them succeed and meet their goals.”
As a WIC Peer Counselor-3, Brittany covers Wayne, Jones and Greene counties, and her main role is to help women have a positive breastfeeding experience. She teaches clients about the benefits of breastfeeding, helps with breastfeeding issues, and offers support when needed. She also teaches a breastfeeding class once a month; issues breast pumps to mothers who have a baby in the NICU, issues with breastfeeding, or are returning to work; and attends community events to promote WIC. Brittany also finds herself promoting breastfeeding outside of work, with family and friends, and on Facebook.
Brittany shared her personal breastfeeding story with CHAMPS, one that will surely resonate with many others:
“I wasn't able to exclusively breastfeed my first child who is now 6 years old. We had to supplement from the start and I didn't have the support I needed. I did pump every day and gave him 2-4 ounces a day for 26 months. I was glad he got some breast milk. Then, I got a call one day asking if I would be interested in becoming a WIC Peer Counselor and I jumped at the chance. I wanted more women to have support and be successful with breastfeeding.
“When I got pregnant with my second child I knew things would be different. During that pregnancy, I attended a Certified Lactation Counseling training and received my certification. I delivered my daughter at Forrest General Hospital, the first hospital in Mississippi to become Baby-Friendly the month I delivered. I did skin-to-skin with her, and everyone was so supportive and caring.
“I told my husband I wanted to fully breastfeed no matter what until she was 2 years old. He gave me his complete support and told others about the benefits of breast milk. As her 2nd birthday approached she started self-weaning; she went from nursing 7-8 times a day to 4-5. I started to get nervous we wouldn't make it. Then she maintained that and her birthday came and WE MADE IT!
“I find it so rewarding to know I was responsible for her growth and for giving her the best thing I possibly could. My husband asked me on her 2nd birthday if I planned to continue to nurse her. ‘Of course!’ I told him. ‘I met my goal of 2 years now let's see what Kaylee's goal is and meet that.’ My favorite time of every day is nursing her. I love it when she looks at me and smiles or giggles while nursing. The connection we have is so special. This is something I will treasure for the rest of my life, and I’m sure she will too.”
Congratulations, Brittany! Your work and personal story are inspiring!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each Monday (besides public holidays), we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the support they have provided for CHEER, CHAMPS, or the general public.