Battling meth: A rural Montana county starts drug court to reverse surge of kids in foster care

By Daniel Heimpel

When James Manley came to rural Lake County, Montana, as a district judge in 2013, he knew the meth problem was bad, but he didn’t know how much worse it would get.

Judge James Manley

Three-and-a-half years ago, Manley says the courthouse was processing roughly 220 felony cases a year. This year, he says the county will handle upwards of 500 drug-related felonies, and that at least 400 of those arrested will be parents.

“The destruction to families is incredible,” Manley said. “It breaks your heart to see families torn apart by addiction.”

Lake County, tucked in the northwest corner of the state, is at a breaking point. The jail regularly has inmates sleeping on the floor, the courts are clogged and kids are entering the foster care system at a stunning rate.

While the county is unique in that more than two-thirds of its 1,600 square miles of pristine forest, farms and pastureland sit on the Flathead Reservation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, its meth problem is part of much larger, and disturbing, trend.

In October 2016, the federal Administration for Children and Youth and Families (ACYF), which oversees foster care nationwide, pointed to substance abuse – particularly meth and opioids – as a driving factor in a steady three-year increase in foster care numbers. From 2013 to 2015, the last year of national data available, the number of children in foster care grew from 401,000 to almost 428,000.

“The increases we are seeing in the foster care population, and the rise of parental substance use as a contributing factor, is not limited to one or two states – this is a concern across the country,” said then-ACYF Commissioner Rafael Lopez in statement released alongside the report.

While the opioid epidemic gets headlines across the country, in Montana meth use is a persistent and growing problem.

From 2008 to February 2017, the number of foster children in the state more than doubled from 1,408 to 3,172, according to data provided by Montana’s Division of Child and Family Services. During that same period, the percentage of child abuse and neglect cases involving meth shot up from 26 to 52 percent.

Source: Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services, Child & Family Services Division CAPS Report 5388.2 (updated 02/18/2017). *Open placement counts exclude tribal placements. *Open Placement Counts exclude Tribal Placements.

In response, Montana Governor Steve Bullock created the Protect Montana Kids Commission in 2015, which was meant to find a path toward reducing entries into the overwhelmed system. In May 2016, the body issued a report that repeatedly cited meth use as a driving factor in skyrocketing foster care rates.

“The system is in a state of crisis,” the commissioners wrote.

The report was timed to influence the current legislative session. And while some reforms are moving through the state house, at least one commissioner says that progress isn’t moving fast enough.

“We saw that our system is in turmoil,” said Schylar Canfield-Baber, a former Montana foster youth who served on the commission. “But our turmoil is getting worse. We are losing children. Children are dying.”

Continue reading

Providers hope trauma legislation will help native children in foster care

By Jeremy Loudenback

Recent federal legislation put forward by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) proposes to address the issue of childhood trauma through the creation of a federal trauma task force.

The Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act would gather federal officials and members of tribal agencies to create a set of best practices and training to help create a better way to identify and support children and families that have experienced trauma.

In North Dakota, the home state for co-sponsor Heitkamp, advocates are hoping that the bill can have an impact on addressing the needs of Native American children who disproportionately enter the state’s foster care system. According to one report, Native American youth deal with post-traumatic stress disorder at a rate of 22 percent, three times the national average and at the same level as Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

At PATH North Dakota, a non-profit child and family services agency, a trauma-informed approach means helping Native American children address historical trauma, as well as contemporary adverse experiences faced by children in foster care.

Jodi Duttenhefer and Heather Simonich, operations directors at PATH, recently talked with The Chronicle of Social Change about the new legislation, the importance of collecting data on the adverse childhood experiences of youth in its treatment foster care program and how the tribal community at Standing Rock is thinking about child trauma.

Continue reading

Addiction doc says: It’s not the drugs. It’s the ACEs – adverse childhood experiences.

dr-daniel-sumrok-2-1-1024x657.jpeg

He says: Addiction shouldn’t be called “addiction”. It should be called “ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking”.

He says: Ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking (what traditionalists call addiction) is a normal response to the adversity experienced in childhood, just like bleeding is a normal response to being stabbed.

He says: The solution to changing the illegal or unhealthy ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking behavior of opioid addiction is to address a person’s adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) individually and in group therapy; treat people with respect; provide medication assistance in the form of buprenorphine, an opioid used to treat opioid addiction; and help them find a ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking behavior that won’t kill them or put them in jail.

This “he” isn’t some hippy-dippy new age dreamer. He is Dr. Daniel Sumrok, director of the Center for Addiction Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine. The center is the first to receive the Center of Excellence designation from the Addiction Medicine Foundation, a national organization that accredits physician training in addiction medicine. Sumrok is also one of the first 106 physicians in the U.S. to become board-certified in addiction medicine by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Continue reading

Pediatrician develops whole-child assessment tool that includes ACEs questions

aariane1.png

Over the last dozen years or so, many pediatricians, astounded by the ramifications of the science of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on the children they care for, began integrating this science into their practices. The most common approach has been to ask parents about ACEs using a questionnaire, and to use this information to counsel parents and identify resources for the family. Different practices have been using different questionnaires: Some ask parents for their ACE scores along with their children’s; others also add a resilience survey.

Continue reading

Greater Kansas City first responders, educators, health care workers, sports & faith community embrace learning about childhood trauma, practicing resilience

In a video on the Resilient KC website, police officer Mikki Cassidy notes that “my regular day is everybody else’s worst day.” Then she describes how mindfulness training has helped her find peace amid the clamor: “This moment, right here, I’m okay.”

Later in the clip, Sonia Warshawski, a Holocaust survivor, recalls being shoved onto a train to Treblinka and, later, losing her mother to the gas chamber. “One of my highest points is when I speak in schools, when students tell me, ‘You changed my life,’” she says.

And Josiah Hoskins, a youth raised in foster care, talks about the mantra that helped him survive: “Even if all you have is yourself, with a wall behind you and the world coming at you, you can make peace with yourself.”

The video concludes with four words—“Stories Matter. What’s yours?”—and an invitation for others to share experiences of adversity and healing.


Awareness on Both Sides of the State Line

The campaign is just one prong of Kansas City’s multi-sector effort to raise awareness about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and build resilience on both sides of the state line. Resilient KC — a partnership between the pre-existing Trauma Matters Kansas City (TMKC) network and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce — has worked to cultivate “ambassadors” who can bring the ACEs message to colleagues, clients and community members in business, the armed services, education, justice and health care.

ACEs are adverse childhood experiences that harm children’s developing brains so profoundly that the effects show up decades later; they cause much of the U.S. and the world’s chronic disease, most mental illness, and are at the root of most violence.

The CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), a groundbreaking public health study, discovered that childhood trauma leads to the adult onset of chronic diseases, depression and other mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence.

The ACE Study looked at 10 types of childhood trauma: physical, emotional and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; living with a family

Continue reading

San Diego’s stop-and-go progress to becoming a trauma-informed community

At Teralta Park, Arturo Soriano (l) with his wife, Gabby, holding baby Joshua, and their kids Daniella (between them) and Adrian (kneeling), spend time with Kenneth (arms folded), Claudia Ruiz and her mother, Michelle Massett. Behind them, Coach, wearing red gloves, comes to the park to spar with the youth.

_________________________________

It’s a warm spring afternoon and Arturo Soriano is in his old stomping grounds—at Teralta Park, a small urban park atop a sunken freeway in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood. As a teenage gang member in the 1980s, Soriano roamed the park and the surrounding streets before spending the better part of two decades in prison. Now 40, he has returned with a different mission.

Continue reading

The most important thing I didn’t learn about in medical school: Adverse childhood experiences

anhardt

Dr. Nancy Hardt

______________________

The most important thing I didn’t learn in medical school is about adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs.

To be sure, if I had understood them then the way I do now, I would have been a better and more compassionate physician. Importantly, I would have avoided lots of mistakes.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: