Dan Press traces how legal work for Native Americans led to advocacy to uproot trauma

In 1964, Dan Press was in his first year of law school and was not liking it; he wanted a way out. He applied for a volunteer spot with AmeriCorps VISTA, the domestic version of the Peace Corps, and was intrigued by a position on an Indian reservation.

Dan Press

“I knew nothing about Indians, but it sounded like a good opportunity,” says Press, who was raised in Flushing, in the Queens borough of New York City. “So, I signed up and the next thing I knew I was on a plane to Montana,” he says.

It was a move that changed the course of his life.

Press, an attorney and now 78 years old, has spent his entire working life fighting on behalf of Indian tribes. He helped found the Tribal Employment Rights Officein 1977, which now has 300 offices around the country. His first legal battles involved pushing for enforcement of laws passed a half a century earlier to give Native Americans preference in hiring for employment on Indian lands brought by outside agencies and firms, but until Press challenged practices and won, those laws were largely ignored.

During his long legal career from working for The Navajo-Hopi Legal Services Program for the Navajo Nation in Arizona to his work at Van Ness Feldman, a law firm in Washington, D.C., he’s also counseled Indian tribes in advancing legislation that’s resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in land settlements and the procurement of new health facilities. He helped found the first intertribal bank in the nation. Press has also been a champion of promoting trauma-informed initiatives, which in 2018 earned him a Public Advocacy award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies for “Outstanding and Fundamental Contributions to Advancing the Social Understanding of Trauma.” In addition, he is the author of “A How-To Handbook on Creating Comprehensive, Integrated Trauma-Informed Initiatives in Native American Communities.”

Press is the general and legislative counsel for the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP), which helps local, county and state initiatives advocate for legislation to expand trauma-informed practices across the country. He also served as general counsel for The Roundtable on Native American Trauma-informed Initiatives. Both organizations are pro bono clients of his law firm. He has taught classes on tribal government at Columbia University, including “The Holocaust and Genocide in America”, in which students looked at common themes that arose in the genocides of Native Americans and of Jews.

On his first foray into Indian land in Montana, Press tutored children and coached basketball on the Crow Indian Reservation in the southern part of the state. While there, he was approached by Joseph Medicine Crow, the last living war chief of the Crow tribe, an oral historian and writer, who chronicled the living stories of the Crow. Medicine Crow asked Press to translate Crow treaties with the federal government into everyday language. (Medicine Crow, who won a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his war time service during WW II and for his work chronicling Crow history, died in 2016). The project was a turning point for Press. “It made me interested in Indian law,” he recalls.

Gun violence expert says tackling underlying inequities key to prevention

Gun violence expert says tackling underlying inequities key to prevention

Through the news media, Americans are served an almost-daily dose of violence caused by guns. This year to date, more than 33,929 people in the United States have been killed and another 30,000+ have been injured by guns. The U.S. homicide rate for firearms is 22 times greater than that of the European Union, even though the European population is 35% larger.

But to Dr. Garen Wintemute, the statistics on injuries and deaths are only one part of the story. To reverse those appalling numbers, he says, the larger focus must be on changing the conditions that foster gun violence. These include the underlying inequities that are baked into the essence of American life.

“Violence has social determinants, such as disparities based on race/ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, place of origin and other characteristics,” says Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California at Davis School of Medicine. He is an expert in the public health crisis of gun violence and a pioneer in injury epidemiology and prevention of firearm violence.

But to Dr. Garen Wintemute, the statistics on injuries and deaths are only one part of the story. To reverse those appalling numbers, he says, the larger focus must be on changing the conditions that foster gun violence. These include the underlying inequities that are baked into the essence of American life.

To really understand the root of gun violence, Wintemute says, you have to understand that the systemic forces that gave rise to it were intentional. “The structures that engender and perpetuate violence were built purposefully and must be taken down just as purposefully,” he says.

Wintemute has been leading by example. Since the 1980s, the emergency medicine doctor has been documenting and working to undo the grip that guns have on life and death in America, destroying lives and communities. Way ahead of the curve, Wintemute was among the first to call gun violence a public health crisis, in line with the former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, who wrote about it in 1995 while pushing for more funding to examine it.

Wintemute’s research, which includes undercover work at gun shows around the country, has helped to thwart the use of the widely popular handgun known as the Saturday Night Special. This cheap weapon, banned in West Hollywood, the city of Compton and 16 communities in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1990s and other handguns have been linked to 90% of injuries and between 70 and 80% of murders over an 18-year period. His research and testimony also led to legislative debate attempting to restrict the sale of assault rifles, including the AK-47. And in 1997, Time magazine named Wintemute a Hero of Medicine for his gun violence prevention work.

Patient’s murder leads to soul searching, shift to ACEs science in UCSF medical clinic

Patient’s murder leads to soul searching, shift to ACEs science in UCSF medical clinic

It was the murder of a beloved patient that led to a seismic shift in the Women’s HIV Program at the University of California, San Francisco: a move toward a model of trauma-informed care. “She was such a soft and gentle person,” said Dr. Edward Machtinger, the medical director of the program, who recalled how utterly devastated he and the entire staff were by her untimely death.

“This murder woke us up,” he said. ”It just made us take a deeper look at what was actually happening in the lives of our patients.” The Women’s HIVprogram, explained Machtinger, was well regarded as a model of care for treating HIV patients – reducing the viral load of HIV in the majority of its patients to undetectable levels.

But the staff was clearly missing something. A closer look at the lives of their patients revealed that 40 percent were using hard drugs – including heroin, methamphetamine and crack cocaine, according to Machtinger. Half of them suffered clinical depression, the majority had isolated themselves due to deep shame associated with having HIV, and many experienced violence.

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New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s address on removal of four Confederate statues

This 22 minutes is definitely worth the time. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu eloquently describes why New Orleans removed the statues, which weren’t erected immediately after the Civil War to honor the fighters, but to remind all who passed by the statues about white supremacy.

Here’s the text from the YouTube page on which this video appears:

On Friday, May 19, 2017, Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered an address about the City of New Orleans’ efforts to remove monuments that prominently celebrate the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.” The statues were erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the “Cult of the Lost Cause,” a movement recognized across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy.

There are four prominent monuments in question. The Battle of Liberty Place monument was erected by the Crescent City White League to remember the deadly insurrection led by white supremacists against the City’s racially integrated police department and government. The Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway, the P.G.T. Beauregard equestrian statue on Esplanade Avenue at the entrance to City Park, and the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle.

Pueblo, CO, clinic rewrites the book on primary medical care by asking patients about their childhood adversity

mombaby

In October 2015 in Pueblo, CO, the staff members of a primary care medical clinic – Southern Colorado Family Medicine at the St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center – start asking parents of newborn babies to kids five years old about the parents’ adverse childhood experiences and the resilience factors in their lives. They ask the same questions of pregnant women and their partners in the hospital’s high-risk obstetrics clinic.

The results are so positive after the first year that the clinic starts asking parents of kids up to 18 years old. The plans are to do the same in the hospital’s emergency room.

Why? They think it gives kids a leg up on a healthier start in life. They think it helps adults understand and manage their own health better. They think it helps physicians better understand and help their patients. Oh yeah – and it looks like it’s going to save money. Probably a lot of money.

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This EMT integrates ACEs, offers emotional first aid

chiavetta

Peter Chiavetta and the handouts he gives patients

One day, when Peter Chiavetta was just out of college, he was driving down a road in Eden, NY. Before he could even give the slightest conscious thought to his actions, he swerved off the road onto the shoulder. The car that was heading straight at Chiavetta slammed into the vehicle behind him.

“I thought I was a good prepared citizen,” recalls Chiavetta. “I had road flares and a two-pound fire extinguisher in the trunk of my car. I’m standing in the middle of the road with my little fire extinguisher, while on the ground the two passengers in the car behind me had been ejected and were lying motionless. Out of nowhere a man appeared with a first-aid kit and tried to help one of the victims. The driver — covered with blood and his knees are chopped down to bone — was calling out to me for help. I had no idea how to help him.”

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How to bring restorative justice to your school

Levine-336x336By David Levine, JJIE.org

Hey, you! Yes, YOU can make it happen! Anyone can. Whether you are a principal, a student, counselor or teacher, you can be the one to speak up for restorative justice. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi).
Though I currently work full time as a restorative justice facilitator, it wasn’t always this way. At my last school it was a student, a junior, who decided our school needed this approach. He found backing from our principal, and he found a mentor in me, his advisor/teacher.

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Katie A. foster care case, part 3: Los Angeles — making progress, but much work left in mental health services

AastridBy Jeremy Loudenback

The Katie A. v. Bonta lawsuits leveled California and Los Angeles County with the charge that every county in the state provide adequate mental health services for some of its most vulnerable children.

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Katie A. foster care case, part 2: Sun sets, perhaps prematurely, on CA settlement

National Center for Youth Law Executive Director John O’Toole.

National Center for Youth Law Executive Director John O’Toole.

By John Kelly

In Katie A. v Bonta, a class-action lawsuit over mental health services for children involved in California’s child welfare system, Los Angeles County settled with plaintiffs in 2003; the state settled on behalf of the other 57 counties in 2011.

Like most lawsuits and the settlements that stem from them, Katie A. involves lots of technical requirements. Counties must demonstrate that they assess and treat mental health using a core practice model that involves specified coordination and service delivery strategies.

But what it comes down to is this: Prior to the settlements, child welfare agencies in California were failing on both ends of the mental health spectrum.

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CA Senate unanimously approves ACEs reduction resolution

California Dome & Senate SealOn August 18, the California Senate unanimously approved Concurrent Resolution (ACR) No. 155 to encourage statewide policies to reduce children’s exposure to adverse childhood experiences. As reported on ACEs Too High, the resolution is modeled after a Wisconsin resolution that encourages state policy decision-making to consider the impact of early childhood adversity on the long-term health and well being of its citizens. Since the resolution does not require California Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, the Senate’s approval is the final step in the process.

The resolution echoes the language of a Wisconsin bill passed earlier this year—the state’s policies should “consider the principles of brain development, the intimate connection between mental and physical health, the concepts of toxic stress, adverse childhood experiences, buffering relationships, and the roles of early intervention and investment in children…”

New programs or mandates are not included in the resolutions, but both provide an important framework for state level decision-making that is informed by the findings of the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. The two state resolutions are natural extensions of already robust ACEs-related and trauma-informed programs and policies in those states.

The principal sponsor of the California resolution was Assembly Member Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) who spoke on behalf of the resolution on the Assembly floor and was joined by Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Reginald B. Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (D-Los Angeles). Bonta said that “sadly and tragically” almost every youth in the City of Oakland has been touched by violence and that life expectancy is negatively impacted by conditions in vulnerable communities. Jones-Sawyer said that conditions that result in urban PTSD are “unnoticed and unaddressed.”  To see these short speeches, click here http://calchannel.granicus.com…d=7&clip_id=2332 and scroll down to ACR 155. The video also shows the adding of 68 members as coauthors.

During the weeks after the Assembly passage and before the Senate action, advocates led by the Center for Youth Wellness built support for the resolution.  Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, was the floor

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