LUK, Inc. Blog
October is Prevention Month!
by Libby Baker, SAPC West Coordinator
Going to the doctor’s office for annual physical is considered preventative care. If the test results show high blood sugar but it isn’t quite yet diabetes, there are many options that that person can choose from to prevent diabetes from happening. These preventative measures are generally accepted throughout the world of medicine so the public sees it all as fact. These preventative measures for physical health and well-being are also usually covered (or at least partially covered) by the individual’s insurance. Take our insurance here at LUK, for example; we can apply for a gym membership reimbursement each year. It may not cover all of my $20 a month Planet Fitness membership, but it covers more than half.
But when it comes to substance use prevention, the options are less well known and also viewed more critically. One of these options is the use of scare tactics, which are generally not great long term solutions. This includes the drunk driver car accidents reenactments that come up around prom season to keep high school students from drinking and driving. Alternatively, there are the styles of substance use prevention that the CES program here at LUK uses. We use the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) that was developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which uses data to determine what services are needed in each community. This flexibility is helpful since what works for one community may not work for them all.
LUK's Substance Abuse Prevention Team the Gardner Community Action Team (GCAT), the Massachusetts Opioid Abuse Prevention Coalition (MOAPC), and East and West divisions of the Substance Abuse Prevention Collaborative (SAPC). SAPC East covers Fitchburg, Leominster, Clinton, Sterling, and Princeton, while SAPC West covers Gardner, Athol, Phillipston, Royalston, Templeton, and Westminster.
The SPF focuses in on the risk and protective factors in a community that could lead to a substance use disorder. The risk factors include early aggressive behavior, peer substance abuse, lack of parental involvement, and drug availability. Here at LUK, the SAPCs, MOAPC, and GCAT all work together to reduce the risk factors in a community and increase the protective factors. These protective factors include self-control, anti-drug policies, parental monitoring, and strong community programs that promote good choices and make it harder to access substances. These programs have taken several different forms over the years, including sticker shock campaigns to remind adults about social host and liability consequences. The sticker shock campaign involves youth putting stickers on the paper bag that will contain alcohol when someone buys it from the participating liquor store that say “Furnishing alcohol to minors is illegal” along with the fine that comes along if a person is caught doing so. This also serves as a partnership with the youth, liquor stores, law enforcement, and community members.
Other outreach includes social norming campaigns, which remind youth that the norm is actually not to drink, which they may not realize, especially with the conflicting messages they receive from both peers and the media. School-based programs like Guiding Good Choices and All Stars work with parents and students to promote the protective factors in the community. LUK's Youth Development services also support a community's protective factors. These programs help develop self-esteem and leadership skills in youth, and work to reduce bullying and violence.
October is Substance Abuse Prevention Month, and we will be featuring a weekly post about various aspects of Prevention. Check back next week for information on why Compliance Checks are so important in your community!
School's Out for Summer!
By: Kelsey Cadran
It’s that time of year again, trees and flowers are in full bloom, and in typical New England fashion, you’ve got a t-shirt on as soon as that thermostat rises above 50. Having four seasons means there’s only so much time to get out and enjoy the lazy hazy days of summer before it becomes apple picking season and the snowflakes start to fall again. What better way to make the best of the season then to get out and get moving!
There are so many opportunities in the area and all over New England. Social media outlets (like Facebook) have recently started being a great resource to find out what’s going on around you. Understandably, there are some choices that may have a cost associated, which could be a deal-breaker for some. Fortunately, there are low- to no-cost options! Since summer does not mean sunshine all the time, there are also a few indoor ideas too!
Low or No Cost Things to Do!
Visit a State Park (hiking, walking, swimming)
Museums (some can have more cost to them, be sure to check out the fees. Some are free!)
Splash Parks & Water Parks
Free Fun Fridays!
Kids Bowl Free!
Other Ideas you may find near you (check out your town calendar, local library, or social media for events and activities):
- Outdoor Movie Nights
- Band Concerts
- Town festivals
- Charity Events/Road Races
- Craft Seminars
There are so many benefits to keeping our youth active. During the school year, structured plans driven by the school district are designed to keep kids engaged and active. It’s very important to maintain that engagement through the summer. Often as adults we may find ourselves quite busy, and it is easy to overlook the fact that during the summer, children are not as busy. The activities listed above can be helpful for you to keep your kids and family stimulated and active throughout school break! Summer camps and programs offered by local recreation departments can be a great opportunity as well for youth. Some costs associated with these options can be tough for families to swing, be sure to check into the programs to find out if they offer cost savings for low-income or half day options.
Wishing you a happy and healthy summer!
May is National Foster Care Month
By Michele Morrissey
LUK is a proud supporter of National Foster Care Month, and you should be too! Each May the President offers a yearly proclamation supporting the Children's Bureau in their efforts to recognize the work of foster families, social workers, faith-based and community organizations, and others who are improving the lives of young people in foster care. The President’s proclamation also encourages all Americans to participate in efforts to serve foster children throughout the year.
Honoring, Uniting and Celebrating Families is the theme for May 2016. This provides an opportunity to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections. During National Foster Care Month, we renew our commitment to ensuring bright futures for the more than 400,000 children and youth in foster care. At LUK, we recognize our families during National Foster Care Month by providing a Community Day In the Park and an Appreciation Brunch.
Dear Foster Parents,
First, let me start off by saying thank you.
Thank you for the commitment to provide a safe loving home for children you have no prior connection to or knowledge of.
Thank you for the good you are bringing into this world.
Thank you for being positive role models in our community.
Thank you for referring your friends to LUK.
Thank you for putting up with numerous people entering your home on a routine basis.
Thank you for the time and extra expenses you have put into helping these children have a happier, more successful future.
Thank you for enduring and persevering through the obstacles you encounter everyday as a foster parent.
Perhaps, after reading that, you’d think that I was fostered at some point in my life, but it's actually the complete opposite. I grew up with two loving parents and had no knowledge of foster youth while growing up. However, growing up in a two parent, safe, loving home is not the case for every child. Unfortunately life happens, things go wrong and innocent children end up needing safe, loving homes. Thankfully, there are people like our LUK foster parents who step up and dedicate their life to helping others. Their huge, caring hearts make up for the adults whose hearts aren't as big and whose arms aren't as wide open.
In the spring of 2011, I joined LUK and began my journey into the foster care world. I have watched numerous families make an extremely courageous and selfless decision to foster children in need.
The process for becoming a foster parent takes quite a while due the lengthy application requirements. The length of times gives families plenty of chances to change their minds about becoming foster parents. I am thankful for the families who stuck with the process and became licensed foster parents. However, neither the immense amount of paper work or unimagined number of tasks that needed to be completed got in the way of numerous families decisions to move ahead with the process.
One particular family sticks out in my mind as I began my journey into foster care right around the same time the “Rodriguez” family began their formal training in CPR and First Aid. They first reached out to LUK in April of 2009. Their licensing process was completed in October of 2011 and throughout the past 5 years Jose and Juanita have impressed and exceeded all limits and expectations when it comes to fostering.
Before Juanita and Jose, my image of the foster care program was a lot different, and I can thank Lifetime movies and ABC Family for that one. The difference? The “Rodriguez” family has raised two children of their own, and the foster parents are retired and have plenty of time and attention to give to youth in their home. Juanita and Jose have done everything in their power to provide for these children as if they were their own, and I could not be more inspired than I am when I think about the great things they are doing.
Imagine welcoming children into your home, giving them everything and anything that you could to help prepare them for a better future. Raising them as if they were your own, loving them more and more with every passing day. Hearing them call you "Mommy" and "Daddy", teaching them how to share, dropping them off at school, and then one day having to say goodbye for good. That's something I can't even begin to imagine, yet we all know that's almost always the case with fostering.
It's now been five years the Rodriguez family welcomed their first youth into their home. They have had 6 youth in their home throughout the past 5 years, all of whom have flourished and were loved. The most recent has been there since 2012 and it looks like they will be saying goodbye to her sometime within the next month. She is graduating high school and preparing to enter college in the fall.
I am so thankful to have this family as part of LUK. It takes a lot to become foster parent. You must have courage, patience and you must also be selfless. A lot of people cannot handle the pressure and complications that come with being a foster parent, which is why we must appreciate and thank the ones who are.
So if you are, were previously, or intend on becoming a foster parent...THANK YOU!
Let It Go
By Amy Moran
I often find myself watching my soon to be 3 year old daughter and wishing that I was 3 years old again. To her, life is simple. She finds pleasure in small things and has a wonderful imagination. She is never embarrassed to show off her latest dance move or belt it out to “Let it Go.” Life would be much easier for our profession, if life was so carefree. We go out of our way everyday to help children and families. The families we serve do not have simple lives and we often become emotionally drained working so hard to help our clients meet their needs, and experience some satisfaction in their lives. The nature of the work can be emotionally exhausting. We often forget to take care of ourselves and appreciate the small things in our own personal lives.
I am often the biggest offender of neglecting my own self care, getting wrapped up in helping my clients meet their needs, and meeting my own family obligations. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You can’t help others, unless you help yourself.” I believe this statement to be true and believe that my soon to be 3 year old daughter is the best helper, because she is not bothered by the small things, and knows how to “Let it Go.” I want to take this opportunity to give myself and fellow human service providers permission to enjoy the small things, and when life get stressful, let the small things go.
When you are your wits end and have had a stressful day or week, I encourage you to release your inner child. “Learn to play again. Jump on a trampoline. Go rollerblading. Blow bubbles. Take a walk on some stilts. Spend 10 minutes hula-hooping. Do what you really enjoy, not what you think you should do. And don't play to win at all costs, or impress bystanders. Your only goal should be to let loose and have fun.” (Forget Yoga - Try One of These Quirky Stress-Busters)
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
by Dave Hamolsky
May is Mental Health Awareness Month!
SAMHSA’s theme for the month is “Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health”.
Mental Health America’s theme is “Life with a Mental Illness: Learn about it. Act. Share”.
My theme for the month is “Declare War on Stigma in all its forms!”
“Social stigma is the extreme disapproval of (or discontent with) a person or group on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society. Stigma may then be affixed to such a person, by the greater society, who differs from their cultural norms.” (Wikepedia, 2016)
In America when we really want to get serious about addressing a problem we “declare war”. For example, the War on Poverty (President Lyndon Johnson, 1964), the War on Drugs (President Richard Nixon, 1971), and the War on Cancer (President Richard Nixon, 1971) are historical “wars” that “we” continue to fight to this day. We seem to understand that when we wage war it is of great importance because people die or get seriously injured, countries are ravaged, cities and communities are destroyed, and families are torn apart. Recognizing the seriousness of war, we apply this intensity, the focus, the determination, and the resources to addressing social problems. We not only recognize the importance of “fighting” the problem, we also understand that it requires the coordination and energies of ALL OF US to “win” the war. There is also the suggestion that we will NEVER GIVE UP until the war is won.
Recent Findings from the 2006 HealthStyles Survey:
- Only around one-quarter of young adults between the ages of 18-24 believe that a person with mental illness can eventually recover.
- Only 42 percent of Americans believe that a person with mental illness can be as successful at work as others.
- Only a little more than half (54%) of young adults who know someone with a mental illness believe that treatment can help people with mental illnesses lead normal lives.
- Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that people with mental illnesses are not to blame for their conditions (84%), only about one in four (26%) agrees that people are generally caring and sympathetic toward individuals with mental illnesses.
What can you do?
#1 – LEARN: Learn as much as you can about mental health, substance use, and stigma.
#2 – TALK: The most powerful co-conspirators to the problem of stigma is secrecy and silence. So, talking about substance use and mental health is a great place to start!
#3 – GET INVOLVED: Take the Pledge…
TAKE THE PLEDGE: http://bringchange2mind.org/
TAKE THE PLEDGE: https://www.nami.org/
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: http://www.samhsa.gov/
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): https://www.nami.org/
NAMI: Facts about Stigma and Mental Illness in Diverse Communities: http://www2.nami.org/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm?ContentFileID=5148
Partnership for Drug Free Kids: http://www.drugfree.org/
Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health: http://www.samhsa.gov/children
National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH): https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): https://www.drugabuse.gov/
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/
OK to Talk – Website for youth: http://ok2talk.org/
Talk About Mental Health: http://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/index.html
Conversations in Your Community: http://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/community-conversation/index.html