Advocacy isn't Popularity.

We like to talk about what advocacy is - how it's a verb that we live, actively, everyday, for our clients and for ourselves. We rarely talk about what advocacy is NOT.

There are occasions while walking this road that we come across road blocks and mountains that need to be moved. We push and pull. We persist. We find another path or break trail and start again. Mostly, it’s break trail. On average, we hear 20 times per week “nobody has ever asked us to do that before.” We love that phrase. You know what that says? It says that nobody has ever cared to ask them to do it before.

There is one thing we know for sure about advocacy. Advocacy is not a popularity contest. Not on any day of the week or in any month of any year. If we are winning the popularity contest, we likely aren’t fulfilling our mission. We unfailingly show up and go to bat for “our people.” This is a hard truth for most of us who have spent most of our lives caring about what other people think and going the extra mile to make sure everyone is happy and satisfied. Some days we wonder how nice girls like us ended up in a business like this one. A business that reminds us to be humble and forces us to stare frailty in the face on a daily basis. A business where we are not only encouraged but required to go against the grain and show up and do battle for our people. Not that we ever seek to do that, but sometimes when the battle comes to you, you don’t have a choice but to get into the arena and do your business. When it comes to insisting on good care and respecting the rights of our clients, our place is steadfastly on the side of the client. That’s the whole thing. Show up. Do the right thing. Keep swimming. Sometimes, we’ll lose, but more often we will win and that will mean better care or a better outcome or holding someone’s hand as we walk them home to the edge of the veil that separates this life and the next. For us, losing the popularity contest is far more than worth it.

An Op-Ed from Jenny Schmidt

I was disappointed to read about the Pennington County Commissioner’s recent decision not to submit a proposal to the Leona Helmsley Charitable Trust for the purposes of a mental health study focusing on western South Dakota. A proposal, as I understand it, that would have had a zero-dollar impact to taxpayers.

What the commission voted down was an opportunity to gain knowledge into what the mental health needs are in western South Dakota. This vote wasn’t about policy or committing one taxpayer dollar. It was a denial to learn any new information on what the problems may or may not be. We rejected the opportunity to learn valuable data about our mental health issues…for free.

As a professional who works with many mentally ill clients, it’s a sad day when we try to pass the buck and say that the mental health of our own residents is a state issue and not a county one. Frankly, mental health is a human issue and because we don’t have a good solution, we are already paying the price for refusing to address a need that is not going away. We pay for it with law enforcement time, emergency room costs, jail occupancy and other overextended tax payer funded resources who provide sideways mental health services to people when their core mission is not mental health.

Mental illness in Pennington County has now been criminalized and we are using the county jail to house the mentally ill while either awaiting placement at the Human Service Center in Yankton or getting released without any treatment or medication intervention.

My colleagues and I can attest to the fact that getting real and lasting help for the mentally ill experiencing an acute event in Pennington County feels like an insurmountable task at times. The emergency room doesn’t want them because they aren’t emergent enough. Regional West often can’t take them because they are either full or won’t take them if they have physical disabilities, dementia, or autism, because of the physical risk they pose to their staff. The state’s attorney’s office is reluctant to sign an order for involuntary commitment and if they are admitted to Regional West, the stay isn’t long enough to complete a care plan and allow sufficient time for medications to become effective or be adjusted.

If a person is unfortunate enough to be elderly with a mobility issue AND mentally ill, there is literally no place to admit for stabilization and medication management while getting cared for physically.

We had a nursing facility client last year that was sent to the emergency room no less than fifteen times in one month and desperately needed placement at the Health Services Center in Yankton. Every time, the patient was sent back to the nursing facility from the hospital via ambulance without notice and untreated only to repeat the same behaviors. The patient was not fit for congregate living and it was an unfair burden to place upon the facility because they were not staffed to provide one-on-one care for a person who posed a danger to other residents and themselves.

Mental health is an every person problem and we are all responsible for doing our part. As western South Dakotans we take pride in our autonomy and taking care of our own. I challenge those who voted against submitting the application for the grant to offer an alternative solution to a problem that affects us all. Let’s address this issue in a way that respects the needs of our mentally ill community and those who serve them.

Jenny Schmidt
Black Hills Advocate
Rapid City

(Read original article.)

Why Advocacy?

I get asked all the time “why advocacy?” My not so simple answer is that we will all go through seasons in our lives when we need support that is unbiased, skilled and fully present. As advocates, we provide a level of critical listening and thinking that one may not be able to find through a friend or family member. We’ve been to thousands of doctor’s appointments with our clients, so we know the right questions to ask and can maximize the time spent with doctors and other health providers. I like to say we ask questions that you might not know you had. For those who are contemplating care options either in their own home or in a facility, we have a broad understanding of what each facility and care provider are like because we currently have clients in some if not all of them. Of course, people can do all of the research on their own, but it can be time consuming and often there are decisions that need to be made quickly. We offer a knowledge base that clients can tap into easily. Advocacy also offers shared decision making. We have many clients who are the sole caregiver for a spouse or family member. They are also trying to make decisions alone and that can be a source of anxiety because they often wonder if they are making the best decisions and have all of the information. They find peace and value in using us as a sounding board and partnering with us to make health and care related decisions for their loved ones. There will be a time in every person’s life where advocacy will be a blessing; either for the short term or the long term. Let us get to know you. Get to know us. The main reason I started this company was to be a blessing every day and every day that is my only prayer. We are here whenever and however you need us

Black Hills Advocate

Welcome to Black Hills Advocate and our blog!

We are so proud to announce that 2016 was a year of exceptional growth and service for Black Hills Advocate. We have just added three new members to our team and our client support services portfolio continues to grow. We hope you will have the chance to meet Lexy, Jeff and Lisa. Jenny and Amy remain available for our clients.

There are many things that we want the Black Hills community to know. We hope this blog will provide an opportunity to educate and inform each of you. We live in a uniquely beautiful place and many of us are lucky to have our families nearby. Black Hills Advocate would like to be a resource to help each of you support your aging loved ones.

We hope you’ll follow along with our updates and celebrate with us when we have news to share. We will be blogging about health and wellness, financial planning, legal matters and community endeavors that shine a light upon the aging experience, particularly here in the Black Hills region. We are here to answer any questions you may have.

For those of you caring for an aging parent or grandparent, we hope you know that you need never feel alone. There are a host of supportive services throughout our region and this blog will highlight many of them. We have stellar health care providers and financial consultants, as well, who will help you make the informed choices to protect your family.

What we don’t yet have in Western South Dakota is ready access to Memory Care. Until greater accessibility exists, here are some thoughts:

Dementia is not a guarantee. Not for anyone. Each of us can improve our memory in small or significant ways.

Living in a small town has one distinct advantage: we can safely walk through many of our neighborhoods. Get outside on the best of days, breathe the fresh air, stretch those limbs and let your imagination roam. Say hello to the dog-walkers, skateboarders and school children you pass! When it’s not so nice out, head to the Rushmore Mall. One circumference of the interior of the Mall is a ¾-mile walk. So lace up the tennis shoes, take in a brisk walk without having to worry about rain or snow, and maybe get some shopping in when you hit your distance goal.

Learn a new skill. Take up piano-playing or learn a language at one of our Community Education centers. How about a cooking class down at Someone’s In The Kitchen? Or enjoy a painting session at Canvas 2 Paint with your friends.

Take every opportunity to improve your memory with games and exercise, good food and proper rest. And keep following Black Hills Advocate. We hope to see you soon!