A global leader from Iowa – and I’m staying

The buzz reached me at the beginning of 2017 – Hive Global Leaders Program. Apply now! The red background and white logo intrigued me. It had been a while since my blood ran hot for what I was doing.

The goal, it said, was to discover our purpose. I’m almost 46, and I feel fairly secure in mine. The nutshell is this: to write and make a difference.

I’ve become accustomed to being regularly rejected from programs and fellowships; my successes have arrived after months or years of pain and bootstrapping and at times feeling very alone. I hoped for a miracle, but expected to be passed over when I sent my application.

Two days later, a fantastic email came from Community Manager Christine Juang: Congratulations! You’ve been accepted! I was on my way to Hive 14 in Boston.

The program from beginning to end is a series of “above and beyond” moments. The first night was a gathering dinner by the Boston Bay. I was eager to meet the 119 other Hivers from 49 nations, and once I reached the actual site of the dinner, a young man in a Hive tee shirt greeted me and asked me what was my purpose and passion. His eyes lit up as I described my creative projects, and if he was not genuinely interested, he deserves an Oscar for acting, because I believed my story was one of the most amazing things he had heard all day.

More than a conference or seminar, in this experience, we were each really cared for. The pinnacle of the first night was meeting our small groups. Mine had the U.S. represented: Louisiana, Texas, Massachusetts and Iowan me, plus our leader from California, along with a South African, two Nigerians, etc. I had fear, because I am a survivor of mental disorder and trauma. I thought I had to cover this up, but when our group gathered by the bay to share the crucible story of our lives in three minutes, I found that we all were all more alike than we were different. A woman from Africa had experienced abuse. Another lived with a chronic illness. And three others in our group struggled at times with mind and emotion.

While compassion, vision, and genius aren’t limited to those with outrageous minds, it also seems to be common in the kinds of visionaries who were chosen for this program. Hive draws extensively on mindfulness, and meditation with an experienced leader is a part of each day.

I had the chance to meet, work and collaborate with people from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Pakistan, Chicago, Azerbaijan, New York, Columbia, Cameroon, India, Texas, Gabon, Vietnam, South Africa, Georgia, and dozens of other places.

Hive has a statement of universal rights and ethics upon which we build our purposes. The leaders were chosen not just on high ability but on proven passion to make the world better, and in some cases to work to save it. Equality, equanimity, empathy only begin to describe it.

Then Tom Chi from GoogleX came in and taught us to rapidly prototype an idea. It’s great to be a visionary, but how can we bring the idea to the point of user experience in the shortest time? Rapid prototyping could change the course of the world, because what separated the global leaders I met from the everyday highly intelligent and altruistic individual was this drive to stop talking and start doing.

Many if not most people in this program have suffered, fallen, and been struck by tragedy along the way, and all have found the strength to get up again.

Some have traveled an extraordinary path from adversity to what is called effortless flow. The concept does not mean you don’t have to put treble effort into what you do; it means once you’ve achieved mastery (which is not a static or finite condition), the next levels will come with effortless flow.

Founders Ryan Allis and Sam Lazarus met at Harvard Business School and created the conference or leadership program they wished they had experienced. They read feedback from participants and incorporate it into future sessions. Ryan tells a powerful crucible story that creates more connection and emotion in being part of Hive, and narrates his passion for helping others find and live their purposes. Sam, along with community director Aldi Kaza and Christine Juang, mentioned above, provide a consistent presence throughout the three days and make the effort to know who you are and not just greet, but connect with you by name.

I will save some events as surprises, and I believe every Hive is a little different. I don’t think you’ve fully lived until you’re at a dance party at an amazing venue, dancing to world music in many languages with one of the most diverse groups of people you’re likely to meet.

We went away from the life-changing three days together with a life plan — for 90 days, one year, ten years — the tools to rapidly prototype our dreams, businesses, plans and lives, the answer to the question, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” and a lifelong community of friends, brothers and sisters, collaborators and colleagues whom we can lean on for support, to whom we can (and want to) offer support, and who will remind us of who we are in the course of building the earth.

I connect with our Hive group on social media and a What’sApp group daily. Several of us have started a writing/accountability group so that we continue creating. A movement that started in South Africa is expanding to Eurasia. A new Hive in a new part of the world is starting because of this group, and the people involved are bringing their diverse gifts to it in a big way.

I believe with conviction in my purpose, and cannot wait to see what the next decade brings as I build a team and reach for the outlandish yet not impossible goals in my plan.

I tried to balance this by discussing the downsides of Hive that I observed. I wish it had been longer so I could get to know more of our cohort better. I wish we could be housed in the same place so that we could do more outside of the Hive activities. There were meet ups at restaurants and at one member’s creativity center that went late into the night, which I did not attend simply due to residual exhaustion from travel and my own status as an INFP (on the Myers-Briggs scale) and having a high need to recharge. I brought my authentic self, ready for anything, did my own mindfulness meditation each morning before arriving at the sites, and I think that’s why there was not one segment I disliked, nor one activity that caused me discomfort. Hive GroupHive bio

This is life changing. If you’re ready to go and do something to build the earth, I hope you will apply.




Water is still the source of life


If you’re in Detroit in three weeks, or can get there, I hope you will go to this. Two years ago, I created a multimedia presentation on the Detroit Water Crisis. Shortly thereafter, the Flint Water Crisis flowed in. There are those who feel access to clean water is a privilege, not a human right. A pro-life solution would seem to be water for all. Be part of the solution.

Iowa Mental Health system in “crisis”

This article is a must-read.

It’s not our imagination.

Iowa’s mental health system is in crisis.

Iowans with critical needs are being ignored. Sometimes with fatal results. This is what 47th in the nation looks like, and few people with the power to do something about it, seem interested at all.

If this was cancer, heart disease, drunk driving, or any other public health crisis, there would be shouts and cries to do something.

Mental illness doesn’t even get the outcry school shootings do, though no one does anything with any impact about those either.

More mental health treatment could prevent some school shootings, though the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent at all, but are more likely to be victims of violence.

In 2012, Iowa undertook a redesign of its mental health program. It was supposed to fix inequities in available care among counties. However, the redesign did not come with a mandate to increase the available beds and staff to care for people with acute mental crises.

For example, my county, Emmet, is in a region called County Social Services. It encompasses 19 counties across the northern third of the state.

Unlike other regions, there is no mobile response team, no crisis stabilization in community, no sub-acute services available to our residents.

We are hemorrhaging, and they’re coming to us with miniature bandaids.

#thanksTerry – mental health care in Iowa continues to erode

This story in the Dickinson County News announces the closing of The Pride Group’s location in Okoboji, Iowa, along with one near the remaining state mental health facility in Cherokee, Iowa, and others. The Pride Group provides home based and residential care for people with mental illness. It is the only group doing so in rural northwest Iowa. The Okoboji facility’s history goes back to the early days of this century. It’s an old-school stone house first known as the County Home.

The Pride Group took over from Oak Haven in 2010, and signed a lease and agreement to provide services through 2020 in the facility. There’s no word yet on any mitigation of the loss to this area caused by The Pride Group pulling out early.

Spokespeople for The Pride Group cited changes in Medicaid and inability to recoup costs as reasons for reducing their capacity at a time when community-based care must increase.

Don’t forget, Gov. Branstad closed the two state residential facilities last year, and privatized Medicaid, leaving countless people scrambling to receive needed treatment for a variety of issues.

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When you close the institutions, a lot of good things happen: people live on a human scale in their own communities, with a lot more independence and dignity, for one.

But without the community based supports, the boundaries that keep people with mental illness and the people around them safe blur, and there’s no one to help until the police get involved.

Local police departments in Iowa are overwhelmed because of the lack of mental health beds. If an officer is called to the scene of a disturbance, and they identify a person as needing mental health care, it’s not that the officer isn’t fine with transporting the person to the hospital. It’s that once there, the officer must stay with the person until a facility has taken over custody.

The officer stays in the ER as security until a bed is located and the person is being transported there. It’s hardly ever available in the local hospital. The ER staff calls. And calls. All over the state. The officer waits. For hours. Sometimes a whole shift, then relief takes over. There isn’t much the ER can do for someone with suicidal thoughts, or who is having intrusive thoughts due to schizophrenia. The person needs a psychiatric evaluation.

In the small town there aren’t any psychiatrists. Here, they’d call someone in from 50 miles away, if they’re not on call somewhere else.

When they find a bed, it’s sometimes across the state, in a place the person has never heard of. Or a larger city they’ve never been to. You may think it doesn’t matter if they’re only going to be there while they’re inpatient anyway.

But how is their family supposed to visit when they’re 200 or more miles away?

They can’t talk to their own therapist, if they have one.

Their clergy person can’t visit (note: in the experience of people I know, most clergy do not visit the psychiatry floor anyway, but that’s an issue for another post).

If you’ve ever been in a strange town surrounded by strangers, remember how that feels. Then imagine how it feels if you’re so depressed you want to end it all, if you’re not in control of your thoughts. If your emotions are out of control. If your anxiety is through the roof.

Do you trust these strangers who tell you the medicine they’re giving you will help you feel better? They don’t have to consult with your doctor or team back home. They may not listen if you say you tried that med back home and it didn’t work right with your system.

On this World Bipolar Day, another light has gone out, one which was by no means fancy or even necessarily the most healing environment, but it did save lives, it did keep people safe and indoors who couldn’t manage to do that on their own.

#ThanksTerry for taking funds from those who most depend upon it and giving it to your wealthy friends.

I hope, as you leave to become ambassador to China, you treat Americans there better than you treated your Iowa consituents.

An award

My coverage of Thomas L. Bortvit’s June, 2015 murder and the trial of Lee S. Christensen, who killed him, was awarded runner-up in the Iowa Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper competition.

It’s not an award I wanted, based on the circumstances of this case.

However, I poured my soul into creating an unbiased and complete report of it, because I thought it was important.

So much gossip and misinformation was floating around.

I provided space and time on my reporter Facebook page, @EvilleAmy, for citizens to express their thoughts and opinions, with the caveat that personal attacks and vicious remarks would be removed and their maker banned. From radical free speech, we moved to that which was at least not vitriolic.

This was a case in which many of the community members knew both families, both young men, and were distraught and conflicted. There was no conflict in the fact that Thomas Bortvit was a great young man and his death left a terrible hole.

There were many conflicts about Christensen. He’d not been in trouble before. He was a good man to his family and loved ones. There was question of whether he had cerebral disorder from benign tumors in his brain. Those were treated with the best possible medical care. From his journals, he was certainly depressed. His family was trying to get him out of town to Arizona to get his mojo back and his running times in the range of a state championship.

Instead, he spent his senior year in jail awaiting trial.

Was it first or second degree murder? Only the jury knows for sure why they chose second degree. The defense raised the question of voluntary manslaughter. Did Christensen want to cause Bortvit’s death, or was the shooting in the heat of the moment?

The defense didn’t present much, but preserved issues for appeal.

We await the appellate court’s decision.

I do have some background and talent for court and crime coverage.

I don’t ever want to cover another murder trial like this. Emmet County, let’s stop killing one another.

I feel grateful for my first major newspaper writing award, and hope to add more in the coming year.

#thanksTerry – Iowa’s governor’s push to privatize Title XIX and gut the already rickety mental health system will make 2017 the year mental health gets real in Iowa

The reality of mental health treatment – and the biggest challenge our prisons, law enforcement, and health care providers face today – is keeping patients safe in state or private mental health beds while implementing proper medication regimes, initiating proper therapy, providing community support, and developing a plan for ongoing therapy.

Estherville, Iowa Police Chief Brent Shatto told Congressman Steve King of Iowa’s fourth district that mental health was one of the greatest challenges to law enforcement in the town. Officers sometimes wait for hours in the ER with individuals in mental health crisis as hospital staff work to place them in one of only 64 state psychiatry beds. But wait. Current Department of Corrections inmates already occupy two-thirds of those beds, leaving only 24 public and just over 700 private beds for approximately 123,000 Iowans living with a major mental illness.

Mental health care has always been the ghetto of health care; that fact is not unique to Iowa. Now as people who were recently living in a residential facility return prematurely to the community, they will require all the support available, and even that won’t be sufficient to handle their needs.

The community-based supports that struggled to meet the needs of people living in the community, who were relatively stable on medications, therapy, and alternative treatments, will be unable to get help when they need it.

Those yet to be diagnosed, who are suffering from their symptoms, will be told it could be six months, or even longer, before they can see a professional.

Whose lives will be lost in this denial of critical care? How many will lose the lives, careers, relationships they had because they were able to manage symptoms with the help of their doctors and therapists, but now are turned away from treatment because their care team is overburdened?

It’s already broken, and now the pieces are spilling out all over in the form of more children acting out in class, more parents neglecting their children, more reports of suicide and substance use, more arrests, more acting out in pain.

In Estherville, a task force of several dozen is looking at the problem of children younger than 13, who cannot be helped in the juvenile justice system, but who have severe issues of attacking teachers and other students, acting out of what appears to be trauma of unknown origin, or which could well be organic, physical brain illness which, if it was treated like any other illness, could be improved greatly with the treatments now available.

Where will these children be in a few years if there is no help for them now?

I admit I had looked at other things like hunger, homelessness, medical cannabis for the past while, which reduced my capacity for mental health advocacy. As an adoptee, I have had four parents. Three have died due in whole or in part to mental illness: my birth father due to schizophrenia, my mother who raised me from under-treated depression; she had a fatal heart condition, but chose her day, and my father who raised me from seasonal affective disorder, self-medicated, which developed into closet alcoholism.

While I’m part of a posse of badass advocates, including Andy Behrman, author of “Electroboy: A Memoir,” and single dad of two extraordinary tweens; Speaker/Advocate Gabe Howard, Laurel Roth Patton, John McManamy, who started McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Web before mental health websites were a thing, and who has authored a number of books between playing the digideroo, and others too numerous to list here, the death of Carrie Fisher has spurred me to do what I have talked about for years: develop media products of investigative and solutions journalism to at least suggest a future for Iowa and beyond.

Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis hosts conference, calls question to presidential candidates

The legislative and populist updates on medical cannabis keep springing from public interest and patient need. Today, an update to the multimedia report here.

Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis is hosting a conference Oct. 31 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. in Des Moines, Iowa at the Mickle Center, 1620 Pleasant Street. The organization suggests a $25 donation, but no one will be turned away.

Created by Amy H. Peterson in Piktochart
Created by Amy H. Peterson in Piktochart

The missing piece, according to the group, is petitioning the federal government to reschedule marijuana as a Schedule 2 substance from its current Schedule 1 classification. 
One step already in progress is a questionnaire sent to all candidates for the U.S. presidency. The questions include:

1) Acknowledging the vast body of research showing medical value of cannabis, and acknowledging cannabis has been studied more than any other FDA-approved drug, do you feel cannabis is treated unfairly remaining illegal for conditions such as Cancer, MS, Epilepsy and more?

2) What is your proposed federal policy on medical cannabis and re-scheduling?

3) What is your proposed Federal policy for removing criminal penalties for people who are trying to treat their illnesses with medical cannabis, risking criminalization, loss of assets, and interstate violations?
4) Do you support the CARERS Act? Why or why not?

Because Iowa is an early battleground state for the contested party nominations for all parties next year, Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis introduced the questionnaire. “The states that have medical cannabis programs in place account for about three-fourths of the nation’s population, yet it is still illegal federally.” The advocacy organization asks candidates how they intend to fix the problem.

Seventy to 87 percent of Americans want access to medical cannabis. Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis asks candidates to distinguish between medical cannabis and recreational use, because they are two separate issues. 

Lori Tassin of Des Moines explains it this way: “As a cancer survivor, I want every treatment possible available and legal that might save or prolong life.” 

Representatives of Iowans for Medical Cannabis point out if presidential candidates oppose federal legalization of medical cannabis, “they are going against the wishes of 80 percent of Americans.”

Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis is a coalition of individuals and organization in favor of a safe and controlled medical cannabis program for qualifying debilitating health conditions. We are not associated with recreational use in any way. To date, members of our coalition include the Epilepsy Foundation of North/Central, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, the National MS Society, the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa, Community HIV Alliance, and the Easter Seals of Iowa. 

Save 3 lives in one day — donate blood September 22!

Voluntary Action Center will host a community blood drive in partnership with the American Red Cross on September 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Spirit Lake Campus of Iowa Lakes Community College.

For more information, or to make an appointment to donate, contact Amy Peterson at 712-336-4444 or sign up online at redcrossblood.org.

“Hosting a blood drive coincides with Voluntary Action Center’s core values of giving back to the community,” said Amy Peterson, Executive Director.

Blood is routinely transfused to patients with cancer and other diseases, premature babies, organ transplant recipients, and trauma victims, according to the Red Cross.

The brief time it takes to donate can mean a lifetime to a patient with a serious medical condition. We urge eligible donors to join us in the selfless act of giving blood. Donors of all types are needed.

“This is one of our most impactful volunteer opportunities,” Peterson said. “Here, you can save three lives.” Peterson routinely gives double red cells and proudly carries her donor card.

According to the World Health Organization:
The need for blood is great. Every day in the U.S., approximately 41,000 units of blood are required in hospitals and emergency treatment facilities for patients with cancer and other diseases, for organ transplant recipients, and to help save the lives of accident/trauma victims. In 2011, nearly 21 million blood components were transfused. With an aging population and advances in medical treatments and procedures requiring blood transfusions, there is always a need for blood and blood components.

Although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, less than 10 percent do so annually.

The Stanley brothers deliver a Realm of Caring.

Five Colorado brothers, Jon, Jordan, Joel, Jesse and Jared began breeding strains of the  cannabis sativa plant in 2009 to contain higher concentrations of CBD with lower concentrations of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis).

Their efforts gave rise to the Realm of Caring company. They’re not just breeders, growers, manufacturers or distributors — the Realm of Caring provides help with access and support for patients with intractable epilepsy, Dravet’s syndrome, and other serious conditions, as well as the parents of children who suffer with these ailments.

Many neurological illnesses are not successfully treated by pharmaceuticals and traditional medicine. Intractable seizures are so life-quality limiting and debilitating, patients become desperate for any relief.

Cannabidioil is often the answer to the problem of brain diseases and disorders. Charlotte’s Web cannabis oil is carefully cultivated,

lovingly produced under the best scientific conditions, and distributed to as many patients in need as possible.

Medical cannabis legal in Iowa — but not

iowa cannabis

This is the conflict. It’s a battle between patients with intractable disease, and in the case of children, their parents, and legislators who don’t want to be reckless.

We’ve told the story of so many patients in Iowa, and especially children who have intractable epilepsy and other conditions, and they’re at odds with legislators who sympathize with the conditions, or so they say, but they can’t find it in their conscience to make the legislation. But they cannot just say no in the face of their suffering constituents. So what to do?

Pass a bandaid solution. That is what the Iowa Medical Cannabis Act really is. According to Iowa Senator Bill Dotzler, what patients are finding is that they cannot find a catalyst for getting medical cannabis in their hands. The cannabis cards made possible by the passage of the Act have not made cannabidiol more accessible to them because right now no one in Iowa can grow the cannabis sativa plant, and no one can bring in marijuana products or hemp products to Iowa.

Hemp, as we reported last week, was legal and used for a variety of purposes. It was the major medicinal ingredient used in the U.S. before it was outlawed. Dr. Donald Abrams of Stanford University attempted to test cannabidiol for its effectiveness in countering the body wasting of patients with AIDS, but his research was blocked by governing authorities. Meanwhile there are patients who cannot wait.

When the brain has endured a number of seizures, brain cells are broken down and you cannot get them back, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

This is what Jennifer knows: the cannabis from CW Botanicals that Liam is taking — it’s helping him. He’s found relief from seizures. Harli from Fonda, Iowa — it’s helped her be self-determining in her own life. This is anecdotal evidence, as parents like Jennifer find a way, researchers suspect the evidence will grow into a collection of data.

The data will convince the people who need to be convinced the most — the legislators standing in the way of patients getting the relief they need.

The other element to this, of course, is big pharmaceutical money. Is the strong possibility that the pharmaceutical industry will lose money if cannabis is legalized a factor in the slowness to effective legislation?