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.




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.

He delivers the hemp

Our ancestors had medical cannabis, but for the last 80 years we’ve been legally barred from using it, even though it’s the greatest naturally occurring anti-inflammatory yet discovered. This is what drove Boris Shcharansky to found Heartland Hemp Company and The Iowa Hemp Association. Shcharansky and his partners are on a tour to raise awareness of the history of hemp and cannabis. It’s been illegal for less time than it was legal, and it was the number one cash crop in the United States from 1800 to 1900. More than corn, beans, tobacco or wheat.

“Hemp was legalized at the federal level in 2014, so we wrote legislation in line with that…both those pieces of legislation died, but…we are working to make this a national issue,” Shcharansky said.

While Shcharansky says his role is strictly as a supplier of hemp, his company has an ambassador who has begun to gain attention. Harli Kirkpatrick is a young Iowa woman with Angelman Syndrome which, among other severe symptoms, caused her to fall into a near-constant state of seizures. Shcharansky worked with manufacturers to deliver free samples to Carli’s mother. “Let’s see if this works for her,” he told her.

According to Harli’s mother, Tami Mugler,

“We had traveled many miles, all the way to Boston, to seek treatment and help for her. Harli’s medicaid would put up obstacles preventing her from trying new medications.
Then an amazing guy sent me a life changing message! He was CEO of an upcoming new company here in Iowa, and he wanted to know if he could help Harli!!! Boris Shcharansky of The Heartland Hemp Company met with me and Harli soon after. He brought with him a 25% CBD pure hemp extract. As hemp and cannabis are virtually the same plant, differentiated by the way in which they are grown, he had a question. On the molecular level CBD should be CBD regardless if its derived from hemp or from cannabis. He was offering Harli the chance to find out.
After several hours of questions from me, and others I had present, it was time for Harli to ask her questions. She had only ONE.
She looked at Boris and wrote ‘will it make me walk’.
With a slight lump in his throat, he put his hand on her shoulder and softly said ‘i hope so.’
Harli began the journey of taking this extract and we slowly titrated the dose until we found her ‘sweet spot’.
Harli has been completely seizure free since August of 2014. She can lift her spoon all on her own, she laughs and giggles and engages those around her, again. She is Harli again.”

The challenge of hemp/cannabis legalization is melding anecdotal evidence like Harli’s with scientific proof.

Follow up: Detroit Water Crisis

The Detroit Water Brigade is gearing up for the second summer of water shutoffs. After a respite, and despite the Detroit city council’s recommendation that the shutoffs cease, Mayor Duggan ordered the shutoffs to continue.

Despite the work of the Detroit Water Brigade  to stop the shutoffs and mitigate the effect on residences cut off, the contractors’ trucks are again out painting sidewalks blue to indicate this place is next.

Detroit is not alone in facing water shutoffs to its poorest residents. Lost in the #BlackLivesMatter riots after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore was the news that Baltimore was set to begin shutting off water to 20,000 homes last month.

Detroit could see the landscape and conditions in the city rapidly deteriorate as 40% of the city’s homes face cut off of their water supply with the latest round of disconnect notices.

Despite the admonition in October from the United Nations that cutting people off from water is a human rights violation, city officials maintain that they are simply responding to the issue of unpaid bills.  However, Motor City Muckracker reported that the city was also cutting off water to homes with up to date payments. 

Social justice leaders and observers warn that the water shutoffs could lead to an unprecedented revolution in Detroit. Investigation shows that many of the residents living without water, or who are in danger of losing water service, are disabled, raising children, working, or have been employed recently before losing jobs. Compared with the staggering delinquent amounts for which the city has let commercial accounts slide by, the residential accounts will not make much more of a dent in the city’s financial disaster.

Detroit Water Crisis

Infographic by Amy Peterson (click to enlarge)