Building Strength and Resilience Through Prevention

MSPI Youth Outreach Specialist, Kassie James, hands out promotional items along with information to members of the community at the Cultural Extravaganza held at the Royal Valley gym in January 2019.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Social Service Department consists of several programs that aid in the protection and enhancement of the wellbeing of tribal members. The newest program added for the benefit of community members is the Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative, or MSPI. While the topic of methamphetamines and suicide may be overwhelming, both subjects are realities for this community. Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10 to 24 years old, according to a 2016 Centers for Disease Control report, and within its first five months, the PBPN MSPI received seven referrals reflecting a real need in the community.

At the heart of the program, MSPI is focused on strengthening the emotional, social and leadership skills of 10 to 24-year-old’s and the families and support systems that care for them, while incorporating their native culture. MSPI provides prevention aimed at reducing risk factors for substance abuse and suicide. The program’s service area is Jackson county, and the surrounding six counties, which include Shawnee, Pottawatomie, Nemaha, Brown, Atchison and Jefferson.

The Nation received a grant from Indian Health Service in late 2017 to implement the MSPI program. The first staff member came on board in March 2018, when PBPN tribal member Jaimie Leis was hired as the Leadership & Cultural Development Specialist, followed by Program Manager Angel Hauk who joined the staff in June 2018. Most recently PBPN tribal member, Kassie James, joined the program as the Youth Outreach Specialist in January 2019.

The skill level of the staff is top notch. Both Hauk and James are Licensed Master Social Workers, and all three are working to increase their certifications. By the end of 2019, they will all be certified prevention professionals.

Hauk’s role is to guide the program while James and Leis are working directly with the community. Leis is stationed at the PBPN Boys and Girls club, and does outreach with the club kids, the early childhood education center, and is a partner with SAFE Kids. Leis is also the coordinator of the P.R.I.D.E. program instituted at the Royal Valley Middle School.

James is working in the community at large. She has set up workshops and classes for the community. James has extensive training and can provide direct services to individuals. She is a trained QPR instructor. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer, it is a method used in suicide prevention. James is also trained in MAPP – Modeled Approach to Partnered Parenting, Healthy Relationships, HEART certified, and will complete Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Training (SAPST) in March 2019. James is currently working to become a Licensed Master Addiction Counselor (LMAC).

MSPI has spent the past few months building a solid foundation and establishing partnerships. They have partnered with other tribal programs to help sponsor a 5K, the National Night Out, and assisted with Trunk or Treat. They are working to educate parents, schools and communities to show them prevention measures, protective factors and referrals for crisis situations. The team is also promoting early intervention strategies through positive youth programming like cultural sewing classes, an ice cream social, and the P.R.I.D.E. program instituted at Royal Valley Middle School. P.R.I.D.E. stands for Prevention Restores Individually Driven Empowerment, and it is a peer-lead prevention club with three tracks: Leadership, Student Ambassador, or Member, which allows students to be as active as they wish.

Amidst all of the positive momentum, staff have become aware of a slight snag. Some community members are put off by the wording of the program title. People see or hear the words meth and suicide and they back away. The program has determined they will change their name soon to something with a more favorable connotation.

In addition, the program has plans to offer more classes to youth and their family’s very soon. Individuals do not need to be in a situation, or crisis, to attend.

Overall, this program aims to help people find strength and resiliency within themselves through their native culture, to help provide answers, and to strengthen families in a time of need. MSPI staff can be reached at 785-966-8330 or at the Social Services Department, 11400 158 Road, Mayetta, Kansas.