El cambio que queremos en nuestra comunidad debe nacer del amor a nuestra comunidad

By Ingrid Sub Cuc, EHF Program Coordinator

Cuando me mudé a Spokane, Washington en 2003 con mi pequeña familia guatemalteca, pensé que este era el lugar más difícil en el que pudimos haber aterrizado. Aunque la barrera lingüística fue difícil, fue aún más difícil estar en un lugar donde la mayoría de personas no comparten la misma cultura, idioma o tradiciones. A medida que nos fuimos adaptando lentamente a nuestra nueva comunidad, nos encontramos con otras familias hispanas/latinas que habían vivido en Spokane por más tiempo que nosotros los cuales nos ayudaron a formar una comunidad y permanecer.

La población Hispana/Latina en Spokane ha crecido de 4.5% en 2010 a 5.2% en 2017 únicamente. Desde el año 2016, el 12.6% de la población en el estado de Washington se identifica como hispana/latina y continúa creciendo constantemente. En los 15 años que llevo viviendo en Spokane, he sido testigo de cómo la población hispana/ latina crece no solo en números sino en diversidad. Los hispanos/latinos somos una de las poblaciones más diversas del mundo, muchos de nosotros no solo nos identificamos como hispanos/latinos sino como indígenas-latinos, afro-latinos, etc. Aunque el español es el idioma principal de muchos hogares hispanos/latinos a menudo, no es el único. Mi primer idioma fue Maya Kaqchikel, segundo el español y el inglés mi tercero. Los tres idiomas aún son hablados diariamente en mi hogar. 

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    En el 2010, 10.2 porciento de la población del estado de Washington era de originen Hispano. Los porcentajes más altos de residentes hispanos se encuentran en el área central de Washington. Más del 50% de la población de los condados de Adams y Franklin son Hispanos. La población de Yakima tiene más del 45%.   OFM    
  
   
  
    
  
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En el 2010, 10.2 porciento de la población del estado de Washington era de originen Hispano. Los porcentajes más altos de residentes hispanos se encuentran en el área central de Washington. Más del 50% de la población de los condados de Adams y Franklin son Hispanos. La población de Yakima tiene más del 45%. OFM

Al igual que muchos otros jóvenes que crecieron en Spokane, deseaba irme de Spokane con la primera oportunidad que se me presentara. Pensé que me iría de Spokane para estudiar en una universidad lejana, pero con vueltas inesperadas de la vida termine becada en la Universidad de Whitworth en Spokane. A pesar de experiencias incomodas y poco deseadas aprendí a aceptar y amar a Spokane como mi comunidad, siempre estaré agradecida con aquellos que ayudaron a mi familia a prosperar aquí a pesar de las dificultades. Ahora vivo aquí con mi esposo, trabajo aquí y contribuyo a mi comunidad educando y defendiendo los derechos humanos, como el acceso equitativo a servicios de salud. No pensé que encontraría un ambiente profesional en Spokane que valorara mi identidad y apoyara mi pasión por defender a aquellos que a menudo son ignorados n nuestra comunidad. Trabajar para Empire Health Foundation me ha dado la oportunidad de prosperar como una mujer Indígena-Latina profesional en un ambiente laboral que es un 49% racialmente diverso. Es el lugar donde me siento motivada para continuar la conversación sobre la equidad de salud para nuestras comunidades hispanas/ latinas sin importar nuestra raza, estatus migratorio o estatus social. Es también el lugar donde siento que puedo promover que es nuestra responsabilidad (como Spokane) de contribuir para que todas nuestras comunidades diversas sean más saludables.

Con el clima político actual y el lenguaje divisivo que flota a nuestro alrededor todos los días, es difícil no darse cuenta de la falta de diversidad en nuestras comunidades cuando uno se siente atacado y aislado. Sin embargo, quiero tomar esto como una oportunidad para conversar y crear programas que sean respetuosos, intencionales y sostenibles para nuestras diversas comunidades en Spokane. Es cierto que aquí hay muy pocos recursos para nuestras comunidades Hispanas/Latinas, por lo que tenemos la oportunidad de construir mejores sistemas que sean culturalmente competentes y que permitan a todos alcanzar una salud integral. Después de todo, se espera que para el año 2050 los Hispanos/Latinos seremos la minoría más grande de los Estados Unidos y el español ya es el segundo idioma más hablado con aproximadamente 40 millones de hispano/latino hablantes y otros 2.6 millones no Hispano/Latino hablantes. Como Empire Health Foundation tenemos como objetivo mejorar la salud de la región este de Washington con compasión, integridad y respeto. Nosotros como organización filantrópica esperamos caminar junto a nuestras diversas comunidades para hacer de Spokane el hogar amoroso y saludable que muchos de nosotros sabemos que puede ser.

Read the full story in English here

Data: United States Census Bureau

"Making Mental Health Essential Health" - A Community Health Forum

Presented by: Eastern Washington University and Providence Health Care

Supporting Sponsors: Empire Health Foundation and Kaiser Permanente 

Hear from local community experts, as we discuss behavioral health and substance abuse — one of our community’s highest areas of needed solutions and services.

When: January 31, 2018 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

  • 5-6 p.m. | Doors open to the community and access to community resources
    Please visit several local community organizations for behavioral health and substance abuse resources. It’s an opportunity to learn, engage and take action.
  • 6-8 p.m. | Keynote Presentation by The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy
    A discussion will follow, wiht our panel of local experts:
    • Randy Russell, Superintendent, Freeman School District
    • Jeff Thomas, Chief Executive Officer, Frontier Behavioral Health
    • Linda Thompson, M.A., CPP, ICPS with Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council

This community event is an avenue for discussion and to increase awareness of resources available in our community. Health care or treatment options will not be offered.

Find out more information about the event here

Washington’s Cancer Research Endowment (CARE) Fund Announces First Grant Awards to Recruit World-Class Researchers to State

Published by Washington's CARE Fund

Washington’s Cancer Research Endowment (CARE) Fund is excited to announce the inaugural recipients of the $500,000 Distinguished Researcher Grant Awards. Three Washington institutions will receive recruitment grants to bring five world-class cancer researchers to the state. See the full announcement here.

Created in 2015, the CARE Fund is a public-private partnership that aims to enhance the cancer research field by supporting the recruitment of distinguished researchers and funding research that has the potential for the next big breakthrough discovery. Empire Health Foundation, based in Spokane, WA, selected as CARE’s program administrator, will be responsible for administering the grants. For more information on the CARE Fund, please visit www.wacarefund.org or contact Peter Choi, CARE Program Coordinator (peter@empirehealthfoundation.org).

Recruiting takes time, relationship building and belief

By Daphne Williams, EHF Director of Human Resources and Operations

Walk into the doors of Empire Health Foundation (EHF) and immediately you know this place is different than other organizations in Spokane. You just aren’t sure how. Then you realize – the heavy focus on results, hiring the best people to perform the functions needed within this organization and ensuring that employees have everything needed to do the best work. One thing the organization lacked when I first started, and we knew it would be challenging to attain in our majority Caucasian town, was diversity. And that was it, my marching orders. “It’s not about finding that rare unicorn. It’s just going to take time and a belief it can be done.” Trust me, the first few times I’d heard Antony Chiang, EHF President, give me that rousing speech of encouragement, I was extremely doubtful. But, I knew I had nothing to lose if I put in serious effort.

On a Friday night, I began calling friends, emailing their contacts and meeting with different people in the community, all of whom were people of color. Talking to people on the street and at restaurants as they passed by no longer gave me pause. And a year and half later from my first day, our organization went from 11% racially diverse to 49% racially diverse (59% racial, LGBTQ, disability, veteran combined).

Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 10.06.55 PM.png

Really, it’s not about unicorn hunting. It just took time, initiating relationships and a belief it could be done. And we did it! We now have the ability to better relate to and help more diverse communities in Spokane because we have staff who live in, relate with and understand these communities. Internally, EHF provides a place that supports our staff and their authentic selves as well as one that fosters personal and professional growth. And for people of color and minority groups in Spokane, when you walk in the doors of the Philanthropy Center, there is someone who looks like you, understands or lives in your community, and is advocating for your whole-person health. 

Rising Strong gives troubled Spokane parents another chance to keep their children

Written and published by The Spokesman-Review, December 26, 2017

Cassandra Moffitt knew she needed a change when she went to the hospital to give birth to her son, Zek.

Moffitt, 26, had already lost custody of her four older children when she went to Deaconess Hospital for her C-section in October. She remembered shooting up with meth before the birth.

“All my kids were born drug-addicted,” she said.

Normally, that would lead to the state seizing her baby. But this time, Moffitt was given another option: enroll in a residential treatment program, and keep her newborn.

Moffitt and 2-month-old Zek are one of eight families now enrolled in Rising Strong, a live-in treatment and parenting program for families in danger of losing custody of their children, often due to drug use.

Parents began moving into the dormlike rooms at the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary convent in October, with kids following a week or two later.

The program is run by Catholic Charities with funding and support from the Empire Health Foundation, as well as Premera Blue Cross and Providence. The goal is to keep kids with their biological parents and give those parents the skills they need to get clean and find jobs.

When Moffitt was growing up, her mother was in and out of prison and jail for drug possession, forgery and identity theft.

“At 12 years old, she showed me how to make bathroom crank,” she said. Moffitt was using it a year later.

When she was young, she promised herself she’d be nothing like her mother.

“I sit back now and I’m the spitting image of her and it sucks,” she said.

For a while, she held down a job, but that ended as her addiction deepened. She lost custody of her three oldest children, who are with her grandmother. Her fourth child was taken away from her after birth because she was still using meth.

She’s had no stable housing for the past decade, and she said that before she enrolled in Rising Strong, she usually slept around the Safeway on Market Street. She argued with caseworkers and the court commissioner assigned to her children and was angry most of the time.

“I’ve worked on my anger, worked on my temper,” she said, though she can still swear a blue streak. 

One of her counselors was able to help her calm down by finding a meditation video called, “(Expletive) It and Let that (Expletive) Go,” which blends New Age music, the relaxing voice of traditional meditation and a heavy dose of cursing.

Moffitt said it’s done wonders.

At Rising Strong, she’s learned how to swaddle Zek in a wrap covered with blue whales. He was getting over a bout of bronchitis and the flu this week, she said while bottle-feeding him.

“Every time I burp him, it comes out the wrong end!” she laughed.

Rising Strong will eventually take a total of 20 families for the pilot program. When parents graduate, they will be clean and will have earned either a GED or associate degree.

Child care is provided on-site for kids who aren’t school-age, and parents have a demanding all-day schedule of classes and group sessions focusing on addiction recovery, parenting skills and job readiness. Several said having a daily routine is helping their recovery by keeping them busy and out of old habits.

A single van serves as transportation for the families to get to doctor appointments, school and other places.

“We’re not going to let them fail. We’re going to help them stand up until they can,” said Teri Kook, the vice president of family resiliency at Empire Health. She’s “on loan” to Catholic Charities temporarily to help get the program off the ground, and gets to help cradle and feed the babies while parents are in classes.

“It’s the joy of my life to do this,” Kook said.

The on-site staff include peer support specialists who have experience losing their own children to foster care.

One of those specialists, Melissa Zielstorf, said she started using opioids at 14, then added other drugs. She moved to Spokane five years ago because her mother was here and she wanted to get off heroin.

“I called her on Christmas and said, ‘I need help,’ ” she said. After her first try at drug treatment, she kicked the heroin but picked up a meth habit. She lost custody of her kids 20 days later.

“Losing my kids was the worst thing I’ve ever been through,” she said. A second round of treatment helped her get clean and get her kids back.

Zielstorf now works with families at Rising Strong to show them recovery is possible and offer support. 

“I truly believe I went through everything because this is what I was made to do,” she said.

Tiffany Link and Anthony Whitehead share a room on the third floor of the convent with their infant daughter, Zamariah, who was born in July.

The couple have three older children who are 5, 3 and almost 2, who are scheduled to move into neighboring rooms Dec. 22. That just happens to be their third wedding anniversary.

The couple were homeless before joining Rising Strong. Whitehead was working in a restaurant while Link cared for the kids, but the two struggled to stay off meth and afford an apartment while supporting their children. They voluntarily surrendered their older children because they couldn’t care for them without housing and struggled to get custody back because of drug use.

“This program was our saving grace,” Whitehead said. “If it weren’t for this, we wouldn’t have our kids.”

Whitehead quit his job to move into Rising Strong and dedicate himself to recovery full time. He’s formed such a bond with Zamariah that she starts screaming if he leaves the room.

Residents support each other, and while there are tensions and frustrations, there are also inside jokes and moments of caring.

The group has started calling the small cribs provided for babies “taco beds” because they’re oblong and fold up to be stored. Whitehead is known as the “sheriff.”

Moffitt calls Zamariah the group’s “lucky bald baby” and said many of the babies in the convent like to wake her up first thing in the morning to play.

While walking through the halls, Link looked wistfully at the small kitchen on the fourth floor near Moffitt’s room.

“This is the nicest kitchen,” Link said.

“That’s because we keep it clean!” Moffitt responded. The refrigerator is covered with children’s artwork, inspirational quotes the parents have written for each other and sobriety certificates. Moffitt is on day 59.

For her, even the worst parts of parenting have become a privilege.

“I have yet to have any kind of urge to use,” she said as Zek stretched and started to cry in her arms. “This little cry right here is the reason why.”