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Five We're Thankful For: Psych class sparks passion for helping drug addicts

Editor's note: Five We're Thankful For is a series of five articles profiling people who are doing good for our community. This is the second in that series. 

Emily Jackson first became interested in the topic of drug addiction from Mrs. Anderson, her psychology teacher at Central High School in Rapid City. 

"She taught us about addiction and the amygdala and how drugs and substances change the chemistry in the brain, and I was just hooked from that point on," the 26-year-old said. 

Jackson went on to earn a master's degree from the University of South Dakota in addiction studies and become a licensed addiction counselor. 

While she's still fascinated by the science of addiction, Jackson said, she's now committed to using her knowledge to help people in her job as a counselor at  Pennington County's intensive inpatient methamphetamine treatment center. 

"Once I started having experiences with the people that were behind the science of (addiction), there's just no turning back from that," she said. 

It's rewarding "when you can physically see people change, when somebody gets sober, has that first clean (drug test), and you can see how their demeanor, how their personalities, how everything about them changes over that period of time, and then it's like 'this is who you are' — not that under-the-influence person," she said. 

Jackson said she's able to use science to help her patients understand and overcome their addiction. 

"I love, love, love going to groups and teaching clients about why they became addicted, the science behind why they can't kick the habit, and how it's impacted not only their lives, but also their brains and their bodies," she said. They "understand it's not a personality default, it really is a chemical imbalance and something they have to work hard at overcoming, and it's not just you were born bad so these bad things happened to you."
 
Jackson and her co-worker, Kate Wellensiek, provide 20 hours of group therapy a week plus one-on-one counseling to their clients, who live and are treated at a county facility on North LaCrosse Street for four to six months. They treatment center will eventually move to the new Care Center in downtown Rapid City. 
 
The program, paid for by the state of South Dakota, has room for 14 patients at a time, Jackson said. To be admitted, people must go through an evaluation that shows they need this kind of intensive treatment and can't afford to enroll at a private center. Some patients are referred to the program through the criminal justice system, but others are self-referrals or sign up after their friends and family encourage them to do so. 

"Each counselor has their own traits and their personality definitely comes through," Wellensiek said. "Emily is able to connect with the clients in a great way and validate their feelings, sometimes clarify for them. That can be really hard for clients to express themselves because many times they've been hiding all their emotions behind their drugs use."

She said Jackson also excels at making the treatment program, which is outlined in various texts, tangible and relevant to people's lives. 

"Being able to take that material and bring it to real-life experiences, or to get them to think about their own experiences is just a great aspect that she has," Wellensiek said. 

Jackson said while some people have trouble understanding how she does her job, it's something any compassionate and committed person can do. 

"At the end of the day, if you care about people, if you really have it in your heart to see people do better, and want to be a part of people being successful and allowing them to grow and to live the life that they want to live, then you can do this job," she said. 
 
To be successful, she said, she tries to put herself in her patient's shoes. 
 
"They're in potentially the worst place they will ever be in in their lives, and I just have to think, 'OK, if I was in the worst place of my life going through the hardest thing that I might ever have to go through, how would I want to be treated?'"

Ryan Hermens, Journal staff 

Mike Sazama, with Christmas lights, begins the annual Turkey Trot 5-kilometer run and walk Thursday. The race began and ended at Old Storybook Island.


Ryan Hermens, Journal staff 

More than 1,400 people competed in the event.


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Planned bill to protect human remains found in Wyoming

CASPER, Wyo. | Originally, Sen. Brian Boner wanted to deal with the issue of federal rules on private land, but a bill he'll propose in the upcoming legislative session deals with an older problem: what to do with Native American remains found in Wyoming.

As drilling interest has risen in the Powder River Basin with the price of crude, conflict has sparked regarding how the Bureau of Land Management carried out its environmental and cultural rules. The basin is a confluence of Native American history, with more than a dozen tribes' footprints left behind in graves and rock formations on the landscape — a largely privately-owned landscape.

But when a well is drilled on private land these days, it's highly likely that that well will be a horizontal well. It will dive down into the rock then turn and traverse on a lateral of up to two miles. If somewhere along that length the well intersects with federally-owned minerals, the Bureau of Land Management must take a survey at the surface.

The process isn't nearly as involved as it would be if the well were proposed from a starting point on federal land, but when there are Native American sites near the proposed well, the federal agency is required to alert more than a dozen tribes and offer them a chance to view the site. Anything that could degrade the view of and around the site, from roads to wells, was considered a negative impact.

For ranchers, and some in industry, that process was an infringement or a delay. For tribes, that process was the result of a long battle to establish federal protections of historic sites.

That conflict hasn't found a full resolution. State lawmakers consulted on the issue couldn't do much, but they did approach BLM leadership and Wyoming delegates who promised better application of the law.

Those early debates also sparked a conversation on burial sites, remains and funerary objects. Wyoming is one of the few states in the country that lacks a protocol when remains and associated objects are found. The state currently has no penalty for not alerting authorities or for keeping those artifacts.

In the upcoming legislative session, Boner — whose family ranches in Converse County — will introduce a measure to repair that.

The draft bill, which was brought before the Tribal Relations committee in Fort Washakie on Wednesday, would impose a penalty of up to $750 and/or up to six months in jail for violating the new protocol. Perhaps more importantly it would establish guidelines for how Native American remains are handled, starting with a requirement on discovery to alert the county coroner, bringing in the state archaeological team to investigate within two days, and utilizing the University of Wyoming and collaborating with Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Historic Preservation offices on appropriate exhumation within the following five days. The tribes will also be responsible for working with other tribes and with aspects of the reinterment process.

The measure would require a search for descendants if the remains are not found to be Native American but from the immigrants who traveled through what is now Wyoming, such as those who followed the Oregon Trail.

"I've always said from the beginning our issues are with the federal government, not with the tribes," Boner said of the drilling and private land conflicts that drove the bill. "It's important that we find ways to come together."

The measure has found favor from the tribes in Wyoming and it's been shepherded in draft form by Sen. Affie Ellis, a Republican from Cheyenne who has worked on similar protocols in Colorado. Ellis is a lawyer with a background in federal Indian law. She is also an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation.

At the committee meeting in Fort Washakie, Ellis led lawmakers through the bill, explaining what it would accomplish and some of the amendments suggested by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes.

Lawmakers were cautious during the committee hearing that the bill, which originated as a way to help facilitate oil and gas development, achieved its stated goal: to respect Native American remains.

"If a pipeline was going through a cemetery made up from settlers from the 1850s, I'm trying to think what being respectful would mean to me in my culture," said Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander.

Some lawmakers were concerned by the tight timeline for exhumation, which seemed arbitrary and risked undermining the respectful approach that the bill's proponents stated as its main goal.

State Archeologist Greg Pierce said that the timeline was intended to get boots on the ground quickly and avoid weather damage, but it did not preclude the state's team or the tribes from slowing down during the exhumation process.

"I think the idea is that we mobilize quickly and get out there," he said. "Once we're on the ground, we need to take the time necessary to do this right."

Boner's bill is not the first attempt by lawmakers to create a framework for dealing with discovered graves and funerary objects. A similar bill died in committee during the 2009 legislative session.

The Tribal Relations Committee was approached with the bill as part of the draft process. Boner will introduce it, but lawmakers noted after the meeting in Fort Washakie that they may join the bill as co-sponsors, given the support of the tribes.

Devin Oldman, deputy director for the Northern Arapaho Historic Preservation Office, was a vocal critic of attempts to reduce Native American access to historic sites during the debate over drilling federal minerals from private land. He noted at the committee meeting that the tribes are often viewed with distrust when they show up at committee hearings to add their input.

"We're just trying to advocate for our history," he said. "We believe these areas are living. When we destroy these areas, it affects us in ways we don't fully understand."

Oldman suggested that the bill mandate a more binding agreement between the tribes and county coroners, such as what exists on the reservation with Fremont County. He also questioned the amount of the penalty, which is far below the federal land penalty of $100,000 for a first offense.

Boner, who listened to the committee meeting by phone, said that suggestion was "well-taken." The penalty he'd suggested in the bill was similar to state law's punitive charges for disturbing gravesites.

In a later interview, Boner stressed that the bill was still in draft form.

Though driven by the increase in oil and gas development in Converse County, the bill was also a chance to find common ground, he said.

Ellis, the senator from Cheyenne, said creating a protocol to follow would ensure that these sites, remains and artifacts are protected.

"The other piece is that they are treated with respect," she said.


Ryan Hermens, Journal staff 

Sam Glantzow holds up a pie he received after completing the race.


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Groups seek gifts, funds to give kids a merry Christmas

Every child and teen deserves a merry Christmas, and across western South Dakota, opportunities abound to give kids a happier holiday season.

Salvation Army Angel Trees

Salvation Army Angel Trees offer families in need the opportunity to give their children Christmas gifts. About 100 Angel Trees are currently set up in large and small businesses, grocery stores and other locations throughout the Black Hills.

In Rapid City, Angel Tree locations include the Rushmore Mall, Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Family Fare and Walmart stores, Rapid City Stevens and Central High Schools, Southwest Middle School, Meadowbrook Elementary School and Black Hawk Elementary School.

The trees are decorated with tags, each bearing “girl” or “boy” and a child’s age. People are asked to return new, unwrapped gifts with the Angel Tree tag attached to the Angel Trees by Dec. 15. Then, the Salvation Army puts the gifts in a pop-up shop where parents who have registered for the Angel Tree program can select toys for their children. The Angel Trees provide gifts for babies and children through age 12.

“We walk families through the shop and they choose their own items for their kids. We want to empower families to request help and to give them a little bit more personal interaction,” said Leah Zandstra, president of the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary.

Project Toy Drive

The Cheyenne River Youth Project is bringing Christmas to more than 1,500 children on the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation by fulfilling wishes the children wrote in “Dear Santa” letters.

“We make sure each child receives four gifts from his or her ‘Dear Santa’ letter, as well as much-needed clothing and shoes,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “We do our best to give them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.”

Through Dec. 18, people can donate gifts or funds to the CRYP Toy Drive in a number of ways:

  • Make a tax-deductible donation by sending cash, a check or a money order to: The Cheyenne River Youth Project, P.O. Box 410, Eagle Butte, SD 57625.
  • Make a tax-deductible donation on the CRYP website at lakotayouth.org/toy-drive.
  • Donate a gift. To request a specific “Dear Santa” letter and to see the most-requested-gift list, contact Julie Garreau, executive director, at 605-964-8200 or e-mail julie.cryp@gmail.com.
  • Donate gift cards, gift bags, wrapping paper, tissue paper, tape or anything else that might assist in Toy Drive preparations.
  • Consider donating a Santa suit or clothes for Mrs. Claus and the elves.

Donations of money and gift cards help staff and volunteers shop for kids so that every child who wrote a “Dear Santa” letter has his or her Christmas wishes come true. Then, staff and volunteers organize all gifts by family and by community.

In a region where the unemployment rate is near 75 percent, many parents have to choose between paying for necessities such as food and electricity, or buying gifts or warm clothing for their children. All donated items or funds directly benefit the CYRP Toy Drive.

Tickets are on sale through Dec. 23 for a Lakota star quilt raffle that also supports the CYRP Toy Drive. The drawing will take place on Christmas Day, and CRYP staff will announce the winner on Tuesday, Dec. 26. Tickets are $1 each or $5 for six. To purchase tickets, send cash, checks or money orders to: Cheyenne River Youth Project, Attn: Star Quilt, 702 4th St., P.O. Box 410, Eagle Butte, SD 57625, or buy tickets online at lakotayouth.org/win-a-star-quilt.

“This year’s quilt has been christened ‘Lakota Summer,’” Garreau said. “Hand-crafted by Cheyenne River tribal member Bonnie LeBeaux, it evokes the rich, warm colors of our beloved prairie during the summer months, and serves as a vibrant reminder that winter does not last forever.”

‘Hope for the Homeless’

Rapid City Area Schools is partnering with 97.9 the Breeze and KLMP radio stations for the third annual “Hope for the Homeless” program. “Hope for the Homeless” provides $25 cash cards to middle school and high school students during the Christmas season.

This year, the school district and radio stations have partnered with First Interstate Bank. People can make a “Hope for the Homeless” donation through bank tellers at any First Interstate Bank location in Rapid City. Donations also may be made securely online at 979thebreeze.com and klmp.com. The deadline to make donations is Saturday, Dec. 8.

First Interstate Bank will load the donated funds onto Visa gift cards. A representative of Rapid City Area Schools will distribute the cards to homeless middle school and high school students. Last year, the program provided about $10,000 to more than 400 students.

“Older students get overlooked at Christmas, and this provides middle and high school students with a little cheer during a difficult season,” said Anita Deranleau from Rapid City Area Schools. “A simple act of caring goes a long way to provide hope.”

Guardian Tree

The Guardian Tree is up at the Department of Social Services office, 510 Cambell St., in Rapid City. The annual Guardian Tree tradition provides gifts for about 390 children in Pennington County who are either in foster care or in alternative care suited to their needs.

Tags that include gift ideas can be taken from the Guardian Tree, or toy donations can be brought to the Department of Social Services office, or people can contact the Department of Social Services at 605-394-2525 to learn more about how to assist children and families in the community.

“The holidays can be a difficult time of year for children who are unable to be with their families,” said Virgena Wieseler, Child Protective Services director. “The purpose of the Guardian Tree is to help support children and foster families by donating a special gift to make the holiday season more memorable.”