Lutheran Community Services guides people from trauma to healing, justice
Along with guiding people who have experienced trauma to healing, safety, hope and justice, Lutheran Community Services (LCS) Northwest has started two new programs for elders in the Spokane area and is now implementing Washington State's Integrated Managed Care (IMC).
As executive director of the Inland Northwest districts of LCS since July, Erin Williams Hueter coordinates the work of 90 staff who, she said, "plant seeds to help people grow."
LCS offers behavioral health and community support services primarily for troubled youth, struggling families, unaccompanied minor refugees and victims of sexual assault and other crimes.
Now it is also addressing elder health care and elder abuse in partnership with the Community Health Association of Spokane (CHAS), which has opened the North Central Clinic, and through the Elder Justice Project, which has started the Elder Abuse Task Force.
LCS is involved with the clinic because Christ Clinic donated its facilities at 914 W. Carlisle Ave. to LCS when it closed in 2017 after 25 years of serving low-income people. The CHAS clinic opened Dec. 10 to provide coordinated primary care—with physicians, nurses, nutritionists, social workers and a pharmacy—for people 60 years and older.
Erin said that for people experiencing elder abuse, such as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or others, it's hard to find help, because they often are not legally considered victims of domestic violence and frequently do not qualify as disabled for Adult Protective Services.
Elder abuse includes interpersonal intimidation, financial control or theft, or physical violence.
"Elders can be overwhelmed by being referred to places that can't help them," Erin said.
The Elder Abuse Task Force hopes to identify people when they first seek help, such as through the North Central Clinic and senior centers.
Another new dynamic for LCS staff is implementing Integrated Managed Care. It began Jan. 1 for people who have Medicaid health insurance in Spokane County.
In addition to using digital records to help therapists and physicians communicate, physical and mental health care bills will be submitted through managed care contracts with Molina, CHAS, Amerigroup and Coordinated Care.
"The goal is to link physical and behavioral health care and have electronic health records rather than paper charts," said Erin.
Computer records put a person's treatment—such as for depression or diabetes—on one form so doctors and therapists will know about each other's prescriptions and treatment plans.
"Depression links to physical health, so this moves from isolating care for each condition in separate silos to help a person be healthy overall," she said.
Better Health Together with Empire Health Foundation is coordinating regional managed care.
For LCS, it has meant reorganizing internal records so computers, databases and financial staff were ready. LCS is also adding a care coordinator to connect therapists with physical health providers, Erin said.
"We are in the first group in Eastern Washington for the transition. The next group is in August," she said. "However, we are not the first region to adopt Integrated Managed Care. Early adopters were Southwest and North Central Washington, so we can learn from the experiences of those regions," she said.
Erin said LCS' ongoing programs provide people in crisis means to restore their hope, health and safety.
"Hope comes as LCS embraces people in the midst of their adversity, hears their stories and helps them find healing on the individual level, and then on the community level through seeking justice, educating others and giving back," she said.
"People come to us during what may be the worst days of their lives. They wonder if they can ever be safe. Our victim advocates help them stay safe and move into the long healing journey," Erin said.
That journey may involve a weekly commitment to counseling to talk through difficult things.
Clients inspire Erin as they move through the healing process.
"As healing begins, we look at safety, justice and community issues for children, youth and adults. Some want to heal quietly on their own. For others, societal problems that led to their trauma may mean they want to heal through justice in court. Some want to make an impact in schools, family, the community or society, such as by joining in a women's march, nonprofit fund-raiser or political action, or by creating art or sharing their stories to educate others," she added.
Erin described the programs.
• Child Welfare includes Family Outreach Crisis Intervention Services—with a 30-day diversion program to prevent teen suicides—and Wraparound Intensive Services for youth with behavioral or mental health challenges. In wraparound services, teams of care coordinators, therapists, parent and peer supporters work with youth in their homes, schools or jobs. There are three teams. Each serves 10 youth. Domestic foster care is offered through foster homes licensed and supported by LCS.
• Unaccompanied Minor Refugee Foster Care is for children separated from families because of war, terrorism or natural disasters. LCS just welcomed the 26th child since it began. Before changes to federal immigration policies after the 2016 election, LCS had expected to serve 60 children.
• The Sexual Assault and Family Trauma Response Center offers behavioral health care. Therapists see clients at the LCS building at 210 W. Sprague, at the Green House in Deer Park, at Cheney schools and the Episcopal Church in Cheney.
• Outpatient Mental Health Care focuses on trauma recovery.
• Victim Advocacy and Education programs serve crime victims, 60 percent of whom are children; adult refugees, who were subject to torture; victims of sexual assault, and families experiencing abuse.
Erin started work with Lutheran Community Services 17 years ago as an intake therapist with the outpatient mental health program. In 2012, she began working with the Victim Advocacy and Education program.
For sexual assault victims help is free. They may call the 24-hour sexual assault hotline. Advocates go to be with them when they check in at the hospital, file police reports, meet with detectives, go to trial and make victim impact statements.
"At the macro level, we help the system better respond to victims through advocacy to change policies and public education to increase awareness," said Erin, who meets with the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council, which includes the YWCA, prosecutors, victims and witnesses. "We urge the criminal justice system to hear victims' voices.
Growing up in the Mead area of Spokane, Erin had "a social-justice oriented childhood" with both parents being social workers—her father for Partners with Families with Children, Goodwill and the state, and her mother, now at Community-Minded Enterprises, with St. Anne's Child and Family Center, the North Wall Child Development Center and the state child-care licensing department.
Erin studied social work at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., graduating in 1998. She worked with a domestic violence organization in Oregon before moving back to Spokane in 1999 to be a domestic violence advocate with the YWCA and then with the Spokane Domestic Violence Consortium.
"Victim advocacy is grassroots, meeting with people where they are and helping them grow and flower," she said. "Human services in Spokane have many loving people who want to make Spokane better."
Although now in administration, she stays connected to work with clients by attending team meetings so she can share their stories as she connects with politicians, donors and survivors to help "make the community a more loving, healthy and safe place."
In her work, Erin visits many Lutheran churches. She likes experiencing their different styles of community and their approaches to mission as she seeks to build strong connections with them.
Hundreds of volunteers help make LCS work happen—from the crisis line to organizing benefits, she said.
"It's exciting that so many people come together to help each other out," Erin said.
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, January, 2019