Blog – October 2022
Sunflowers for Ukraine
As the war in Ukraine continues, the refugee situation worsens. Some of these refugees have landed right here in Louisiana. With a war so far away, and our own busy lives, we may sometimes forget the plight of these people. Although, I believe Louisianans can relate to what it feels like to lose your home and your community. We understand so fully the fear surrounding loss of employment, separation from our relatives and friends – and wondering how long it might take to rebuild an entire community, literally and figuratively.
The United Nations says at least 12 million people have fled their homes since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. More than five million refugees are in their neighboring countries. The U.S. has admitted over 100,000 refugees according to the Biden administration. Some of those refugees landed here in Louisiana. I feel compelled to assist these fellow human beings.
This month, I am launching the “Sunflowers for Ukraine” fundraiser with all proceeds going to support refugees from Ukraine. I chose the sunflower because of Louisiana and Ukraine’s shared connection to this flower. For Ukraine, it has become more than just their national flower; it has become a symbol of resistance, unity, and hope. For Louisiana, it serves as a call to action, and our ability and capacity to help.
The sunflower has historically been an integral symbol of Louisiana in large part to Governor Jimmie Davis. When he wrote the song, “You Are My Sunshine”, the sunflower quickly became associated with him and the song. In fact, the foyer of the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion showcases a mural hand painted by world renowned artist, Auseklis Ozols. In the northeast corner of this mural, two symbols honor Governor Jimmie Davis – a guitar and a sunflower to represent this song.
But, more than just a symbol, the sunflower represents Louisiana’s opportunity and conviction to help. Listed by the LSU Ag Center as one of Louisiana’s “super plants”, our state’s climate and conditions are perfect for this plant to thrive. Similarly, Louisiana also has the perfect conditions for refugees who need our help. In whatever way we can, the people of our great state respond to those in need. In my opinion, it is the greatest of our gifts – our generosity toward others in need.
We in Louisiana know the importance of giving and supporting others. Please join me in supporting the people of Ukraine. A portion of the proceeds donated will be used to build a home in Poland housing refugees through the Community “Betlehem” in Jaworzno. You can see the progress of the home here. Donate by clicking the link below.
Thank you in advance for your generosity. It is greatly appreciated.
Thank you to James Michalopoulos for the use of his painting, Flower Box.
FEATURE Louisianans Can Sponsor Ukrainian Refugees
Did you know that people in the U.S. can sponsor Ukrainian families through the ‘Uniting for Ukraine’ program? Roughly 150,000 Ukrainians have entered the U.S. since March, and many new arrivals are relying on their new communities to survive as they struggle to overcome the trauma of war.
For the first time in the history of Catholic Charities’ involvement with refugee resettlement, the U.S. government is enabling individual families and citizens to sponsor a refugee family, according to David Aguillard, Executive Director, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge (CCDBR).
CCDBR said although sponsoring a Ukrainian family can be rewarding, it takes a lot of commitment and resources. Aguillard explained, “You would be helping them acculturate to our community. Learn how to shop at a Walmart. Learn how to make medical appointments. Learn how to enroll a child in school….”
Unlike Afghan refugees, local resettlement agencies will not have material support for Ukrainians. There is no housing assistance, employment placement services, or orientation classes. All those duties fall to the sponsor person or family.
Sponsors must apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and submit background checks.
To learn how to apply to become a sponsor, click here.
LOUISIANA FIRST FOUNDATION
A Louisiana State of Mind
The wonderful thing about living in Louisiana is that eventually, the heat subsides, and the weather breaks. The smell in the air reminds us that we have outlasted the intense subtropical climate of our uniquely unpredictable state, and there is a promise on the horizon for approaching cooler weather and a break from the scorching summer temperatures.
One whiff of the October air is all it takes to engage euphoric olfactory recall and instantly retreat in our minds to a time to celebrate autumn festivities and relish in them with our loved ones.
DCFS and Baton Rouge Faith Based Community Partnering to Certify 40 New Foster Families by Christmas
This October, the Department of Children and Family Services is partnering with several Baton Rouge area faith-based organizations to host a fast-track certification for new foster caregivers. The goal is to certify at least 40 new foster families by Christmas.
Recruitment events are taking place in several churches through October 9, followed by two consecutive weekends of intense training on October 14-16 and October 21-23.
ANTI HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The Michelle Johnson Act
In 2016, I met with legal aid representatives at STAR to see about getting my criminal record expunged. I served my time for the crimes I was forced to commit while being trafficked and was ready for a clean slate. Because of my record, I experienced being denied housing, employment, and access to higher education. I was ready for a fresh start and to erase yet another reminder of my victimization.
New Executive Director of the
Louisiana Governor’s Mansion Preservation Foundation
Meet our new Executive Director of the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion Preservation Foundation, Mrs. Chancely Ducote!
Chancely began her journey with the Edwards administration in 2016 as a volunteer in the transition and now works full time as the Executive Assistant to the Governor’s Chief of Staff. Chancely is a Baton Rouge native and lover of all things Louisiana (well, maybe except for the humidity). She’s passionate about the Governor’s Mansion, protecting its beauty, preserving its architectural integrity, and telling its story.
Chancely can be reached at email@example.com for any inquiries.
WOMEN'S HEALTH Take Charge of Your Breast Health
by Shawn McKinney, MD FACS MPH
Breast cancer has touched each one of us. Unfortunately, one in eight women will develop the disease by the time they turn 80. However, we can be proactive about our breast health by taking the necessary steps to impact our health. So what can you do to take charge of your breast health?
- Do monthly self-breast exams.
In Louisiana, we exceed the national average for women diagnosed with breast cancer below 45, an age that is before any recommended screening imaging guidelines. Noticing changes of the breast such as a mass, nipple discharge that comes out on its own, or skin changes at the earliest point can make a difference in the time to diagnosis and treatment. For women who are having cycles, the best time to perform the exam is about one week after their cycle begins. If you no longer have cycles, pick a consistent time each month. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be. Report any new changes to your physician.
- Know your risk classification.
Are you average risk or high risk? Several things contribute to a person’s risk of developing breast cancer. These include your menstrual and hormone history, family history, abnormal breast biopsies, alcohol intake, and obesity. These factors can be assessed to calculate your individual risk. Women who are high risk can be eligible for earlier screening and advanced imaging such as breast MRI and medications to help reduce their risk.
- Know your family history.
Only about 5% of the population possesses a significant genetic mutation, but when discovered, it allows for different screening recommendations or surgical interventions. In addition, knowing all types of cancers present on both sides of your family can provide valuable information to see if genetic testing may be indicated.
- Obtain yearly screening imaging.
Louisiana exceeds the national average for women diagnosed with breast cancer at late stages – when cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Mammography is the recommended screening method for women 40 and over and can detect cancer before anything is felt. 3D mammography is better than 2D for detecting abnormalities, especially in women with denser breast tissue.
- What are the best things that you can do to reduce your risk?
Because obesity, especially in postmenopausal women, is a risk factor, maintaining a healthy weight by incorporating weekly exercise. A diet focusing on reducing sugars and carbohydrates and watching alcohol intake are daily steps women can take. Limiting the combined hormone intake of estrogen and progesterone to less than four years will also reduce your risk. Sustained stress, which reduces the body’s natural immune system, will impact your defenses on a cellular level. Therefore, it is vital to take the time to invest in mindful, stress-reducing activities such as meditation or yoga and do things that regularly bring you joy.
Treatment is highly individualized based on a patient’s presentation, and recommendations are given with the intent to remove the current disease and reduce the chance that it does not return. Breast cancer is treatable, especially if discovered early. It is up to us as women to do the necessary things to ensure we do everything possible to reduce our risk of having the disease. We must ensure early detection becomes a staple in our health maintenance. Let’s all take the time to prioritize ourselves and our health.
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 1. Community
Mental Health Community in Louisiana
by Ashley Wallis Landry, MBA, CSBI, SOLC
Chief Operating Officer – HCO Behavioral Health Services
Asking for help to improve your mental health does not have to be scary. HCO Behavioral Health Services is here for each step of the journey.
Did you know?…
According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), 1 in 5 people experience a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year – for the state of Louisiana, this statistic is an estimated 650,000 adults and 245,000 children (LDH.LA.GOV). Unfortunately, about 40 percent of individuals with mental health concerns do not seek professional help. (Forbes, 2021) These statistics are more than just mere numbers. These staggering numbers could represent your mother, father, sister, brother, and even your closest friends. According to the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI), serious mental illness is defined as a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that meets the criteria of the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and results in functional impairment substantially interfering with or limiting one or more of life’s activities. In most cases, the individuals that do not seek the necessary treatment to improve their mental health feel shame and humiliation for speaking up and refuse to ask for help. The impact of mental health on our community and the delayed promotion of mental health awareness has pledged Louisiana for far too long.
Equip, Empower, Enact Change
At HCO Behavioral Health Services, we are passionate about impacting the mental health community in Louisiana. At HCO BHS, we offer caring, compassionate, and complete therapy by providing services to our clients in person and online. While recognizing that one of the biggest obstacles to care is access, HCO has service providers in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Gonzales, Ponchatoula, Hammond, and surrounding communities. We specialize in Mental Health Rehabilitation (MHR) services for adults and adolescents starting at 6. HCO also has services dedicated to treating clients that are Military – Active Duty, Reservist, First Responders, and their family members. More recently, we have joined in solidarity with other community partners against Human Trafficking.
Additionally, we have Licensed therapists that treat clients with trauma and crisis, especially clients that were victims of sex trafficking. Our goal is to treat clients with the care and compassion needed to overcome life’s challenges and reclaim the life that all individuals deserve. Every program and all sessions are tailored specifically to the client’s needs with the hope of reestablishing ways to successfully work, learn, and function fully in their communities.
Because many people with a serious mental illness also suffer from substance abuse/dependence, we recently opened Empower Recovery Center, an Intensive Outpatient Program designed to treat the whole person. Studies show that over 25 percent of adults with a serious mental illness also abuse alcohol or illicit drugs. HCO specializes in co-occurrence and a dual diagnosis method that treats clients’ substance abuse and mental health needs in one setting. More recently, Empower Recovery Center forged a partnership with Crossroads Recovery Center of Louisiana, who specializes in MAT (Medication-Assisted Treatment) in both Baton Rouge and Gonzales. This affiliation allows clients the best opportunities to fully recover from drug abuse no matter what stage of the journey a person finds themselves.
The Care You Deserve.
If you or a family member has mental health concerns, today can be the start of the best chapter in life. At HCO BHS, we allow our clients to guide the entire process from start to finish as your counselor works with you to help you find a path through your emotions, fears, pains, and anxiety. At HCO BHS, we believe in a future where mental illness can be without stigma, a future where mental illnesses are communicated without fear, and a future where everyone with mental health concerns can access effective treatment, critical resources, and a strong support system. I wholeheartedly believe in the work we do at HCO Behavioral Health Services. Our staff is dedicated to treating persons living with mental illness and is committed to serving clients with hope, love, and a caring heart. At HCO BHS, we make getting the help you need simple.
Now is the time to change the narrative. Today we will reduce the stigma around mental health. We bravely encourage all to have honest conversations centered around improving mental health wellness, providing access to treatment, and advocating for preventive measures.
Call us today to start your journey at 225-261-7143 or visit our website at HCOHealth.com
LinkedIn: @Ashley Wallis Landry
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 2. Schools
Greatness Lies Within Each of Us –
Sometimes We Just Need Help in Getting It Out
by Dr. David Schexnaydre, Jr.
My favorite movie as a kid was Space Jam. I know, I know, it’s not exactly a film of critical acclaim, but something about watching Michael Jordan lead a rag-tag group of toons in a high-stakes basketball game just resonated with me when I saw it for the first time as a middle schooler. Recently, I’ve re-watched it a couple of times as my two children have discovered the movie and taken a liking to it as well.
Even though I’m now a principal, I’ll always be a teacher at heart – always looking for teachable moments and opportunities to impart life lessons to anyone who’ll listen – or at least pretend to listen! So imagine my excitement, then, as the plot of Space Jam unfolded, illustrating one of life’s most important lessons, especially for educators…
For context, Michael Jordan and the toons (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc.) are playing in a basketball game against a group of aliens who have stolen and harnessed the talent of several NBA legends. At halftime, Michael Jordan and the toons are losing to the aliens by a score of 1,039 to 37, and the toons are ready to forfeit when Michael encourages the toons to drink from a water bottle labeled “Michael’s Secret Stuff.” The “Secret Stuff” magically gives the toons the skills of Michael Jordan, and they go out and lead an impassioned comeback, ultimately winning the game. Later on, it is revealed that the “Secret Stuff” was actually just water, and the toons, as Michael tells them, “had the ‘Secret Stuff’ inside (them) all along.” They just needed encouragement and someone to believe in them for it to come out.
Watching this, I thought about the students, faculties, and staff at schools across the state. How can we help them grow, thrive, and realize that they each have greatness inside of them? Are we doing everything we can to help them become the best version of themselves? What else can we do to be their “Michael Jordan” and bring out the “Secret Stuff” that they already inside of them?
While my school doesn’t have all the answers, and we’re always focused on continuous improvement, these are a few of the steps we’ve taken to try and help each person on my campus be seen, heard, and empowered:
- I paired with my counselors, and we met with every single student, individually, face-to-face, for one-minute meetings to get to know our students and their goals, along with gauging their safety and feel for school.
- We created a teacher-leader pipeline and empowered our faculty to create the initiatives and professional learning they needed to succeed.
- We formed a Principal’s Advisory Student Committee to provide me with feedback on our school and what we can do to make the educational experience better for everyone.
- We trained our teachers in Mindfulness, and now every class period begins with 10-30 seconds of focused breathing as students learn to center themselves, self-regulate, and be present in the moment.
- We educate everyone on our campus on the Growth Mindset and help them understand that their brain is a muscle that grows, and they can learn to improve skills that they focus on and commit effort to.
Again, we don’t have it all figured out, but our student, family, and faculty surveys all indicate that we’re making progress, and the students and teachers on our campus largely feel empowered and fulfilled.
I believe this is especially important work because many of these steps, especially Growth Mindset and Mindfulness, are tools our students and faculty can carry with them and utilize for the rest of their lives. These are intrinsic tools and can be applied in any endeavor, at any time, and are a solid foundation to stand on when life gets tough or when challenges come our way. After all, part of our core work is preparing those we serve for the road ahead.
Michael Jordan was my idol as a child – When adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would tell them that I wanted to be in the NBA. While a professional sports career ultimately wasn’t in the cards for me, I’m glad that I have the opportunity to “Be Like Mike” by helping others become the best version of themselves and empowering them with the realization that they are enough and already have everything inside of them that they need to be successful and live out their dreams.
-Dr. David Schexnaydre, Jr.
2023 Louisiana State Principal of the Year
Harry Hurst Middle School, Principal/St. Charles Parish Public Schools
School Website: https://www.stcharles.k12.la.us/hurst
Facebook: David Schexnaydre, Jr.
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 3. Military
Veterans Day Activities 2022
The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs will celebrate Veterans Day by participating in and supporting events across the state in honor of Louisiana’s 283,000 veterans.
At LDVA, we like to say that every day is Veterans Day because we serve the veteran population daily. Currently, we serve veterans in 74 parish service offices and 32 student veteran centers on college campuses. We also care for veterans in our five state-run veterans’ homes and bury veterans with honor in our five state-run veteran cemeteries.
Note: If you are hosting an event and would like it added to this list, please email all information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the activities currently listed. You can visit this link for activities entered after the publication of this blog.
MEMORABLE VERSE October 2022
THE FIRST DOGS Meet Lucy: best friend to Samantha, the Edwards’ eldest daughter!
October is Adopt a Shelter Dog month and the First Dogs would like to remind you that their fellow furry friends would love to have a place to call home! Samantha adopted Lucy from a shelter and the First Dogs love their play dates with her! Visit your local shelter for more information on adopting and other ways you can support.
MEET OUR EDITOR Delery Rice
A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Delery has lived there all of her life except during undergraduate school and a brief stint in Seattle, WA. She is a mother to four boys, ranging in ages from 21 to 16, and they are the heart and soul of her life.
Delery earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and Master’s Degree from Louisiana State University. She completed a fellowship at Loyola University, New Orleans Institute of Politics, and currently attends Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy. Her volunteer work has mostly evolved from issues that have affected her personally. Actively engaged in disability rights advocacy, Delery has testified numerous times in the Louisiana Legislature regarding issues that affect persons with developmental disabilities. She served as the chair of the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council, worked for seven years directing regional advocacy efforts and is a graduate of Louisiana’s Partners In Policymaking.