A Day in the Life of a GAINS Center Project Assistant

Arin - author provided

Arin

8:30 am            Sit down at my desk with a steaming cup of vanilla-flavored coffee and sort through my emails. After I finish with the emails in my inbox, I move onto the GAINS Center inbox. We get inquiries of all sorts – from how/where to get help for criminal-justice involved persons with behavioral health issues to requests for publications and information on a variety of behavioral health and criminal justice topics. Today’s emails include requests for information on co-occurring disorders and Cognitive Processing Therapy. I reply with answers, feeling good knowing that the information and resources I’m distributing will help others.

9:15 am          Receive an email notifying me that the GAINS Center has new followers on Twitter. I take a break from perusing current New York Times articles on PTSD to schedule a quick “thank you” tweet through Hootsuite to our new followers. Returning my focus to finalizing topics for GAINS Center Facebook and Twitter posts, I settle on the articles that catch my eye today: a piece from the Gainesville Sun about how gratitude can improve mental health (timely, for the holiday season), a New York Times spotlight on a revolutionary new treatment for PTSD involving Ecstasy, and a story about New Zealand’s first drug court by NZ news site SunLive.

10:00 am          An alert I set for myself goes off, reminding me to work on editing the Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) report for Queens, NY. Queens applied to receive a grant-sponsored SIM workshop through the GAINS Center, and was one of the communities chosen to receive the one-day intensive look at their criminal justice system. SIM workshops bring together key stakeholders to tap into local expertise and create a local “systems map” that illustrates how people with behavioral health needs come in contact with and move through the criminal justice system. The SIM workshop in Queens was particularly interesting because they are such a large county with so many resources. Their Misdemeanor Treatment Court, Mental Health Recovery Court, and Human Trafficking Intervention Court were fascinating to learn about. I open the SIM report document and flip through, remembering the conversations from the workshop and incorporating the advice of the lead trainers.

12:00 pm          The Cultural Competence Book Club brown bag lunch meeting is just starting. The book we’re discussing today is Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer. Described as “more than one hundred stereotype-debunking questions – thoughtful, awkward, and searching – answered with solid information, humor, and compassion,” this book creates a riveting discussion at the meeting. We cover the real story of Columbus, common stereotypes and offense language (like the name of the Washington Redskins), and how to build cultural awareness and sensitivity in our office. As I munch on my curried chicken salad, I ponder the points made and think about how I can apply them in our upcoming Tribal Policy Academy this spring.

2:00 pm          Finish printing last minute changes to the agenda just in time to set up for the GAINS Center team meeting. Today we’re finalizing details for the Expert Panel Meeting taking place in Maryland, going over the Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery – Priority to Veterans and Adult Treatment Court Collaborative programs, planning for the Tribal Policy Academy, and reviewing progress on the GAINS Center Virtual Learning Community. I take notes on things I’ll need to work on over the next few weeks and pay close attention to the structure and flow of the meeting because I’ll be leading the next one.

3:30 pm          My phone rings. The last hour of my day is spent fielding phone calls regarding the GAINS Center solicitation for applications for 2013 grant-sponsored trauma trainings that I sent out yesterday. People sound really excited about what we have to offer, and I have to admit, it’s pretty great. Communities can apply to receive training deliveries of our How Being Trauma-Informed Improves Criminal Justice System Responses curriculum, or to bring a train-the-trainer event to their area so they can teach the curriculum themselves. The best part is, it’s totally free – all sites need to provide is an appropriate space to hold the training and the required number of participants. The caller on the other end of the phone line seems incredulous, and asks who pays to fly the trainers to his community.  I explain to him that all the costs are covered, and he excitedly hurries off the phone to begin the application. His enthusiasm is catching, and I smile as I put on my coat and head out the door.

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