Message from Lee Grogg, CEO

Earlier this year I was, like many members of the Ryther family, engaged in correspondence with various governmental officials about reimbursement rate justice for Ryther. In one exchange I was responding to assertions by some officials that a rate adjustment was not warranted for a variety of bogus reasons. I was informed by one official that I was “taking this too personally”. Since I know a brush off when I see one, I did not make any further attempts to persuade this individual of the error of his thinking.

It has occurred to me that the core of our problem with the Washington’s government is the sentiment that budgetary problems that adversely affect the well-being of seriously disturbed, abused and neglected children should not be taken personally. Never mind that not getting the care and services these children receive have demonstrable negative personal consequences, I was essentially admonished to disregard their short and long term futures because they created difficult political situations for some involved officials.

I do want to make one thing very clear, not a single elected Representative or Senator of any party has voiced such a calloused and ill-informed attitude when presented with the facts about the state of reimbursement to providers of services (Ryther and other providers are reimbursed at the same level that existed in 2004).

I have come to the conclusion that in the face of such indifference I must continue to take my duty personally and seriously. Anything short of that dismisses and devalues the lives of these children who, for the most part, have been treated shabbily by the State.

I hope that others will become as personally committed to effectively meeting the needs of these children.

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Ryther Asks for Your Help

I am asking for your help all this week to email and call your legislators to support legislation that is pending that could help Ryther and other providers maintain services that are desperately needed by the highest needs children in our state’s child welfare system.

LeeWe are asking you to tell your legislators to support Senate Bill (SB) 5852 and House Bill (HB) 2095 from now until Feb. 27th. To find your legislator, visit this website and enter your address. Tell them that our highest needs children depend on the passage of SB 5852 and HB 2095. More information about this advocacy campaign can be found here.

As many who follow Ryther closely probably already know, we have been forced to close our Adolescent Boy’s Chemical Dependence Cottage because the deficits we incurred due to public sector reimbursement rates have remained unchanged for fifteen years.

You may also know that we have faced the possibility of closing one of our three cottages for children ages six to fourteen for similar reasons. About 85% of our clients in our Sub-Acute Residential Treatment Program are referred to us by the State of Washington’s Children’s Administration. Reimbursement from this branch of the Department of Health and Social Services for the kind of kids we serve is administered by a component called Behavioral Rehabilitation Services (BRS). The rate of reimbursement Ryther receives today is the same as it was in 2004. This has resulted in the loss of almost 100 BRS beds across the state since that time. SB 5852 and HB 2095 would fix this.

We have been trying to work with the State for the past three years to get some relief from this situation. When we started serious discussions with the government, we indicated that our strategy of developing private fee for service or insurance business would help, but that it wouldn’t be enough.

You may want to know that the children come to Ryther with an average of nine failed State foster placements after they were removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. What this means is that these children were traumatized eight more times after the original crisis. I think that is abundant evidence that if they could be cared for elsewhere the State would surely find that option. Without SB 5852 and HB 2095, this trend will continue.

My belief is that you wouldn’t be reading this now if you did not have compassion for kids who have had more bad breaks in a precious few years than most of us can imagine. These children need a lot of intensive care and treatment so that they can avoid what Dr. Anda (ACES study) terms the cascading intergenerational cycle of trauma. We have pretty good data on what is likely to happen to these kids if nothing is done.

Please Help. Thank you.
Lee Grogg, Ryther CEO

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What is “dabbing?”

Karen's goodbyeAn Interview with Deanna Seather-Brady, Ryther Chemical Dependency Program Director

What exactly is dabbing? When did this begin and why?

Dabbing is consuming a cannabis (THC) concentrate. It is exposed to a heated surface and the vapor is inhaled. The result is an intense effect from a small amount. Dabbing has been around for years, but traditionally only among long time users of Marijuana. We have been seeing it here at Ryther among teen clients frequently for the last year or so.

How does this differ from usual marijuana?

It is being referred to as the “Crack of Marijuana” comprised of 30 – 90% THC verses up to 22%. Unlike marijuana, there is minimal smell so it is easily concealed.

How long does the high last?

Effects vary depending on dose, route of administration and tolerance level.

What items are required to do this?

Rig – glass pipe or bong, butane torch, titanium nail or other kind of nail.

What can go wrong during this process of preparation in terms of explosives, injury or fire?

Fire and explosions have occurred with butane.  Butane gas sinks and can develop into a butane pool in an unventilated closed space and inadvertently explode if ignited.

Are there specific signs parents should be on the lookout for?

Paraphernalia, looks like paste or wax, easy to conceal. Behaviorally, you could see paranoia or symptoms of psychosis. There also would be high THC levels in a urine analysis.

What is the vernacular surrounding dabbing?

It is called honey, amber, shatter, wax and ear wax.

What is the most concerning element that you and other treatment providers and emergency room personnel are seeing?

We are seeing more and more psychotic symptoms, losing consciousness and some burn injuries. The other real issue is that with teens that have a predisposition for thought disorders or psychosis, such high levels of THC can be the tipping point. We have seen some clients actually not recover from a state of psychosis after dabbing.

What can we do as parents to warn teens about this?

Talk to them about it openly while maintaining a no tolerance stance regarding use (this includes all substances of abuse).

With the legalization of marijuana in Washington State, will dabbing become less or more popular?

The research in this state is showing that the process of legalization has decreased the perception of risk leading to dabbing becoming more and more popular with teens. Adults that have been using Marijuana regularly and have an increased tolerance report that dabbing allows them to be able to feel high again.

What some good websites for information?   Google images have pictures of the substance and paraphernalia. At this time there really isn’t a very good online source of information about dabbing.


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The Maleficent Mile

On July 12-13, six Ryther employees and four community supporters will be participating in the Ride for Ryther, a 202 mile bike ride from Seattle to Portland to raise awareness and funds for Ryther. The team members have been training for months now but, with just one more month to go, have kicked their training into high gear. However, training doesn’t always go as smoothly as one would hope. Read about a recent ride that taught the riders how a little setback doesn’t mean it’s time to give up but can serve as motivation to succeed on the second attempt.

Group training shot

Our plan to do a 100+ mile ride to Bellingham this past weekend was an ambitious one. With the 202-mile Seattle-to-Portland (STP) only five short weeks away, it was time to kick training into high gear. A group of four of us were planning on leaving from Seattle at 9am, bike to Bellingham getting in around 5 or 6pm, then have time for a bite before taking the train back to Seattle. “Bellingham or Bust!” became the motto for the weekend.

Turns out, “Bust” was correct. Between the four of us, we had six popped inner tubes leading to six flat tires, four of which happened in a one-mile stretch. We were incredulous when each time we started to ride, a new member of the team pulled over and told us that they too had a flat. However, we felt lucky to be among a group of good-natured, flexible, optimistic people, willing to roll with the punches. (Or in this case, stop rolling.)

clay's popped tire

But the high points of the ride stick with us the most. We rode just shy of 50 miles before we had the “magnificent,” ahem, “maleficent mile,” and completed that in just over three hours. We thankfully have supporters willing to drop what they are doing on a Sunday afternoon to come help some stranded friends. Upon returning home and consulting the map, we found we had done 90% of the elevation gain that we were supposed to do in that first 50 miles, so the rest would have been smooth sailing through the Skagit Valley and alongside Bellingham Bay. Amtrak allowed us to cancel our tickets, even though it was only three hours before departure. So, that led us to one conclusion: we will revisit our plan on June 21st. Stay tuned for the sequel “Bellingham or Bust 2: More Tubes!”

Visit our Crowdrise page to learn about all of the riders and support their efforts.

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Interview with Lisa Lester, former Ryther therapeutic foster parent

family editedHow did you learn about Ryther?

I actually started working in the Cottages in 2001.  I worked in Cottage D until 2004. I enjoyed my work there even though it was probably the hardest job I’ve ever done.  But it was also my favorite job – honestly.  The kids were great.  They had baggage and they had tough times and they acted out.  But they didn’t always act out.  They were just normal kids that you could do fun stuff with and hang out, so the majority of the time it was really enjoyable.

 Why did you decide to open your home to a Ryther child?

Just working there I saw the need for that, and I thought we could fill it.  I thought it would be doing respite care when we began.  And so we got licensed through Ryther.  I knew the TFC person who ran the program at the time, and she would always say, ‘Hey, we have this kid, we have this kid.’  And then finally Dasia came along and she’s like, ‘We have this kid, really.  You’ve got to come see her.  You know, I really think she’d be a great fit for your family.’  So we said, ‘OK, well . . . we’ll go.’  And it ended up she was! So she was right.

 How did you get to meet Dasia?

It was more observing than an introduction.  We went to the Cottage and we watched her play. We didn’t get to meet her at that point.  We could tell just what a cool kid she was. It wasn’t too long after that we decided that that we could do this, and so we did!

What is she like?

She is incredibly artistic.  She’s very resilient and very resourceful.  She’s really smart.  She’s incredibly athletic.  She has so many strengths.

How did Ryther help?

Ryther was incredibly helpful.  Our caseworker was great.  Our case aide was great.  Anytime I had a question I could call and they would help me.  They were there at least once a week, and then we’d have case aide time.  If you’re going to do foster care you should do it through an agency like Ryther.  That’s what I tell friends who are interested because there’s so much support there and it was so valuable.  They were so valuable.

 What were some of the biggest issues early on?

Dasia was an eight-year-old coming into our home, having had nine prior placements. That was probably the most difficult part for us – the attachment issues that we had to deal with.  You’ve got to give them time to build trust. Being able to have her go through therapy was pivotal for her being successful in our home.  And for us to have the support we had from Ryther was instrumental, because there were days when it was stressful.  They were always there to listen and to help.

 What was Dasia like when she first came to your home?

I would say she was pretty socially awkward. She had never lived anywhere for more than a year. She didn’t have an opportunity to make friends or learn how to be a friend so we decided to get her into sports. She met some kids and that worked out really well. Now she’s got tons of friends on her softball team.

What do you think Dasia would say about what she’s gained?

She’s gained a sister and she’s gained a home that can give her stability and can nurture her. We are excited it worked out so well.  You don’t know what’s going to happen really, but certainly with the help of Ryther, and Dasia being as resilient as she is and as strong as she is, it’s worked out really well.

Why should someone consider taking a Ryther child into their home? Here is what Dasia had to say:

“If you put forth an effort to help them, I feel like they can do really well in life. But the longer you wait, the harder it gets because they’re older and they try to make their own decisions but they haven’t been taught how to make those decisions.

I came to this home when I was eight and I learned a lot and I’m really successful in school, and in sports, and I’m able to make a lot of friends. And so I feel like if other kids got that opportunity then they could do as well as I am doing.”



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A letter to Santa

Dear Santa, the source of magical hope, kindness and joy in our lives regardless of our age:
Please help all the children at Ryther to find peace, solace, and comfort
Please erase the nightmares, anxiety and fear from their lives forever
Please help us provide the children with a childhood they deserve; ones with happiness, small
crises, moments of accomplishments and triumph to balance the small defeats.
Please help the children acquire and keep the capacity to love and be loved.
Please give the children the gift of curiosity and joy of learning.
Finally, Santa, help the children to hope and believe in themselves. Help them know that if they keep trying things can be different and better for them.
Your friend, Lee Grogg

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The Night Before Christmas

The children at Ryther are anxiously awaiting tomorrow morning this afternoon. For some, it takes a lot of extra effort to contain the many feelings and emotions during a time when there is so much excitement in the air. For others, it takes a mix of concentration and distraction to avoid focusing on the fact that they are not having a Norman Rockwell holiday. I hope everyone will think of the children at Ryther and wish extra hard for them to have peace, comfort, and even joy. Please also send thoughts of love and tenderness their way. We can use all the help we can get in that department.

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Our job is to heal mentally ill, not hurt them.

The plight of seriously mentally ill people has been much in the news lately. Unfortunately most of the coverage has been sensationalized in way that spawns more fear and prejudice than information.  Typically the discussion alludes to floridly psychotic people (usually not senior citizens) who become violently assaultive. This creates the impression that people with psychoses are, as a rule, dangerous. Anyone who works in the field who promotes this notion is irresponsible.

You might ask how is this discussion relevant to Ryther as we deal with children? First, the term child covers a wide range of ages. For Ryther it has come to mean kids from two years old to 24. To be sure only a fraction of these children are over 18.  That being said, it is not uncommon for people who develop schizophrenia to experience their first psychotic break in the years from 18 to their mid-twenties and there are those adolescents who experience drug induced psychotic episodes. Ryther does in fact serve these kids.

After forty years in the mental health field, with about 30 of those years heavily involved with seriously and persistently mentally ill people (schizophrenics) I can tell you from first-hand experience that the vast majority of these people are more afraid of you than you can imagine.  Visual and auditory hallucinations, as well as many delusional systems are terrifying and horrible beyond comprehension. Using force indiscriminately to subdue such people is itself dangerous to all concerned. Whether they’re 15 or 24 people afflicted with psychoses need help and are not dangerous. Our job is to heal them and keep everyone safe; not to make things worse.

- Lee E. Grogg

Executive Director/CEO

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Art Therapy Provides a New Beginning

IMG_9789 editNative to tropical Asia and Australia, a lotus plant’s seed rests beneath the water of ponds in the dark, deep taking years to germinate until the conditions are just right. Once that time comes, the seed stretches its stalk and travels multiple feet through the water to rest upon the surface. It then blooms a beautiful pink and white flower.

The lotus is revered culturally across Asia for its symbolism of the human experience: a simple seed, stained and muddy, tests time and the elements to rise above its harsh beginnings and transforms into a pure and strong flower, seemingly born anew. Chelsea Gallegos, a Ryther Case Manager, used this symbolism as the basis for an art therapy group with three young girls in Ryther’s Sub-Acute Residential Treatment program.

IMG_9772 editThese children more often than not come from very difficult circumstances – many having faced sexual and physical abuse, neglect, trauma and multiple foster homes. Like the young lotus seeds, they have endured hostile environments before Ryther.

Chelsea conducted this art therapy group to help the girls understand that while they have faced traumatic situations which have had a profound impact, those experiences don’t have to define them and they can rise above and celebrate the positives in themselves.

After the girls learned about the lotus flower and replicated its beauty in the pictures, they did self portraits on their own. The portraits didn’t have to actually look like them as long as they captured and emphasized what they really like about themselves.IMG_9780 edit

Next, each girl chose a happy memory to paint on canvas – one of the goals of the group was to help them focus on positive things about their lives since so much therapy at Ryther can be about making sense of the “not so good” memories.

The art therapy group culminated with the selection of a quote and the creation of a mural. The girls chose “It is often among the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars” as their inspiration for the mural, which they worked together on to design and paint. It can be seen in one of Ryther’s meeting rooms.

IMG_9786 editCongratulations to these young artists for their hard work and determination! Through Chelsea’s art therapy group they’ve increased their self-esteem and learned that their turbulent pasts cannot stop them from blossoming to their full potential. Staff were invited to the art show to appreciate the work and talk to the artists.

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“Everyone Should Have a Special Person in Their Life”

146For 12-year-old Sharalyn, her Best Buddy Colleen was that special person. Colleen began as a Best Buddy in 2006 and has had three buddies at Ryther since first meeting Sharalyn in Cottage A. Plus, she is a dedicated League member. Colleen has been the source of consistency, advice and encouragement for Sharalyn over the past 9 years. In fact, the two made a pact to always be in each other’s lives. Now, at age 21, Sharalyn invited Colleen to attend her GED graduation in the mid west, where Sharalyn now calls home. Colleen remarked, “She was in and out of school and in several foster placements before and after Ryther. She is now talking about going to college – I am so proud of her!”

When asked about Colleen, Sharalyn said, “She has helped me more than I could ever thank her for. When she said she was coming to my graduation in Michigan I cried because I never ever thought I would have a best friend like her. Thank you Ryther for bringing Colleen into my life!!!”

If you want to learn about Best Buddy opportunities at Ryther visit our volunteer page.

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