Monthly Archives: November 2017

Swing Kidz dance to prevent suicide






Swing Kidz dance group performers rehearse at Broadwater Elementary on Monday.

Larry Mayer Gazette Staff

Billings Gazette 11/29/17 by Jaci Webb

They call themselves the Swing Kidz, a name that fits their dance style and personalities.

The Billings dance company primarily performs West Coast Swing, but they also like to throw in some hip hop and modern interpretative dance styles. They are such a tight-knit bunch that they call their dance instructors Mom and Dad, even though Patricia Lambert and her husband Jarrett Lambert are in their mid-20s.

The family atmosphere at dance practice helps boost spirits when a member is having a bad day. That spirit of caring helped them come up with the theme of suicide prevention and depression awareness for their upcoming dance performance, Swing Kidz Extravaganza.

The performance will be held on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 6 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 310 N. 27th St. Proceeds from the auction and raffle will go to the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch and a representative from the facility, which helps youths struggling with emotional issues, will speak during the event. Tickets are $15.

It begins with a swing dance lesson and finishes with a dance party after the performance. Patricia Lambert said dance makes a difference in kids’ lives and she can attest to that because she was once that shy kid.

“I went from not being able to speak in public to starting my own business. Dance did that for me,” Lambert said.

Swing Kidz is open to youths between age 6 and 24. The program currently has six students from age 6 to 18. The youngest member is 6-year-old Gabi Spatzier, who has been dancing since she was 2.

Gabi’s mother, Sam, said dance helps Gabi cope with her anxiety.

“I’ve never seen her more excited than she was the first day she started dancing with this group,” Sam Spatzier said.

Beverly-Ruth Laci, an 18-year-old music education major at Montana State University Billings, has been in the group since August. Laci thought raising money to help the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch was an excellent idea.

“The message I want to get across is, ‘It’s OK to get help,’ ” Laci said.

Laci said she struggled with depression and anxiety because she was reluctant to reach out for help. She doesn’t want others to suffer.

An Oregon dance instructor that Lambert and two of her students worked with committed suicide earlier this year. That was a wake-up call for them.

“All of the kids have either experienced depression or someone they know has,” Lambert said.

As she worked with students at rehearsal Monday night, Lambert kept things lively. The music was loud and the pace was steady. Girls dance with other girls since there is only one male member of Swing Kidz.

Alex Hunnes, a 17-year-old Senior High student, said even though he’s the only boy in the group, the other members are some of his closest friends.

“It’s like a family. If anyone in the group is having a problem, we’re always there for each other. Today, Beverly got a flat tire and everyone in the group was wondering how we could help.”

Hunnes discovered dance two years ago when he was at a fiddle camp. He started watching YouTube videos and then saw the Lamberts perform during a John Roberts Y Pan Blanco concert featuring Latin music at St. John’s Lutheran Home.

Earlier this year, Hunnes competed in a swing dance competition in Boston, making finals in the Jack and Jill division, which has dancers rotate partners.

Hunnes believes dance helps relieve stress, which is important to people in his age group.

“People feel super connected in the virtual world, but not in the real world,” Hunnes said.



Gazette opinion: Save Montana kids’ mental health care


Gazette opinion: Save Montana kids’ mental health care

Nov 5, 2017

Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch is caring for nearly 600 kids, but only 65 were living on the sprawling campus along 72nd Street West last week. The other children and teens receive YBGR’s help in their schools, their homes or foster homes. It’s that big group of kids who would be hurt first and worst if the state cuts its budget.

Youth in-home care and targeted case management are on the chopping block, even though they are key to helping emotionally disturbed youth stay safe in their own homes.

YBGR, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, serves Montana through community offices in Dillon, Livingston, Lewistown and Billings. Those services include 32 school-based treatment teams in Billings, Laurel and other Montana public schools.

Kids on the campus west of Billings suffer serious illnesses, including major depression and PTSD resulting from abuse. Many have engaged in self-harm, such as cutting or suicide attempts. About half have chemical dependencies or are at high risk for addiction.

The vast majority of YBGR services are provided through Medicaid. The fiscal year began with zero rate increases for Medicaid mental health care. YGBR and other Montana health care providers already were struggling to pay salaries that will recruit and retain professional staff.

“Medicaid does not cover our costs,” YBGR Chief Executive Officer Mike Chavers said in an interview last week. “Our donors and foundation help.”

Starting and resuming children’s mental health care isn’t like flipping a light switch on and off. If disturbed youth are cut off from treatment, they will regress; they may need a higher level of treatment because they couldn’t access the less expensive care when they needed it. If in-home work with parents and dysfunctional families suddenly ceases, problems will grow.

“Most cuts are focused on low-cost services that serve a lot of people and divert them from higher cost care, hospitals and juvenile detention,” Chavers said. “Cutting down in this area doesn’t save money, it drives costs elsewhere. Let’s figure out ways to drive kids to better outcomes and bring kids home.

Of course, the state needs to control the costs of its high-end kids’ mental health care, too. It’s currently paying $327 a day for residential treatment, but that rate, which doesn’t fully cover costs of care, is under the budget axe, too.

DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan and division heads are “open to thinking creatively,” Chavers said. “The challenge is there is so much noise in the system, nobody knows what’s going to happen. There’s no easy way to make 10 percent budget cuts.”

The state absolutely can improve the system. Montana public health officials should work with in-state residential treatment centers to send fewer troubled kids out of state for care. Montana needs to invest enough in community-based services to prevent kids from deteriorating till they need to be hospitalized. DPHHS must step up engagement of providers, clients and their parents to plan better, more cost-effective services. But none of this will save the general fund the $100 million DPHHS could lose this biennium to balance the state budget.

As Chavers said, “There are ways we can improve the system, but it takes time.”