Thursday, November 18, 2010

UPLIFT presents Rodger McDaniel with public service award

Photos by Mindy Dahl

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle education reporter Josh Mitchell wrote about UPLIFT’s 20th anniversary celebration in Wednesday’s edition.

The celebration was held Tuesday evening in the Cole Elementary school gym. One of my fellow UPLIFT board members, Brenda Ducharme, teaches at the school.

UPLIFT, the Wyoming affiliate of Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, presented Rodger McDaniel (shown in lower left in photo with UPLIFT Director Peggy Nickell) with its public service award. McDaniel is the outgoing director of the Wyoming Department of Health’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Division. He will be missed.

I served with Rodger in the early 1990s on the first board of Laramie County Habitat for Humanity. I moved on to other volunteer roles and a few years later, Rodger and his family were in Nicaragua directing that country’s Habitat projects. He returned to his law practice, became an ordained minister and was eventually tapped by Gov. Dave Freudenthal for public service. His retirement was announced last week.

Rodger’s been crucial in bringing vision to a state that struggles with some rotten mental health and drug abuse statistics. Crisis centers – even in the Capital City – are few and far between, as are clinicians. The division’s Medicaid Waiver program for children and teens have helped pay for residential treatment and, even more importantly, aftercare when the child returns home.

Here’s hoping that Rodger and his colleagues have put us on a course that even 2010-style regressive politics can’t change. Wyoming’s new “Code of the West” may be fine for ropin’ and brandin’, but it doesn’t help curtail alarming teen suicide statistics and the state’s shortage of quality children's mental health treatment.

Josh interviewed me for the Nov. 17 story. My two cents worth:

Mike Shay is an UPLIFT board member and both of his children received help from the organization.

UPLIFT outreach coordinators attend school meetings with parents, Shay noted. The organization helps navigate parents through the complex system and connects families with different services, Shay added.

“UPLIFT”s been crucial in Wyoming,” Shay said.
I’d send you to the WTE site to read the rest, but it’s not on there.

As I've said here before, my son struggled with ADHD and my daughter has mental health issues. Both were helped by the incredible UPLIFT staff. We need these professionals to navigate school and government and treatment centers. They serve as guides to us confused, stressed-out parents.

You can find out more about UPLIFT at

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