Sunday, September 11, 2011

USU Placement: State Hospital South, Blackfoot, Idaho

The Summer before my last year at Utah State University, 1982, I completed my field placement at Idaho State Hospital South in Blackfoot, Idaho.  They had a place for us to sleep, fed us lunch, and let us develop our social work skills.  I actually had had a few cases and got to do the normal paperwork someone would do.  It was actually my first experience actually doing this.  I wrote social work assessments, interacted with residents in the therapeutic community, accompanied staff for field trips, including the movie and picnics.  Steve Weatherspoon was my immediate supervisor, and Lynn Crockett was the lead clinician on our unit.  Carol Mohar was a psychiatric nurse that worked with us.  I drove up from Cache Valley each week with Mary Ellen Spackman (from Sky View) and Blair Garner who were also doing their social work placements.

I had many experiences.  On one occasion a resident was threatening everyone with a brook.  Another resident snuck up behind him, and grabbed the broom holding it against him.  That was the end of his threat as he dropped the broom.  A girl on the unit on one occasion grabbed a fork, and was holding it to her wrist threatening to do damage to herself.  I was able to grab her wrist and get the fork away from her. 

Community meetings were interesting, as this was where people would earn their levels.  Actually there had been prediscussion by the staff, so this was more an announcement of levels.  I played softball and other recreational activities with the residents.  I listened to their stories.  We had a group which Steve lead.  On a regular basis this included having lunch family style instead of in the cafeteria.

I attended a community organizing meeting of staff, as they were talking about putting a track and exercise equipment on campus for the community.  I drove by a few years later and noticed this had become a reality.

I went with the group, those who had earned the trip by their levels, to a state owned campsite close to Yellowstone.  It was very nice.  There was a small pond with fishing.  I actually caught a few fish (I am terrible at fishing.  One time I got a hook caught in the reeds, and as there were extra poles I just grabbed another one.  In the meantime a fish grabbed the first hook.  The fish wiggling freed the tangle and I brought the fish in.)  I went canoeing around the pond.  On one side was logging equipment.  We took a day trip to Yellowstone, and we saw a moose in a river.  It was cool.

I left with many good experiences, and I had my first experience working with people with mental illness.   I was able to observe the quick changes that could take place with medication when someone was in a manic state.  My supervisors praised the job I had did, and my ability to complete the paperwork and assessments.

I was the brunt of a couple of jokes.  I was sent to supply to get fallopian tubes and a left-handed monkey wrench.  I had enough trust in others to not realize it was a joke until I had sat around a couple hours waiting for supply.  Then the supply clerk looked at the order and said he couldn't help me.   I went with Carol to watch her son play little-league baseball one evening.  They lived just outside of Blackfoot in a little town called Moreland.

I enjoyed Blackfoot as a visitor.  I watched ball games, as during the years we (Hyrum) had played against Blackfoot in tournaments.  I took the bus (Greyhound) home one weekend, as no one else was driving.  It had a layover in Pocatello.  I also spent weekends by myself in Blackfoot.  It was a fun summer.  Did you know there are tunnels under the hospital that go from building to building.  They are not always used, but they are there. 

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