Ella Craig was interviewed by Karen Brewster and Bill Schneider with videography by Deborah Lawton and Aaron Elterman of KUAC radio/tv, Fairbanks on June 10, 2009 at the Marriot Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska. This was a follow-up to the first interview (which consists of two parts) to record onto broadcast quality videotape some of Ella's key stories and experiences related to Morningside Hospital, being a social worker in the early days, and the delivery of mental health services in rural Alaska. So, some of this interview may be a repeat of the first interview, or in some cases she may tell the same story in a different way. Ella was also interviewed by Bill Schneider and Karen Brewster on November 13, 2008 at the Mental Health Trust Authority office in Anchorage, Alaska.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Alaska Mental Health Trust History
Date of Interview: Jun 10, 2009
Narrator(s): Ella Craig
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Karen Brewster
Videographer: Deborah Lawton , Aaron Elterman
Transcriber: Carol McCue
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: Establishment of social services in Kodiak, Alaska in the early 1950s.
Section 2: Her work as a social worker in Kodiak, and the difficult situation of having to remove children from their families.
Section 3: Removing children from their families and sending them to Morningside Hospital.
Section 4: Reintegration into the community upon return from Morningside Hospital.
Section 5: The isolation of patients at Morningside Hospital, and the various means of financial assistance available to patients.
Section 6: Escorting a child to Morningside Hospital, and the positive effect of the Mental Health Trust board on delivery of social services.
Section 7: Role of the Mental Health Trust Authority in providing new services and funding for mental health and social services in Alaska.
Section 8: Building treatment programs in Alaska, and description of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
Section 9: A story about a young girl taken from a village to the hospital in Anchorage, being separated from her family, and the poor system in place at the time for admitting and tracking rural patients.
Section 10: Grassroots efforts advocating for local mental health services around Alaska, and a success story in the foster child care program.
Section 11: Her involvement with establishing the medical foster care system, and the rewards of having a long career as a social worker in Alaska.
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. I'm Karen Brewster, and here in Anchorage with Ella Craig. Today is June 10th, 2009, and interview related to the Mental Health Trust Project. And Ella, thank you for coming and talking with us again.
This is a follow‑up to our first interview that we did in November 2008. And what I wanted to talk about today is specifically about the work you did as a social worker and how that related to Morningside. ELLA CRAIG: Uh‑hum.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so why don't you tell us a little bit about your first experience as a social worker in Alaska. ELLA CRAIG: Well, my first experience, assignment was in Kodiak, and of course, there were no social services programs. And they had never had a social worker in Kodiak before, so it was a learning experience for the people in Kodiak, as well as certainly for me.
But it was an interesting experience because we didn't have resources, particularly for anyone with any sort of mental illness or there was no psychiatrist, anything of that sort, so it was a very difficult situation even to identify a person with mental illness. And then to know what plans to make for them was even more difficult, of course.
But at that time, the territory did not have resources other than a contract with Morningside Hospital in Oregon, and anyone who was judicially deemed mentally ill was shipped off to Morningside.
KAREN BREWSTER: Ella, you were saying that when you arrived in Kodiak, there were no services there. ELLA CRAIG: Correct. Uh‑hum. There were no social services. They had not ever had a social worker in Kodiak previously. And it was a village or a town or a city, I believe it was called a city at that point, very small population, but it was next to the Kodiak Naval Station, so there were many, many problems among the population. And the need for social services was very apparent.
And the mayor had requested the social worker. And I was recruited by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to come to Alaska and accept an assignment in Kodiak.
KAREN BREWSTER: And what year was that? ELLA CRAIG: 1953. Uh‑hum. And I went first to Juneau, and went to Kodiak, I believe it was the latter part of June or the early part of July in 1953. And of course, the whole matter of finding a place to live and finding an office and all this sort of thing took a great deal of time before we were able to find a Quonset hut and establish an office.
And then we started dealing with the problems that were apparent to just about everybody at that point. KAREN BREWSTER: And you said that before this, the ‑‑ the judicial system was involved.
ELLA CRAIG: Yes. Anyone with a mental illness or who was determined to have a mental illness by the ‑‑ either the law enforcement people or the community people or anyone in the community that they thought was causing problems, they would take that person to a commissioner, and in Kodiak it was a commissioner, and the commissioner would decide that person needed to be sent to Kodiak ‑‑ I mean, to Morningside, which was in Oregon.
And this was a facility that was on the contract with the territory, and so people were given a ticket to go to Morningside. KAREN BREWSTER: And how did they get there?
ELLA CRAIG: They were either taken by the law enforcement officers or they were given a ticket and put on a plane, or different ways. It depends. I took a couple of people down, as I recall.
But once they were in ‑‑ under the custody of the law enforcement people, they would make the arrangements for the transportation, and sometimes the Territorial Welfare Department would pay or sometimes the Bureau of Indian Affairs would pay for the clients that we had been obliged to place there.
Section 2: KAREN BREWSTER: And now you had experience with children, in taking children to Morningside; is that correct? ELLA CRAIG: Yes. Uh‑hum. Those are two children I can recall that I took down. And these were ‑‑ one was a teenager and the other was I think about 11. But they were older children who were causing problems.
And ‑‑ and they really, as we know today, they really weren't mental health problems. They were more family problems. There was a lot of drinking, and the kids would stay out late at night, and you know, in the summertime, who doesn't up here.
And so it ‑‑ they were seen as a problem for the community, and ‑‑ or either somebody didn't like them and they would report them, and of course, the law enforcement people would just accept people's word for it and they would take them into the commissioner who would ‑‑ or judge who would decide that they were in need of health, mental health treatment, which we didn't have. So it was not a good situation, certainly.
And ‑‑ but it was several years before we had a psychiatrist in the state, and certainly paraprofessionals who had experience with treatment of mental illness were certainly few and far between.
KAREN BREWSTER: And how were you accepted in Kodiak in the relationships with the families that you had to deal with, with these problems and social issues? ELLA CRAIG: I think they were so happy to have someone they could talk with and could explain their problems to that it was a very comfortable situation.
And of course, I was supposed to only work with the Native people because I was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but I worked with everybody in Kodiak and that was kind of an informal agreement with the territory welfare system. So I did most of their work also.
But I never once felt any rejection of me as a person or as a social worker. They were very, very kind to me and very open with me and would seek me out just to talk, and not for financial assistance or assistance with other problems, but just to talk about things that they were feeling or problems of their own.
KAREN BREWSTER: Now, were there cases where you had to go to a family and remove a family member? ELLA CRAIG: I did, but back then, it was only with the concurrence of the family. I never used the judicial system to remove any kid from the family. If we would talk with the family and the family would decide the child needed to be placed outside the home, then we would get a written agreement from them requesting that we do that.
And all the stories you hear about the social workers going in and taking the children didn't happen in territorial days by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. So. KAREN BREWSTER: It still must be hard, though, to go into a home and remove a child?
ELLA CRAIG: It's ‑‑ it's very difficult. It's very difficult. And we did have a lot of that in the early years because there was so much tuberculosis, and if the person was so ill they couldn't care for the children, and they were so ill they had to be taken to the hospital, they might not even be in the home, so you really had to find a place for the children to stay. And that ‑‑ there was a lot of that.
We had large families, small families, and we'd have to place whole families of children. And it was difficult because we wanted to place them together, and it's very difficult to find one ‑‑ a family that will take 7 children or 12 children or over 1. I mean, you can usually manage 1, but to take a whole family, it was very difficult. So. But somehow as I look back on it, we managed.
Section 3: KAREN BREWSTER: Can you speak about some of the social issues or mental health issues that people were facing when you arrived there? ELLA CRAIG: A large number of them were related to alcoholism, drinking, and no one had ever really dealt with that. This was before AA, before any of your programs related to alcohol use. And this is something that had been going on for a long period of time.
And then with tuberculosis being so rampant also, you had the combination, and of course, then, child care was very, very limited, primarily because the parents were too occupied with other problems of their own and just didn't have the opportunity or the strength to care for them. So it was a ‑‑ it was a difficult time.
And there were a lot of children who were placed out of home. And at that time, there were a lot of orphanages which weren't really orphanages, but they were large facilities that cared for children. And in Kodiak particularly, they had the Kodiak Baptist Mission, which was one of the largest and the oldest facilities that was established by the Baptist congregation.
And this was difficult also because the majority of your Native people, of course, are Russian Orthodox, and to place them then in a Baptist facility where back then, you know, you ‑‑ they had to do all of the things that were required of the Baptists in the mission, so it was a very difficult time for the children, as well as their parents.
Because they had no access to the Russian Orthodox religion at that point, during their formative years, where the whole family was Russian Orthodox, and then they were raised and trained as Baptist, Southern Baptist.
KAREN BREWSTER: And now were those children eventually reunited with their families? ELLA CRAIG: Some were, but the majority were not because the parents didn't survive or the children were placed eventually with other relatives, and there were even instances of children being lost and not accounted for. And some would go to hospitals and never go home.
And the parents would wonder where they were. It was a situation where, compared to today, they were very difficult to work with, but you ‑‑ you tried, you used your best judgment and the skills that you had been trained to have, and did the very best you could, but it still wasn't what we would like to have had at that time, and certainly would not compare with the standards that we have hopefully attained over the years.
KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned that you escorted people to Morningside. Tell me a little bit about that process and what Morningside was like. ELLA CRAIG: Morningside was a large facility, and I don't recall the number of beds they had at this point. It was a nice looking building or buildings. And the staff were very accommodating and very professional, in their own way, but this was ‑‑ it was an institution.
And the children, because of cost and what have you, were escorted there, dropped off, I returned home, they stayed. And this was the first time that many of them had been on long trips on airplanes. Now, of course, they had ridden on airplanes much more than they had ever ridden in a car, but it was still a difficult situation for them. And certainly for the parents.
But I think that from the best of the knowledge that I've been able to get, I think the people at Morningside did receive adequate care. Certainly treatment for mental illness that long ago doesn't compare to what it does today, but there were people there who were there because they drank and were a disturbance to the community.
And of course, being away from alcohol and with the treatment they were able to give them, many of them returned home very quickly. These were primarily the adults, of course, because it took a lot longer with the children simply because they didn't have that much information about them, and not having a family member with them, it was very difficult for them.
Section 4: KAREN BREWSTER: So speak more about that, people coming back from Morningside and their reintegration into their community. ELLA CRAIG: Well, they would notify the agency that had been responsible for bringing them or that had paid for their transportation because they would have to contact the agency to get transportation home for them.
And it was difficult for the people coming back, but the children, of course, I think just thought it was another placement for them. And they didn't have the feeling about having been there that the adults did.
The adults felt that they were stigmatized by having been in the treatment facility for the mentally ill. And they ‑‑ and of course, the people in the community would refer to them as crazy or you had to go to Morningside or make statements to them that were taunting to them. And I think it was a very difficult time for them.
And then to come back into a community and be unemployed and people didn't want to employ them because they were ‑‑ had been discharged from Morningside and that sort of thing, so it was ‑‑ it was a difficult time for them. KAREN BREWSTER: There wasn't any assistance available to help with that transition?
ELLA CRAIG: Some financial assistance, but very little from either the territory or from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. You know, it was food, clothing and shelter, that was about it. But in terms of placement for either training or for work placements, there was a stigma attached to it and people didn't want to hire them.
I mean, even such simple things as baby‑sitting, you know, and this, of course, with so many children, there was always a call for babysitters, and people who had children still were reluctant to have them in contact with their families.
And yet, their only problem had been maybe drinking more than the U.S. Marshal thought they should drink, and had convinced somebody that they were different and needed to have treatment for mental illness. And it ‑‑ I mean, maybe Kodiak was different and it wasn't the same all over, but it certainly was pretty much the same in most of the small communities.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you have any examples of people's experiences with reintegration, either successful or problems somebody may have had? Are there any particular ones that stick out? ELLA CRAIG: The ‑‑ one of the teenagers or the teenager that I took down did come back, went back to school, and did get employment, it was manual labor, but he did get work.
And he didn't have the same atmosphere, but again, he lived in a different place, he was not from Kodiak, he was from the Copper River area, up in that area. And he did okay, and into adulthood, he was fine. The 11 year old, I don't recall what happened to him.
And then, of course, my favorite story about my ‑‑ my older woman or not old, in Kodiak, who was there and hers was primarily for drinking and then disturbing the community, and she ‑‑ she was a very, very likable, nice person, and did housework and that sort of thing, so she never had any other particular type of job.
But I recall at the time that she was in the grocery line and talking loudly and wanting the cashier to hurry and he wouldn't hurry, and he finally screamed at her and said, oh, why don't you shut up, you need to be back in Morningside, you're crazy.
And she, of course, screamed back at him and she says, I'm not crazy, I have papers to prove I'm not. She says it says right here I'm able to return home, I don't have to be in Morningside anymore and don't need any further treatment. She said, have you got a piece of paper saying you're not crazy?
So this, of course, amused quite a few people, but it really caused the owner of the grocery store to just sort of take stock again, and he had to eventually admit that he was not very kind to her, and that he should have known better than to try to intimidate her in that manner. But she did okay after she got back, and up until the time of her death, she did fine.
Section 5: KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned when somebody was at Morningside, what was the contact that they continued to have with their families or people from home? ELLA CRAIG: They were ‑‑ they were there. And most of the family went down on their own, which, of course, very many are not ‑‑ there weren't very many that did that simply because of the cost of transportation, as well as a place to stay, I mean, you know, to be there.
So you could be there for years without any contact at all unless there was someone from the state or the territory who was going down and just visiting them and make contact with them. And I was able to do that, oh, two or three times, but there were very few people from the state who went down and who visited with them, or even took the time to go see anybody who was there if they happened to be in Oregon, so it was not an easy situation.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you think it could have been different? ELLA CRAIG: I don't know. It couldn't ‑‑ had we had staff here, they could have been treated here. But we didn't have staff for quite a long time.
And when we, of course, had the first psychiatrist, then they started bringing the people back and they were integrated into the system, then, and did have follow‑up with the Public Health Nurses, as well as the nurses coming, the social workers who were on the staff at the mental health division. And so that was good. That worked pretty well.
KAREN BREWSTER: And was that when API, the hospital, was in existence? ELLA CRAIG: It was when they were first beginning to talk about ‑‑ well, API was being built at that time, as was the Native Hospital, so we were beginning to have facilities which could accept the people that needed to be here and that we needed to have services for. But it took a long time.
KAREN BREWSTER: Talk a little bit more about how services changed, and through your career, how that developed.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, of course, when I came, there were no private services, there was not anything in Kodiak. There was one Public Health Nurse who had the whole Kodiak Peninsula and who traveled to the outlying communities, and she did immunizations and just home visits and well child conferences. She did do that. So even back that long ago.
And then they didn't have any of the private agencies there. And when I moved ‑‑ excuse me ‑‑ to Anchorage, after about a year and a half in Kodiak. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. We were talking about the services and how they've changed and there were so few organizations and what it's become now, and you talk about private organizations, but there was state and you were BIA, you were trying to do things, talk more about that.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, there was such a division of services because I had the unique opportunity of helping to write some of the policies that applied to the Bureau services, because it was all new and I was here.
And the ‑‑ in terms of financial assistance, for example, to Native people, we would use the Social Security standards which were much higher than the territory, and ultimately the state, which meant that we had two systems of ‑‑ financial assistance for the people that we were serving.
And the Native people would get assistance that was based on their need, and the people who received assistance from the territory got a flat rate of something like ‑‑ well, it was $80 or something like that. It was a very small amount of money.
And I remember one time we were comparing, and the people who were receiving assistance from the Bureau were getting an average of between 3‑ and $400, and the people from the territory were getting ‑‑ the non‑Native people were getting ‑‑ I think it was $60 at that time.
So it took a lot of tightrope walking to keep these things in proper perspective because there was a lot of resentment among not only the clients, but the agencies. And I can remember one of the elder Native ladies one time said to me, she said, you know, I think I could live and be much happier if I received the same thing as the non‑Native people do.
Even though it's a much smaller amount, she said, at least I would feel that we were all being treated equally, which I thought was a really interesting point of view because you think in terms sometimes of people who are receiving assistance through welfare agencies of, you know, they want as much as they can get kind of thing is the public's reaction to it.
And we were truly trying to meet needs and we would verify this, and not ‑‑ and it was not just, you know, handing out checks kind of thing. But even the ‑‑ many of the Native people felt a great deal of compassion for the Non‑Native people who didn't have enough to meet the need back in those days. Which was kind of reverse discrimination.
Section 6: KAREN BREWSTER: Back to your experience with escorting people to Morningside. ELLA CRAIG: Uh‑hum. KAREN BREWSTER: I think one of your experiences with one of the children that you ‑‑ (Pause.) KAREN BREWSTER: Tell me a little bit more again about taking those children to Morningside.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, I can recall ‑‑ of course, some of the things that were a little more unusual stand out. And I can recall taking one of the youngsters down who was just a delightful young kid, and but he had a very loud, booming voice. And we were on the plane. Of course, when you were flying back then, you knew practically everybody on the plane, and everybody kind of knew you. It was much different than today's travel is.
But we boarded the plane and we got on and we were sitting across the aisle from each other on the aisle seats, and he wanted to get up and look around, so I finally said to him, I want you to promise me you will stay seated and remain here, I have to go to the bathroom. So I got up and I started, and he, in his loud, booming voice, he says, Mrs. Craig, have you got to go pee?
And so I attempted to shush him, and what have you, but he insisted, until I came back and whispered to him, yes, I'm going to the bathroom, now will you please be quiet. So that was kind of the way it happened, but one of my embarrassing moments, shall we say. But it went well.
KAREN BREWSTER: I'm also interested to know a little bit more about the process, the judicial process in the use of the marshals in their labeling of people and sending them to Morningside. And was that ‑‑ ELLA CRAIG: That was primarily in Kodiak, although they used the judicial system here, but the marshal would really ‑‑ there would really round up people that had given him difficulty, that he felt had given him difficulty.
And he would take them into the commissioner, and since he was the top law enforcement officer, nobody would question him and they would just say the person needs to go to Morningside. And that would be it. No discussion.
And basically, it was ‑‑ it was people who ‑‑ teenagers who stayed out late after curfew, who maybe had been drinking, maybe were making a lot of noise or disturbing his town, because this was his town.
KAREN BREWSTER: It sounded like a bit of a power play. ELLA CRAIG: He was absolutely, uh‑hum. Absolutely controlled or attempted to control just about everything. And had his way with just about everything.
KAREN BREWSTER: Back to the services and how those changed, you've been involved with social work and social services for a long time in Alaska, so you have a long perspective. How do you see how things have changed with the Mental Health Trust settlement and the establishment of the Mental Health Trust Authority?
ELLA CRAIG: Oh, I think it has made it a remarkable difference because, first of all, the availability of additional funds for programs that can be of service to the beneficiary groups has just been fantastic. And they ‑‑ there have been some special projects that have been very good, they have certainly been leaders in the whole field of mental health, no question about that. A very, very good thing that happened to us.
KAREN BREWSTER: Are you aware of individuals or local organizations that kind of fought for and advocated for facilities or programs and how that worked? ELLA CRAIG: Certainly starting back with Mrs. Gottstein and Jim and the whole group there. KAREN BREWSTER: Tell me more about that.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, she, of course, was one of the original people that was interested in mental health services and started a great deal of the activity related to mental health services. And with the land claims, I mean, the allocation of the land bit for the Trust, this was all a result of her previous activity, the details of which I don't have all the ‑‑ the specific details, but with the establishment of Mental Health Trust.
And certainly the first board, which was a statewide board, they did a remarkable job. And I give a great deal of credit to the first chair of the board, which was Nelson Page, and to Jeff Jessee, the first executive director.
Oh, my, they have done so much that so many people really don't realize, and a lot of it has been, you know, behind the scenes working, but with providing and understanding and recognizing the need for education and the need for services to the four beneficiary groups, which are the handicapped disabled, and the alcoholics, and the senior group, the ADR groups, and there's another one. Just a second.
KAREN BREWSTER: Just the mentally disabled or ‑‑ ELLA CRAIG: Disabled. KAREN BREWSTER: I don't know what that word is. ELLA CRAIG: There was another one. There are four groups.
Section 7: KAREN BREWSTER: Can you give some examples of ‑‑ of things that you think Jeff and Nelson were very influential in?
ELLA CRAIG: I think educating the public, and having a ‑‑ having people have a better understanding of the fact that to provide services to this group of people, I mean the four beneficiary groups, takes funds, and the territory or the state, the state at this point, was not providing adequate services, did not have a behavioral science ‑‑ I mean, a behavioral services program as a part of the state health and services.
We had API, but that ‑‑ that was about it as far as mental health service was concerned. And I think they did the Trust with the board, and back in each of the communities, they did so much to promote services.
I mean, and John Malone from Bethel was very prominent in promoting the whole mental health program. And certainly the people in Fairbanks who were members of the board, and I can say I really have a great deal of admiration and praise for things that they were able to do. And are still doing, for that part. Uh‑hum.
And they partnered with other organizations in the community or the state and provide services that would not be provided otherwise, and they do it because they have an understanding of the need in their local people, and they are ‑‑ will listen to what the needs are.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you have an example of what one of those services that might not be here now or wasn't around when you needed it that's now available because of it? ELLA CRAIG: Well, all of your treatment programs for alcohol treatment programs. The disability community, the youngsters ‑‑ we had no services here.
The majority of the kids were placed outside of the state for any specialty programs that they needed. And we just did not have the facilities nor the people who were trained to provide the services.
And the Mental Health Trust has ‑‑ they have provided funds for training of people. Even social workers, they ‑‑ we ‑‑ when we got a school, they provided programs for that program ‑‑ for that service. We didn't have that prior to the Trust. And I don't think we would have had it otherwise.
And there are just any number of services that ‑‑ at the moment, the Geriatric Education Center at the university has a cooperative agreement with the Trust for training of caregivers and people who provide services for disability group, as well as for seniors.
And they are ‑‑ they are not duplicating any services that are going on anyplace else, but it would not have been possible without the Trust recognizing the need and providing the funding for it because there's no other place it would come from.
Section 8: KAREN BREWSTER: Were there grassroots efforts by family members who wanted to bring people home and have them treated closer to home? ELLA CRAIG: Yes. They are doing that at the present time. And I think we only have a ‑‑ maybe a few of a hundred youngsters Outside, and they started out with 400 and some, and the Trust has been very active in that activity. They provided a lot of funding and expertise in dealing with that.
KAREN BREWSTER: What about before there was the Mental Health Trust Authority, was there efforts to bring people home? ELLA CRAIG: No. Because you didn't have anything to bring them to if they needed specialized care. We didn't have a staff, we didn't have a facility, we didn't have anything.
If a person needed treatment, for example, for autism, we had to find a place in the Lower 48 that would treat them because there were no facilities and there wasn't anyone who was specialized here in treatment. And now we are gradually getting a few people who are.
KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned API. Would you talk a little bit about what ‑‑ we talked about what Morningside was like. What was API like as an institution and a type of care provided?
ELLA CRAIG: Well, I don't know that they've ever been adequately funded or staffed. I don't know this but I know people would go and stay and be discharged. It was kind of off by itself. Not ‑‑ or seemed to be from the standpoint of other agencies. And of course, you could self‑admit. You could go if you required ‑‑ you could be admitted by authorities and ordered to OPI ‑‑ API.
But they've had a lot of changes and staff administrators have changed. Training for staff in Alaska is very difficult, and so it's kind of been ‑‑ it's where people go. And ‑‑ but they come back to the community sometimes before they are ready to come back, and there's not ‑‑ the community is not ready to receive them.
And we've had some pretty bad incidents where they've been released too early, and we've had some murders and things of that sort over the years, uh‑hum. So they have never been able to have adequately trained staff sufficient to care for the people they have. And of course, as a state agency now, they can restrict people from admission, so it's ‑‑ they can decide who they will take.
KAREN BREWSTER: Am I correct that you worked there for a ‑‑ ELLA CRAIG: I beg your pardon? KAREN BREWSTER: Did you work at API? ELLA CRAIG: No. I have worked as a volunteer there. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. ELLA CRAIG: Years ago, but never on staff.
Section 9: KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. I think that kind of covers my questions and unless you have more to talk about Morningside that you remember about it. ELLA CRAIG: I don't think there's a great deal that ‑‑ KAREN BREWSTER: Do you think it was comparable to other facilities at the time?
ELLA CRAIG: Yes. Very definitely. Perhaps many that I've seen in the Lower 48 and had had some experience with before I came to Alaska, Morningside was far superior. Even the location and the buildings and the surroundings and the flowers and this kind of thing, much better than many of the warehouses in the Lower 48. Much better.
Hopefully all of them have improved, and I think they have, according to the literature and the things I read. And I can only hope that's true. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you have experience with any family members not knowing where other family members went, they ‑‑ they ‑‑ someone was taken away and nobody ever knew what happened to them?
ELLA CRAIG: Yes. I can remember one specific incident that will always remain with me. A young girl was admitted to the hospital in Anchorage, and you have to remember, communication was very difficult and there would be maybe one phone in a community. And you would leave a message, and this would be at the teachers' or the school or the teachers' quarters. And you could leave a message there and it might get to the person or it might not.
So the plane would be dispatched to pick up so‑and‑so that had been reported by the Public Health Nurse to be as a tuberculosis patient who needed to be in treatment immediately. The plane, small plane would land, they would say who they had come for, she hadn't been prepared, nor had her family half of the time. They would pick her up, bring her back.
And I can recall a youngster for one of the ‑‑ from one of the villages out in Bethel who was admitted to the hospital, and when they signed her in, they used her last name as her first name, which I understand is sometime ‑‑ sometimes common with the Eskimos, or it was back then.
So her parents, although ill, would frequently inquire about where she was. And they would call the hospital. And the hospital would check their records and they'd say we have no id ‑‑ no record of anyone by that name here. And they would say, well, she's probably been sent to Mount Edgecumbe or down to the Lower 48, because we were sending a lot of patients down to Washington and Oregon at that time.
And this young girl was in the hospital for well over two years, and according to the hospital records, there had been no contact with the parents. But her parents had tried desperately to locate her and to find her but always the same thing, no one by that name.
So some years later, I think it was about ‑‑ she'd been there maybe three or four years by this time, and a couple on base decided they wanted to adopt her because they had heard about her through someone who worked at the hospital, this poor little girl who didn't have anybody or any family. And so they were in the process of trying to adopt her.
And there had never been any termination of parental rights. And of course, when they tried to terminate her rights, in the meantime the family out in the village had been contacting ‑‑ oh, I'm sorry ‑‑ a nutritionist. Okay. Talking with my hands. I'm sorry.
KAREN BREWSTER: So back in the village, what was going on? ELLA CRAIG: Yes. Back in the village, the parents had been contacting a nutritionist who visited the village on a periodic basis trying to find out where their daughter was. And she contacted me and we went over to the hospital and went through all of their records and what have you, and finally she was able to determine what had happened in terms of their records there.
And so they immediately said, no, this girl has to be reunited with her parents. And in the meantime, one of her parents, I can't recall whether it was a father or mother, but I think it was her mother had passed away.
So we made arrangements for her to go back to the village, and by this time, there had been too many years passed, she didn't know them, they didn't know her, and of course, in the meantime, the couple was still plying her with all good wishes wanting her to come and live with them because they had gotten to know her and they had visited her here. And they were making all the legal moves they could to adopt her.
So we had to get the priest involved, we had to get everybody in the village involved because we felt that we really had to give it the best possible chance that we could to have her return and know her own people. And unfortunately, it didn't work out because she went back and stayed for a while, but then she became a teenager, she came back into the city on her own, and didn't do too well for several years.
I think finally did marry and hopefully things are okay for her now. But the Caucasian couple put such pressure on her and offered so many things to her to stay with them and to like them better than her parents who were in the village that it was very difficult for her.
And think how difficult it must have been for the parents, and certainly all of the people who were working with her and people in the hospital, it was just a ‑‑ just a really, really sad situation for them. Very bad. But that truly happened, and so this was a girl who was lost in the system.
And when I think back, I ‑‑ it was nobody's fault particularly because as she ‑‑ I mean, certainly she should have had somebody with her when she came in, but it was a person in the hospital who knew her and who helped sign her in, or at least knew that she was Eskimo and where she was from, but didn't know her parents, but she was the one apparently who used the Eskimo name as a first name. So things that we didn't know then that we are aware of now, so. But it shouldn't have happened
Section 10: KAREN BREWSTER: All right. Well, thank you. I think we'll take a switch to Bill ask some questions. BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay, good to talk with you again, Ella. I've been listening to the recording so far and there's a couple of questions I have. You mentioned Jim Gottstein's mom. ELLA CRAIG: Uh‑hum.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And I wasn't aware that she played a role in this whole field. Can you give us some background on that? ELLA CRAIG: Well, I can recall that she was instrumental in helping to establish a local organization related to mental health, and we used to go to meetings, people with organizations and what have you, and discuss our needs related to mental health.
And I know she had a definite concern about the lack of services for people with mental illness, and she was certainly instrumental in bringing agency people together, as well as people in the community.
And we started out as a small community group, but it eventually was a state organization, as I recall. And ‑‑ but she was well recognized back in the early, early, early days of services.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. The reason I was asking was because it's interesting in the Fairbanks area, Margaret Lowe was talking about Mary Carey and her involvement. ELLA CRAIG: Yes. BILL SCHNEIDER: And Dan Branson ‑‑ Brandon, Dan Brandon was talking about ‑‑ I'm sorry, Don Brandon was talking about his mother and her involvement in trying to organize local efforts to provide services locally as opposed to institutional.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, she was ‑‑ she was definitely one of the ‑‑ from my standpoint, she was ‑‑ she was the person that as a ‑‑ one of the very few social workers, she was one of the people that we recognized as very involved with the mental health services, or the need, recognized the need for mental health services, and certainly I know that Mary Carey was up in Fairbanks, too. BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. ELLA CRAIG: Because I knew her and what she was up to.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, that's ‑‑ that's a neat part of the story that we can fold in now. ELLA CRAIG: Uh‑hum. BILL SCHNEIDER: The other thing I wanted to mention was Nelson Page said that you were very instrumental in his family's efforts to have a foster adoption for a child. Could you tell us what you recall of that.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, yes. We were looking for a placement for a youngster who had been in the neonatal clinic, I think probably one of the first patients there, and we could not find anyone to care for this child because his needs were so many at that point.
And it was ‑‑ Kayleen was a nurse on the neonatal unit, and she decided that they could accept him as a foster child. And they did an absolutely outstanding job. If anyone would write an article about ideal foster parents in Alaska, it would certainly be them at that point because they took him to visit his parents, the parents came in to visit, and these are things that just don't happen with the children from the village most of the time.
But they were ‑‑ they were great with him. And it got to the point that he couldn't return to his village, even though he had close contact with his parents, but he had never lived in a village, and by this time, because of many of his needs, he was a teenager, and so he lived with them,
so he stayed and they adopted him, which we usually didn't encourage, but because of the special needs and the special circumstances, we felt it was very, very appropriate. And they did an excellent job with him. And it's ‑‑ he's an outstanding young man, and just very, very handsome youngster. Doing quite well, I understand.
Section 11: BILL SCHNEIDER: I think that's a great place for ‑‑ for me to stop here. ELLA CRAIG: Yes. BILL SCHNEIDER: Was -- is there anything more to be said at this point about the development of medical foster care system for developmental disabilities? Were you involved in ‑‑ in ‑‑
ELLA CRAIG: Yes, we did have medical foster care homes, and we worked very closely with the Public Health Service and the hospital, the Native Hospital, and a child who needed extended medical care was placed in a medical foster home.
And we had a large number of children with ear problems. We've had more operations with children's ears in Alaska than the whole United States, I think there have been more surgical procedures on children here. And they couldn't go, even though they were ready, otherwise they couldn't go directly back home, they had to stay around for checkups.
And so we would place them in foster homes that were ‑‑ were classified as medical foster homes. And what that meant is that they had had a little special extra training, plus they were paid more than a regular foster home. KAREN BREWSTER: Nelson implied that before their case, that program didn't exist and you helped make it happen.
ELLA CRAIG: That's right. Yes. That ‑‑ that is true. That is how it finally -- we sort of got it started. And because that was a medical foster home placement. And they did have the expertise to care for his particular conditions.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But it sounds like you played a pretty pioneering role in getting that started. ELLA CRAIG: Well, I ‑‑ I tried, with the tools I had and what I could get other people to do, mostly. BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. Good. Thank you very much. DEB LAWTON: Could I just ask one question here? BILL SCHNEIDER: Sure. DEB LAWTON: And when you respond, Ella, please look at Bill. BILL SCHNEIDER: This is Deb Lawton.
DEB LAWTON: When you recounted your story of the ‑‑ the girl who had lost contact with her family and then about the difficulties associated with that, I think that really touches on a broader theme that has, you know, occurred throughout the mental health here, especially the kids going Outside, or even adults going Outside to a place like Morningside.
And as a social worker, you probably had, you know, a more intimate glimpse of how that probably destroyed, you know, a lot of family relationships. And I'm wondering if maybe you could talk about that aspect of, you know, mental health care in terms of integrating family participation once, you know, care has been initiated.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, I think it took ‑‑ the reunion of these families was certainly much more difficult, and I suspect that as adults, they have many more problems than probably a person who had not been estranged from their family. I don't have any specifics in relation to that that I can recall at the moment, but I'm sure this would be true because it just stands to reason that this might happen. And I know that probably doesn't answer the question, but I can't ‑‑
DEB LAWTON: No, great, I mean, I just thought that, you know, there might be something that... ELLA CRAIG: Uh‑hum. One of the really nice things, though, about being a social worker here during territorial days and early days is that I've had an opportunity to see the results of some of the things that I was able to do, and most social workers never get that experience.
It's so delightful. Even just this past week I was at a conference and a woman who spoke there from Atka came up to me and she said, you may not remember me, I said, well, tell me your maiden name, which she did, and I immediately remembered her. And she said, but I want you to know that my daughter went to boarding school and you helped her get there, and helped her get a scholarship to college after she finished boarding school.
And she told me that she said she's living in the states now, but she has a wonderful job, is married, has two kids, and went on about -- and she said, I know had somebody not cared about her and helped her do this, this never would have happened. And that was just so rewarding to hear. It just really touched my heart to know that, first of all, she would remembered that long, and that I'd still be around to have her say it to me. But it was nice. BILL SCHNEIDER: Absolutely. ELLA CRAIG: Uh‑hum.