Passport Health Plan appreciates all advocates across the Commonwealth. Our Community Engagement Representatives work daily with advocates and agencies to assist our members with various resources, education, benefits, and needs specific for their life situations. The heart and passion of each advocate is evident in their continuous efforts to improve the lives of individuals and families.
We enjoy highlighting advocates as a way for an introduction to other advocates across the state. Amber Sikes of Lifeskills is one such advocate working closely with our Community Engagement Representative in southern Kentucky. We are sharing her, in her own words, below:
Tell us a little bit about your agency. What do you do? Who do you serve? What is your mission?
I work for the best company, LifeSkills. LifeSkills is a community mental health center that covers 10 counties in Kentucky. It serves the community in so many ways from mental health, addiction, and disabilities. Within the Community Mental Health Centers are Regional Prevention Centers filled with team members who are working hard in almost every aspect within the communities. The part I play and love is the Kentucky Moms Prevention Specialist. I work with all pregnant and up to 60 days postpartum mothers. I work with community partners to help provide resources to mothers in need. I host the Healthy Baby Workshops throughout all of our counties. These workshops are open to any and all pregnant and up to 60 days postpartum mothers. We go over all things pregnancy and postpartum from caffeine use, breastfeeding, substance use, domestic violence, depression, post-partum depression and so much more. At the end of each class we go over an abundance of resources that are in the community that the mother could utilize to help her, baby and the rest of her family. The main goal of these classes is to prevent substance use while pregnant and to prevent future substance use issues from arising. By providing mothers with education on the use of substances while pregnant they are more likely to avoid substance use while pregnant and/or stop the use of substance use while pregnant. By sharing and connecting these mothers to resources throughout the community you are already preventing so many things from happening further down the road. The more support, education, and guidance moms can have the better. The most vital part of these classes is we provide a judgement free, open, and honest environment for these mothers to feel comfortable enough to open up to us. During this time mothers who are struggling with the disease of addiction can feel the weight of the stigma lifted and are more open to reaching other for treatment.
What do you love about your agency’s work?
I really love how much we all care! We are all in this for the greater good. I love being able to reach out to anyone in the agency for help with a client and it is all hands on deck. When you talk to someone about their part they play in the agency you can hear it in their voice just how passionate they are about it. When you have such a large agency, filled with so many people, doing so many things and all to help others it is so important to have that as a priority.
What’s the hardest part of your work?
The hardest part of my job is letting go & leaving it at work. Since I am a Prevention Specialist once I do have a sweet mother who does need to go into treatment I have to let the KY MOMs Case Manager take over. As thankful as I am for her, I want to continue to work with, help, and keep up with all of my moms and that’s just not possible to do. My Heart strings are always pulling to do more and I have to let the KY MOMs Case manager do her job, which she does fantastically. The other thing is leaving it at work. In this job I see things that break my heart, that make me want to do more and more and in a lot of cases I can only do so much. I see domestic violence situations, homelessness, the disease of addiction and just so many struggles. I do all that I can for each mom. Before I leave my parking spot at work I say a little prayer for them and I leave it there. I do all that I can for each of them and I can only hope that all the individuals I connected them with can help them get to where they need to be.
If you could have a million dollars, what would you do with it?
I want to be honest on this one, and trust me I have dreamed about it like everyone has. I would pay off our student loan debt, give my mother & my older sister a huge chunk of it. Save a chunk and invest some!
My dream that I would make come true is my BRAVE Rescue and Support center. Growing up I wanted to be a Veterinarian. I actually volunteered and prepped for it in school. I went into college my first semester prepping for it, only to realize I had a lot of other passions as well. Those passions being for people, giving back, making a difference, families and more. I made the most drastic change of my life and switched my career goals. It was a hard situation but one day when I was driving to campus the song Brave by Sara Bareilles came on. I cried, the song really struck a chord within in & I told myself one day I would fulfill both passions. So, my dream combines them both. The BRAVE Rescue and Support Center would be an animal rescue that works alongside of mental health therapist, social workers, juvenile justice team members, School Youth Service Centers, Prevention Centers, Community Mental Health Centers and other community partners. The rescue would be a place where stray and abandoned dogs would come for a few months or more to be trained and await to be adopted for their forever family all while being companions for children in need. Children from all areas such as foster care, bullied, in therapy, disabilities of all kinds, children struggling with behavior or substance use, children who are going through and gone through abuse or any form of trauma, children struggling with mental health, pretty much all kids and teens who are going through something in their life. This will be a place that the community partners and the rescue would work together for the children to come and “adopt a pet” who they would work with on certain days of the week for their therapy all while giving the animal a companion and preparing them for their home. Animals are the greatest love, the biggest supports. They can truly give a child a sense of feeling loved and wanted, teach them responsibility, loyalty, respect and can help them navigate life’s obstacles. Animals have a way of truly healing. An animal doesn’t see color, disabilities, trauma, or anything they see love. The child would get to work with the animal until it was time for them to be adopted. The child would get to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at the end. If the child is still in the program they would be able to then help the next dog that comes through the door. Then, eventually the child/teen could become a peer support & volunteer. By having this kind of resource for all of these types of children to come to and receive all of these things is something I find to be so beautiful. There are obviously a lot of logistics and realities that would come into play but that would be my dream. To be able to finance this kind of non-profit and give that to my community. Something that I have never seen done before & something I know would make a huge impact on every single child that goes through it.
Please share any contact information you’d like for us to share?
LifeSkills Regional Prevention Center
380 Suwannee Trail Street Bowling Green, KY 42103
(270) 901-5000 Amber Sikes, KY MOMS x1114
Facebook: LifeSkills Regional Prevention Center