Our Story: Craig and Colleen Pahl

Our Story

I am Craig Pahl, President of Brookings Empowerment Project. My wife, Colleen, and I have a daughter that has been dealing with tragic abusive events which occurred  very early in her life.  In addition, she was introduced to drugs and alcohol at an early age. This combination and the resulting low esteem contributed to her placing  herself in risky situations and experiencing additional abusive events.  This is a pattern that we have seen repeated throughout her adult life.

The Professionals involved were reluctant to diagnose her because she was a young teenage girl. but  she was first tentatively diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder. Today we would also probably introduce PTSD to that list of disorders.  As a teenager, she was at Keystone in Canton, SD and Our Home in Parkston, SD. She finished her senior year in Brookings and graduated from BHS, after which  she moved to Minneapolis.  Her behavior continued, and she ignored underlying issues and continued self-medicating to mask her feelings. At age 40, she bottomed out.  This low point was facilitated by the breakup of a six-year relationship, subsequent heavy alcohol use, and a friend being diagnosed with terminal damage to the liver from alcohol abuse.  She reached out to us for help, and we began a journey that provided us with the motivation we have today.  

Throughout her journey, our daughter was repeatedly voicing her need for help, but her mental and physical states were so impaired that traversing the network of fragmented specialized service providers was a struggle for her. It was difficult enough for us, and we can’t imagine how difficult it was for her.  Additional hardships were created by service providers’ selective insurance coverage and HIPPA conflicts with advocacy.  After our daughter left Keystone, she had an aftercare plan that included theraphy.   We believe she would have benefited from a longer stay, but the program was only  for 30 days.  We also believe that a transitional housing situation would have benefited her, but her opinion of them was not good, based on her various friends’  experiences and comments from others in her  community who told her they  were places for more abuse not safety.

Through our family’s journey, we are left with some questions:

  1. Why is it so difficult to get help?
  2. Why do services seem so disconnected and not part of a system of care?
  3. Why is it so difficult to advocate for a client?
  4. Why is it so difficult to find out about support groups, training for caregivers, and the latest treatment therapies and drugs?

We also often think about these sad statistics from Keystone:

  • 75% of women who enter treatment have experienced sexual abuse.
  • 90% of those women were abused during childhood.

Finally, we have noted these findings with regards to mental health services in Brookings County:

  1. Brookings County Department of Social Services is focused on survival needs, with very limited or non-existent treatment, therapy, in-patient, or short term / long term transitional services.
  2. The focus of Brookings City and County Legal System appears to be on accountability (prison/jail) with limited perspective and accommodations on Mental Illness.
  3. Mental Health Services in Brookings City and County are limited, fragmented and incomplete across the continuum of care, and do not reflect an awareness by Brookings City and County of the Mental Illness explosion taking place in our community, state, and country.
  4. The following Brookings City and County Mental Health Services Gaps also seem apparent: 
  • No Transitional Housing
  • No Detox Program
  • No 30-day Programs
  • No Dual Diagnosis Facilities
  • Limited Advocacy

Together, we can work to fill these gaps.

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