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Mental Health Group Earns Distinguished Service Award
Posted: Sunday, September 24, 2017 10:02 pm
By Dillon Dwyer  

   An annual mental health conference has earned Yankton Area Mental Wellness, Inc., (YAMWI) statewide recognition, and it will be honored for the contributions toward the rehabilitation and employment of South Dakotans with disabilities.

   The Distinguished Service Award will be presented to YAMWI by Gov. Dennis Daugaard at the Governor’s Awards Ceremony in Pierre on Oct. 3.

   "I think the award is great for our whole organization," said Pam Kettering, executive director of YAMWI. "This is an awesome honor for all of us. It signifies the help and benefits we have given so many people for the last two decades."

   One of the things YAMWI does is offer a mental health conference, where professionals can gain certification in their fields. Kettering has been with the conference since it began in 1999. Along with Tom Stanage, chairman of the board; Lori Lincoln, vice chairman; and Lois Halbur, board member, Kettering was part of the original group of conference organizers that formed thanks to a suggestion by Matt Michels, current South Dakota lieutenant governor and former associate general of legal counsel for Avera Health System.

   "The whole thing started with Michels when he was on the United Way advisory board at the end of the 1990s," Kettering said. "He came to the meeting and suggested that there were a number of people in the community that were going out to other places to get their certifications. He thought that it would be more economical and helpful for them to be able to stay here and have a two-day conference where they can gain their certifications. That was the seed that started this conference."

   The YAMWI conference, which draws approximately 250 attendees every year, usually features one or two national or international speakers and numerous regional and local professionals. Between speaking events, the conference breaks down into 24-30 breakout sessions, with each one focusing on a specific mental health care topic.

   "We run six tracks throughout the conference," Kettering said. "We have tracks on childhood and adolescents, death and aging, drugs and addiction, disability, diversity and general topics. If people have specialized interests in any of those tracks, they can go and attend a breakout session around that topic."

   The conference also features opportunities for health care professionals to update and maintain their certification and licenses in fields like mental health counselling, vocational rehab, social work and nursing.


   "The main emphasis of this event is to offer a professional conference where (people from) all the different kinds of health care careers can come and earn their certifications, and maintain their licenses in their career fields," Kettering said.


   YAMWI also presents four awards during the event. The organization gives out:

   • A Board of Directors Award to a person who has been supportive of the conference.

   • The Charlie Barron Lifetime Achievement Award to an individual who has spent their lifetime in service to others.

   • A Community Service Award to someone who has spent a significant portion of their life contributing to the community

   • A Conference Theme Award to a person who best embodies the theme of the conference.


   The theme of this year’s conference was "Planting Seeds of Hope."

   During the original conference, YAMWI chose the motto "Caring for Self, Caring for Community." That statement has since become the calling card of the organization and represents its mission in health care.


   The conference is held every year in June on a Tuesday and Wednesday. Next year’s conference is scheduled for June 5-6. The event is open to the public, but there is a fee for attending. 


   Visit for more information on how to secure a spot at next year’s conference.


YAMWI Receives Tradition Of Caring Grant

By Rob Nielsen

Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 11:45 pm


Staff and their families at Lewis & Clark Behavioral Health Services spent much of Wednesday afternoon taking part in shooting of a televised public service announcement for the Yankton Area Mental Wellness, Inc. (YAMWI), which recently won the Avera Tradition of Caring in KELOLAND Grant, presented jointly by Avera and television station KELO.


YAMWI director Pam Kettering said the grant’s PSA is meant to emphasize the importance of the jobs done by mental health professionals and affiliates.“It’s a $12,000 grant that’s to be used in a PSA for (YAMWI) and working on taking care of our caretakers,” Kettering said. “We’re just sharing information on our caretakers so people are aware of them. They give so much, we need to show our appreciation to them.” Kettering said the group came very close to missing out on their chance for the grant.“(The grant information) was shared over KELO and one of our board members happened to be tuned into it,” she said. “She got it written up, (we) looked it over, sent it in and we were awarded. It was so fortunate and wonderful.”


The PSA, shot by a KELO news crew, included a demonstration of equipment meant to help young children with disabilities learn to walk, a demonstration of a play-therapy room and the D.A.R.E. classroom, featuring officer Jeff Johnson of the Yankton Police Department. Staff members and their children took part in the production of the PSA.Dr. Thomas Stanage said the PSA will also help raise awareness for an upcoming conference, in addition to the caretakers.“It’s really going to talk about how these are people who all provide care in our community,” Stanage said. “We’re also advertising the Yankton Area Mental Wellness Conference, which tries to take care of people who help people in our community.”

Kettering said the community is full of caretakers, not just YAMWI.


The conference is set to take place June 4-5. Kettering expected anywhere from 250-280 professionals in the mental health field to be in attendance.“It’s all the counselors who work out at HSC; it’s all the people who work at Lewis & Clark Behavioral Health; it’s all the independent counselors that we have in the community; it’s our teachers — in all school systems; it’s drug and alcohol counselors throughout the area,” she said. “We’re talking about thousands of caretakers that we hope will gain the benefit of this PSA by raising awareness of what they do for everyone.”A total of 14 grants were awarded this year to groups within the KELO coverage area. The YAMWI PSA, as well as those by the other grant recipients, will be aired on a regular basis throughout the year. Kettering said she expects the PSA to start running within a month.

Mental Health Awareness Week: A Mental Health Nurse’s Journey
By Betty Viau, RN, LPCMH
October 6, 2013

Just when you think that you’ve seen, done or heard about everything — surprise, there’s more to experience and use your skills you’ve gained, to be of help to others! I have had the privilege of being an RN and Licensed Mental Health Counselor for over 30 years.


From hands on nursing care to helping a grieving individual decide what path to choose, it really is about the person that has come for help. I have worked in Nursing Homes, General Hospitals, Psychiatric Hospital settings as a clinical instructor for students, Lewis & Clark Behavioral Health Services, both as a Counselor and now as Nurse Manager at Cedar Village Assisted Living. What a trip!

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