Disenfranchised Citizen

Chicago, New Orleans and living a beautiful, angry life between the two…

Posts Tagged ‘Mental health

The Deadbeat Dad of New Orleans…

leave a comment »

Family night? Oh uh, sorry, I got a thing....

Family night? Oh uh, sorry, I got a thing…

We’ve all heard the term. Typically it’ll refer to a parent who ignores his children, leaves them behind, is aware of, but does little to nothing to care for those in his charge, regardless of consequence. Well, the city of New Orleans has one of the worst deadbeat dads in history and his name is Sheriff Marlin N Gusman and his charges all occupy New Orleans Parish Prison. By his title of Sheriff, it is his responsibility to ensure the inmates at OPP have their basic needs met, have medical and mental health care and are safe from abuse by both other prisoners and the prison staff and for that matter, his prison staff too should not meet with extraneous violence as a result of the Sheriff’s actions or more presciently, what appears to be his inaction.

By any standard, Gusman is a failure, a deadbeat dad who, federal consent decree or not, seems perfectly (content) unwilling to live up to his parental responsibilities.

From an article in the Advocate by Jim Mustian:

“The outside expert monitoring a court-ordered plan to reform Orleans Parish Prison offered a blistering critique Tuesday of Sheriff Marlin Gusman, blaming the sluggish pace of change at the jail on a lack of leadership and initiative within the Sheriff’s Office.

The expert, Susan W. McCampbell, said she has rejected Gusman’s repeated excuse that city officials haven’t given him enough money to implement a federal consent decree intended to reverse deplorable conditions at OPP that have festered for years.

“The question has been posed to me several times whether it’s an issue of leadership or resources that continues to result in the Sheriff’s Office not moving forward with significant changes,” McCampbell said by phone during a status conference in U.S. District Court. “I really am now believing it’s a leadership issue — not a resource issue.””

Really, well, come on now, how bad could it actually be?

McCampbell added, “The jail is not safe…this isn’t a philosophical conversation about how to move forward. This is an in-your-face, happening, bad, everyday thing going on in the jail.”

So it’s bad then…but that’s just one expert right? I mean there are still in this day and age a couple scientists claiming climate change isn’t happening too. Course, when McCampbell went on to apologize for her frustrations, the US District Judge Lance Africk both empathized and agreed with her and this is the guy in charge of overseeing the consent decree.

Right…bad.

But still, that’s only two people and even deadbeat dads have their defenders which is why I’m sure that Katie Schwartzman, an attorney from the McCarthur Justice Center will correct all of this information, give us the real facts on the case, put us all firmly back in the no-spin zone…and this is precisely what she did when she said in her statement, “The sheriff has been called upon to fix the jail for years…in that time, there have been countless stabbings, sexual assaults and mental-health crises. The violence in our jail spills over into our streets and touches thousands of members of our community. This is not theoretical, it is not hyperbole or academic — people have died in our jail.”

Well, fuck me then.

So that’s three…but Sheriff Gusman, he must have a reasonable explanation for all this, some sort of detailed response with maybe a side of slight contrition to the court for what appears to be a horrible lack of progress in essentially, doing his job. What say you Sheriff types? Let us have it! Tell these bleeding hearts how wrong they are!

“The Sheriff’s Office is committed to moving forward and working with the monitors,” said Sheriff’s spokesman Philip Stelly.

Okay.

That was underwhelming.

Fuck me twice, I guess…

And allow me to be skeptical, because from what I read this department seems best at stalling, then blaming Landrieu, claiming a lack of funds while at the same time refusing to be transparent about the funds already received. Then Gusman offers up expensive solutions to problems of his own creation…case in point, you know how that new jail is supposed to solve so much when it comes to the consent decree? Debatable, but it appears his plans are already creating new ones, like how is it the jail wasn’t designed to house acutely mentally ill inmates? Bit of a design flaw there, and for a $145 million dollar price tag it seems reasonable to expect Gusman’s new jail to have zero design flaws. What gives? I’m assuming Marlin Gusman pays attention to trends which might affect his job, his jail and his responsibilities but maybe not…because if he did, he should be aware that as funds have dried up nationwide for mental health services, jails and prisons are unfortunately becoming the new inpatient hospitals in our current mental health system. Maybe this is something Gusman should have accounted for when spending $145 million dollars for his new fucking jail. And then back to Gusman’s bullshit solution: just relocate mentally ill inmates to a state prison in St. Gabriel. Right, because that’s obviously far less expensive (in transportation costs alone) than just designing your new jail to suit the needs of your own city and department.

Also mentioned in Mustian’s article: this month three jail deputies were stabbed by an acutely mentally ill inmate who was not even housed in the current jail’s psychiatric tier.

Yep.

And that’s not the only problem with this jail, and with the snails pace at complying with the decree. The high incident of violence and poor treatment of inmates is a really bad fucking way to go about rehabilitation, if anything because inmates are people and deserving of certain basic rights and met needs, even in jail…safety being one of the most important. Some on the outside though, politicians especially might disagree with this, instead opting to go all tough on crime and dismissing the prisoners’ humanity, dismissing the violence and making jokes about rape…jokes, all of which are nothing more than easy bumper-stickers and platitudes that crumble in the face of real blood spilled on a concrete floor or the painful reality of distraught loved ones on the outside reacting to the abuse or death of their child, father, husband or other member of their family. Furthermore, another real truth the tough on crime types should consider is that all those inmates thrown into the Thunderdome before they turn their back, those inmates do eventually get released back into the city, traumatized and with few options. But let’s say you really don’t care about those incarcerated at all. Do you do care about the prison staff? A dangerous jail is also dangerous to guards and as I said before, everyone eventually gets back to their community, both inmates and staff and the community gets impacted directly or indirectly by this violence. Nobody gets to live in a bubble. A mentally ill individual who is further terrorized can struggle far more reintegrating into society, especially with substandard treatment and no resources, than one who is treated humanely. Also, when outside divisions get brought to life inside the jail by way of violence, that violence will often then perpetuate on the outside. When the very concept of humanity is disregarded, when inmates feel under siege, unsafe and are shown by the system how little control they have over their life, or may ever have, this doesn’t bode well for the inmates, their families and anyone who helps them try to pick up the pieces upon release. The staff too has to live with what they’ve seen and experienced, and that is a hard life, with consequences.

And all of the inaction leading to this, all of this chaos is squarely on the plate of the person hired to prevent it: Marlin Gusman.

Even with a consent decree hanging over his head, it seems Gusman’s best skill set is making excuses about why he hasn’t done much of anything to resolve this mess. He needs to take more responsibility, start being present, start taking care of the inmates and the prison staff. This is his job. He ran for this job. His staff, the inmates, all of their families and the community at large are owed more than just another deadbeat dad, ducking the decree and looking the other way while blaming everyone else for why he isn’t handling his own fucking business. Stop fighting with Landrieu. If you don’t have the funds as you say, open the books and show everyone where the money’s going. Hire people who know how to run a jail and fully staff your department, because an understaffed jail is really fucking dangerous for both the inmates and the staff you do have. Recognize that inmate safety and resources upon discharge are keys in the fight against recidivism. Start acting like you’re taking this seriously and recognize an overall, basic truth: the safer the jail, the safer the city of New Orleans.

Read the article:

Jail Monitor Blasts Gusman for Lack of Progress at OPP

Have a nice day.

The hardest political choice…

with one comment

Yeah, I gotta hard choice for ya...

Compassion…

That’s right, compassion… I keep hearing politicians talk about hard choices, about tough decisions and being realistic…you know, their usual line and all of it typically means only one thing…but I’m getting ahead of myself here…

Let me start over…

So, few days ago I was blocking traffic on a bridge as part of a national day of action. Good time, didn’t necessarily agree with the tactic but felt it important enough to be a part of the overall message, the anger at the destruction wrought by income inequality in this country, the idea that people, wealthy people and corporations need to pay their fair share for a society they reap untold benefit from yet seem to feel they have little to no responsibility towards, this despite all the assistance they get, be it the use of roads, protection from the police, fire, maybe even generous financial subsidies from the government. Would seem pretty simple. If society goes to shit, wealthy people and corporations are going to be affected same as anybody else…perhaps not as severe but affected nonetheless. In any case, on the bridge, good feelings of doing something active, being a part of things and making a positive choice, myself and everybody else made a choice to be on that bridge…don’t know what everybody else gave up but I gave up needed sleep, some time to myself and it turned the better part of my day into a rush job so I could get back to work: third shift all night talking to and assisting people who have reached their end of it, either with thoughts of suicide, or actual attempts…and that night, like last night, like tonight…finances are a tremendous stressor and in these hard financial times, this is precisely when many people need help the most…but then, in between my time on the bridge and going to work I read in the news about how the mayor has passed a new budget, and surprise, surprise…the talk is about “hard choices,” about an “honest budget,” and while he and the city council talk solemnly about their honesty…they lie their asses off, either that or they are absolute bastards and either way, it doesn’t speak much to any of their character.

Why?

Simple…

Their “hard choices” meant they chose to close budgetary holes by attacking the needs of the poor and middle class.

These politicians chose to privatize city health clinics, thus ensuring fewer people get medical care and those that do,wait longer…all so someone else gets a profit and the city saves money. They chose to close half of the city’s mental health clinics, thus ensuring people with mental health issues either cannot get treatment or also must wait much longer. They also chose to lay off people working the 911 lines, this ensuring people who call for help, they too will wait longer…and they chose much more…higher city fees and penalties which will affect those of meager means far more than their wealthier neighbors…and by neighbors, I mean the people who live on the other side of town, far away.

These austerity measures are the politicians’ “hard choices,” for their “honest budget,” but in truth, there wasn’t anything hard about it at all. That’s just a vernacular they use at get togethers, or with the press to make themselves feel better for the damage they cause to real people.

You see, these politicians have been making these choices for forty fucking years and these politicians, and the corporations and the wealthy? They are the ones who benefit the most from these “hard choices.” Everybody else? Yeah, screwed just a little more, year after year after year…budget cut after cut after cut… The only way these choices would really be hard for the politicians who make them is if they truly cared about those who suffered as a result, but I would argue they don’t care, not really for if they did they simply wouldn’t do it. They would raise taxes, they would cut spending on subsidies for wealthy corporations, they would do a number of things that might even be the kind of hard choices to jeopardize their future electability…all in the name of compassion, and doing the right, moral thing.

Yes, compassion is the hard choice, the choice they are unwilling to make…and because of that people will suffer.

Some who are mentally ill will lose jobs, alienate family, abuse drugs and alcohol, or only receive treatment in prison where some will wind up as a result of their symptoms and what they do to alleviate them, which is especially sad as the city will pay more to lock them up then they would to provide treatment in the first place. Some people will die from physical illness or perhaps not go to the doctor until their ailments grow far worse and even more expensive, again to the city. Longer response time for 9-11 calls…again, suffering and some will die.

How many degrees of separation need to occur before these politician can sleep at night, distancing themselves emotionally from the blood on their hands as a result of their ballyhooed “honest budget?”

Hard to say, you’d have to ask the politicians themselves, but not just the politicians in my city, go across the country because these same decisions are happening nation wide and the same people are suffering as a result throughout the entire country.

Oh…but some will say we just can’t afford compassion anymore.

Yeah? Why is that?

I know…because for the past thirty plus years, politicians have been deregulating the markets, signing free trade agreements that are anything but, deregulating the banks and lowering tax rates on the wealthiest all so they can get elected, and as a result all the money that used to be used to pay for people, for compassion has been concentrated, hoarded, moved out of the country by the constituents these politicians actually do care about…the people who are not you or me and certainly not anyone who needs anymore help…They only really care about the job creators, those same job creators who aren’t creating any jobs…

And how long until this bullshit charade ends in the United States?

I don’t know…look in the mirror and ask yourself that question, because it really is up to you, up to all of us…and we’re all going to have to be patient in this fight because great change takes a long time…so if you’re game, settle in and let’s rebuild a nation that again gives a damn about the people living in it, and when this fight is over, it will be worth it…and if you have kids they’ll thank you for your trouble…everybody will except the 1% that loves it the way it is now…

Just a thought.

Oh, and on a more personal note…

Rahm?

You are truly pathetic and it’s easy to see how you were Obama’s chief of staff…the both of you only pay lip service to helping those who need it…especially around election time you lying sons of bitches…

And Boeing?

I lived in Seattle back when you played your corporate lottery to see which city would give you the sweetest deal for the headquarters of your corporate offices. Yeah just the latest company at the time to play community blackmail, thus forcing “hard choices” and “honest budgets” so you can line your coffers with blood money. You were a part of Seattle’s history and once a vital part of its community and identity, and you just betrayed them for profit.

Oh, and Twitter?

The progressive company…right. You threatened San Francisco with moving your company out of the city until they gave you a huge break on payroll taxes amongst other goodies that cost the city millions, all the while the city is forced to cut back on services, cut bus routes, cut, cut, cut…but hey, as long as you greedy assholes and frauds are getting wealthier…who cares, right?

Okay then, everybody else…

Have a nice day.

From the heart: Yeah, I got one, so what?! Pardon my rant…

with 5 comments

Yes, and without apology

I’m a social worker.

I’m actually working right now, even as I type this.

You see, right now I’m an on-call Adult Crisis Counselor and what that means is when the police, the hospitals or the jails have someone who is contemplating suicide, or has tried it, they call me in to talk to them, to do an assessment and determine what is the least restrictive and safest setting for them. This could mean anything from sending them home to their family, to an unlocked crisis house with supportive staff, or yes, an emergency detention to a locked behavioral unit at one of the hospitals. That’s the part-time gig, my day job is more of the standard case management variety where I work with mentally ill adults to set goals and help them plan and provide support in order for them to achieve these goals.

I’ve been doing this kind of work in some capacity for a long time now, ever since I first started a gig part-time in college when I was twenty. I’ve done this work in Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco, but this isn’t my resume, this post is just a reaction to the ongoing news cycle and a questioning of where this country is headed.

I’m not going to try to dazzle anyone here with lots of statistics and numbers, social and economic theory.

I just wanna ask, when did it become acceptable in this country to throw people away for the profit of others, especially on such an almost accepted, mass scale? When did we collectively get together and decide that people and their futures, despite their faults, were expendable?

And I don’t ask this in the “Kumbayah” kind of way. More like:

“Hey, that guy over there’s messed up, we should help him.”

“Nahh, he’s just a (insert excuse here).”

“So what?”

“You don’t know him, why do you care?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do, ya careless jackass.”

I remember a job interview I had about six years ago in California where I was asked, point blank by the director of one of the largest homeless shelters in San Francisco, “When do you decide to give up on a client?”

“You don’t,” I responded, and I meant it.

When I was first training as an Adult Crisis Counselor in the Midwest, I got a call from a rather notorious kind of client, a legend if you will, for being a pain in the ass, a chronic alcoholic and to a lot of people doing what I do, a waste of time. When I heard the name of this person, and that he was in the emergency room requesting detox from alcohol, again…I rolled my eyes and expressed my frustration with a few choice profanities. The person who was training me at the time, someone I had known for a few years stopped me mid-curse and smiled good-naturedly, patiently, “How do you know this isn’t the time he really wants to quit?”

“C’mon,” I protested, “He does this almost every weekend.”

“But what if this time he means it? Sure, he probably doesn’t, but what if?”

And of course, he was right. I’d let my frustrations get in the way. It was a busy night, calls were stacking up in Emergency Rooms all over town. So we went, we offered services. The client accepted, and then he bailed the next day. So far as I know, he’s still out there drinking if he’s not dead, but that isn’t the point. The point is simply, when did we as a country get too frustrated with the amount of vulnerable people that we just started cursing every time we got the call? And why, when the politicians, business and banks help create the fucking conditions that have led to so many people becoming vulnerable, do we then let the politicians, businesses and banks tell us they deserved it, or we can’t afford it, or they need to pick themselves up by some mythical bumper sticker boot-straps?

Oh I know, because it’s about me, me, me, and it’s about personal accountability and responsibility. If the degenerates can’t figure it out, fuck ‘em…

Yeah, that’s perfect.

You ever notice how it always seems the same bastards who tout survival of the fittest as a social policy tend to be the same ones who discount Darwin in the wealthier Sunday establishments or at your local school board meetings? Every time a budget has to be fixed, they cut money to social programs and then talk about their “hard, but necessary decisions,” like they care so much. Hardly, not when their campaign speeches and moral platitudes indicate otherwise. Every time they want reasons to kick some homeless guy in the balls, they justify their assaults by marching out some formerly homeless individual and pat him on the back for the cameras, showing him as another shiny example of: see? People can do it for themselves, if they just have the will, the strength, if they just had enough of that good ‘ol American courage.

Look you “self-reliance” types, I been doing this a long time and complex people don’t fit so nicely into your bumper sticker solutions. Life ain’t like that, and if you actually think it is, you’re a bigger moron than I thought. For every success story you can march out I can give you the names of ten people where it didn’t, where your “hard, necessary decision” led to a relapse, which led to a new charge, which maybe led to a prison sexual assault, which led to an exacerbation of leftover trauma from childhood molestation. For every budget cut you got, we got a guy who lost health coverage, lost his meds and wound up actually hurting somebody.

If the problems were that easy to fix, they wouldn’t be fucking problems now would they? You want to talk personal responsibility? I’ll answer with a social responsibility to your country and its people, and I mean, everybody. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of my time with the ones many people seem to be in a big hurry to forget about, and its bad out there man, it’s pretty fucking bad, and it ain’t getting better.

Now this would be the time where one might say, “Well Drake, if you’re so smart, what’s the solution?”

Okay, I got one. The answer’s a lot simpler than you think.

Do something, really…do anything.

So long as you are helping somebody, do anything. It’s going to make the situation a lot better than if you’d done nothing. Call a school. Call a church. Call the cops. Call a social work agency, a nursing home, a rec center, a shelter…call any of them and ask what it is you might do. I’m betting they’re going to have a suggestion.

Did I mention I’m working right now?

Yep, I got a call…I gotta head over to the hospital to see someone who just took an overdose of pills. Tried to kill himself and yeah, I know him, I’ve talked to him before. And yeah, Mr. Rose, his parents sucked. They couldn’t find decent work so they wound up working a bunch of shitty part-time jobs, you know the drill, no time at home, no health insurance, bad pay, bad hours and money problems, crazy tension inside their place, some domestic violence and later, alcohol, drugs…all them dominoes started falling which led to another abandoned, fucked up kid who made stupid decisions…

Course, I suppose that’s all a bit long for a bumper sticker.  And his problems won’t fit into the budget but I’m going anyway, and the next time they call about this kid, I’ll go then too and unfortunately, there will probably be a next time, just like unfortunately, no matter what you do, or how much help you offer, there will always be an asshole with a gun who kills somebody and makes the news. Wish that weren’t true, but it is. Nothing and nobody can save everyone, we all just have to keep trying.

Oh, and if I had a nickel for every time someone, when finding out what I do for a living, says that I have a “hard job,” or tells me I am “admired” for the work I do…mayor of San Francisco said that to me once for god’s sake, “I might be mayor, but you’ve got the hard job,” big gleaming grin for the camera…really, on a good day, I might appreciate such comments, but on a bad one? I wonder if that is some people’s way of saying they aren’t capable of helping, or maybe they even use this supposed admiration as some sort of panacea for their conscience because they know they won’t make the time.

And for everybody who wants to say, “Hey, I tried to help once and they just didn’t even appreciate it, the ingrates.” Well, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were just helping to help yourself, perhaps try again with a different approach, maybe focus on their needs instead of your own.

When do you give up?

You don’t.

And finally, really, get involved and just do…anything. There are organizations where you live who would love a call…or maybe just be nice to that guy who’s begging change. Don’t have to give him anything, but look him in the eye, acknowledge he’s a person, a human being. That’s a start. Besides, things obviously aren’t going his way, ya think he needs more shit from you?

Better still, be a force in your community, give a damn. I know a lot of you do, but too many of you don’t, especially if that means more than just saying you do.

If you do nothing, it will only get worse.

Obviously this post isn’t directed at everyone so no need to take it personal…take it or leave it.

Me, I gotta go again, I’m tired and my phone’s ringing.

Have a nice day.

Go Saints.

About F’in Time…BP Gives 52 Million Dollars to Fund Mental Health in Gulf Coast

with one comment

And if you ask nicely, in seven weeks Mr. McKay and BP will be concerned about you too

Give credit where credit is due, and I will..just check back with me in two months and I’ll give British Petroleum all the credit in the world for doing what it is they morally should have done from the beginning.

From Channel 6 News in Houston:

BP announced on Monday a $52 million award to fund behavioral health support and outreach programs across the U.S. Gulf Coast region.

The award will be given to federal and state health organizations. The multimillion funding will help residents link up to support available through providers in their communities and it will be available through local outreach programs and a special toll-free phone line where information on available services will be provided.

“We appreciate that there is a great deal of stress and anxiety across the region and as part of our determination to make things right for the people of the region, we are providing this assistance now to help make sure individuals who need help know where to turn,” said Lamar McKay, President of BP America.

While I welcome this news, the above quote would seem to indicate that Mr. McKay and his corporation never really understood the stress and anxiety of Gulf Cost residents at all. If they had, they might understand that the interminable delays and unwillingness to commit to aiding mental health programs only served to add to the anxiety and stress of everyone involved in providing these services and especially, those in need of them.

Let us not forget what had to happen to get today’s announcement:

Multiple requests had to be made by multiple states (Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi) with no response from BP for weeks.

In July, the Executive Director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Michael Fitzpatrick, had to call out BP for its irresponsibility in a public, national letter.

Also in July, the Louisiana DHH was forced to advise the US Department of Health and Human Services in a publicly released letter how they’d requested funds from BP to provide much needed services, but were getting nowhere.

So, Mr. McKay, whereas it is appreciated your company finally did the right thing, your grand pronouncement of compassion and care? It rings about as true as the forced apology from a playground bully, right after you finally got busted by the sociology teacher…remember? When you got caught being an asshole?

Read the article

$52 million for behavioral health support across the Gulf Coast region

Have a nice day.

The Crime of the Century: What BP and the US Government Don’t Want You to Know, Part 1.

leave a comment »

Some symbols need no explanation

The article by Jerry Cop and Charles Hambleton begins:

“The unprecedented disaster caused by the BP oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon Mississippi Canyon 252 site continues to expand even as National Incident Commander Thad Allen and BP assert that the situation is improving, the blown-out source capped and holding steady, the situation well in hand and cleanup operations are being scaled back. The New York Times declared on the front page this past week that the oil was disolving more rapidly than anticipated. Time magazine reported that environmental anti-advocate Rush Limbaugh had a point when he said the spill was a “leak”. Thad Allen pointed out in a press conference that boats are still skimming on the surface, a futile gesture when the dispersant Corexit is being used to break down oil on the surface. As the oil is broken down, it mixes with the dispersant and flows under or over any booming operations.

To judge from most media coverage, the beaches are open, the fishing restrictions being lifted and the Gulf resorts open for business in a healthy, safe environment. We, along with Pierre LeBlanc, spent the last few weeks along the Gulf coast from Louisiana to Florida, and the reality is distinctly different. The coastal communities of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida have been inundated by the oil and toxic dispersant Corexit 9500, and the entire region is contaminated. The once pristine white beaches that have been subject to intense cleaning operations now contain the oil/dispersant contamination to an unknown depth. The economic impacts potentially exceed even the devastation of a major hurricane like Katrina, the adverse impacts on health and welfare of human populations are increasing every minute of every day and the long-term effects are potentially life threatening.”

Nothing for me to add here…just keep reading, it’s important…

Crime of the Century

You ain’t sleeping tonight…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 223 other followers