I know Sandy’s track record

English: Wisconsin State Assemblywoman Sandy P...
English: Wisconsin State Assemblywoman Sandy Pasch in 2011. Photo courtesy of marctasman, via Flickr. {| class=”messagebox” style=”margin: 0.5em auto; width: 100%; background-color: #f8f8f8; border: 2px solid #e0e0e0; padding: 5px; direction: ltr;” |align=”center”| link=|25px → link=|25px | : File:File:Sandy Pasch 2011.jpg. |align=”center”| 100x100px|original file |colspan=”3″| |} Category:Extracted images (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have no idea who Helen Callier is and really I don’t need to know. I do know Sandy Pasch from her work as an effective State Representative. And I also know that the Repugnants are accomplishing just what they wanted when they redistricted Wisconsin earlier this year, especially dividing up the Milwaukee area. Pasch, who is a nurse, is a strong advocate for mental health. She has been representing an area that stretched into Whitefish Bay. Apparently these people were receptive to her left-leaning politics. She took on a powerful State Senator Alberta Darling as part of the recall effort launched by Wisconsin Democrats.

Despite her defeat, the recall ultimately resulted in the Democrats winning control of the State Senate. Meanwhile, Helen Callier was sleeping under a log, to which she returned after she dropped out of the state assembly race. Good thing, too, because she’s full of shit. Helen, in your defense, you have the right to remain silent. I suggest that you exercise it.


A lot of mixed emotions

The agency I used to work for has come under scrutiny lately for practices that mental health advocates and peer support specialists have found inappropriate. The agency was a powerful advocate for peer support and helped develop the model which was used to develop and train many of us. However, over the years, many of us have left due to the difficulty of working with the Executive Director, arbitrary personnel policies and low wages.

My morale fell several months ago after I learned that a complaint had been filed that caused Milwaukee County to conduct a full scale audit of the agency which contracts with Milwaukee County to offer services for mental health services.    After several failed attempts to obtain a better paying position, I finally left at the beginning of this month. In my interview I made it clear the kind of salary and benefits I was seeking. The interviewers agreed to them so readily I almost thought I should have asked for more. I’m also being given a lot more responsibility as a team member that I ever had and that feels gratifying.

I am also grateful for the relationships I developed with consumers over the years while I was working in supported apartment programs.  I understand that almost all experiences have good and bad sides to them. While I often felt underpaid and unappreciated, the consumers I assisted reminded me how important I was to their recovery.  This included the farewell celebration for me a few weeks ago. In my exit interview, I recommended that my former agency make a lot of improvements.

My suggestions included the following: 1. Raising the starting hourly wage for peer specialists to $9.25 with higher wages for certification; 2. Regular formal performance reviews;  3. Phasing in a plan to offer benefits, including paid sick time and holidays 4. Increasing opportunities for professional growth including the creation of more lead peer specialist positions . 5. Regularly posting open positions throughout the agency and greater transparency in the hiring process.

Some of the problems facing peer support specialists stem from the nature of the work locations. While it is exciting that so many units of permanent supportive housing have been created,  these environments sometimes create safety risks. There are ongoing issues of drug and alcohol abuse, theft, residents moving friends and family into their apartments and numerous incidents of former residents returning and threatening staff.

Other problems from these locations stemmed from poor personnel decisions. These was a coordinator at a supportive apartment program who was clearly having anger management problems. This person could not effectively communicate with staff or residents and was involved in several nasty confrontations. In one of my last encounters with this person, the coordinator got into a shouting match with a resident after accusing him of stalking a staff member. The coordinator told me to call the police but I refused. Eventually the coordinator left to go to a meeting.

In the weeks following the confrontation it was impossible to get a straight answer about what was going on. Was the coordinator returning? Was the coordinator fired? Was the coordinator going to be replaced? By the time I left, the position was still vacant, and the program seemed to be listing in the wind

The final issue I need to air is that sometimes the peer specialists with whom I worked were so bad, it was a wonder that they could have passed their training. One of the things these bad workers had in common was their lack of listening skills. If you’re not listening, how can you support anyone, not to mention a peer?

Those are problems were probably not addressed in the audit and so I don’t know whether they were included in the plan of correction presented by Milwaukee County.

I have been thinking about this blog and re-written it a few times. My intent was to let people know my perspective as a person who worked in peer support probably the longest of anyone with the agency.   Even though I’ve turned a chapter in my life, a lot of the old pages have a lot of meaning.

My former agency remains a key player in mental health and enjoys substantial support. We are better off than we would have been without the vision that led to the development of the permanent supported apartment programs. The sometimes out of control director wrote the proposal that led to the creation of the Crisis Resource Center. I remember walking over to the building with her son before it had opened.  And I have fond memories of Jim Hill dressed up as Santa handing out presents to the members who were crowded into the old building,a converted funeral parlor. There were plenty of unpleasant times as well, including myriad issues with the building, low morale and great financial hardship. I was threatened with firing on numerous occasions but in the end left on my own terms.

I hope that there will be substantial improvements in peer support in Milwaukee and I am part of the change.

What better time to tell your co-workers about your inter-galactic dreams?

As many of my devoted fans know I recently started working in a certified peer specialist position in Milwaukee. There appears to be a push in various parts of Wisconsin to hire certified peer specialists. Many of these positions are part time but mine is full time. Now entering my second week I am shadowing the case managers and learning about the consumers we have been assisting.

One person who I met made me think back about y reflections about wanting to join the inter-galactic police. People actively operate based upon their delusions an the question is, why do these stories have such meaning for them? At what point do people stop acting upon their delusions? If I knew, I’d probably be Governor. I chose without hesitation to send one of my new co-workers the story because it is a subversive one. I don’t believe the medication is responsible for loosening the grip that the delusions have.

Moreover, not all delusions are harmful. They can be funny, puzzling or deadly serious. Our job is to see beyond and through the delusions to find the people hiding behind. I don’t thing we’ll find Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow but something more meaningful. So what I hope my story will do is spark a discussion on how to harness creativity.

Milwaukee criminals disgusted by “boxer bandit.”

I have canvassed Milwaukee crime lords, thugs and assholes in recent days who are revolted by recent news stories about the”boxer bandit”, a young black man who robs banks while having his pants hanging half off his ass. TV news stories showed pictures from bank cameras showing a young black man robbing banks. But what was different was that this guy shows up with his pants down around his knees. He’s mean, seems to have a gun and wears plaid boxers.

Your grandfather when he was a virgin might have worn plaid boxers. But in 2012, America, I said it, now deal with it. A young black bank robber wears plaid boxers. Things I ain’t never seen, much less put on my wonderful brown body. I usually wear those wonderful very comfortable so-called “tighty whities.” that’s why I decided to canvass Milwaukee criminals about this latest story. Here’s what Joe Motherfucker said. “Fuckin bullshit, I’m gonna be a banker or a congressman.Motherfucker rob a bank in his boxers. Fuckin white people always tearing down the black man.”

It was heart wrenching listening to men with such long crime histories pour out their hearts about this boxer bandit. They’re ashamed, frustrated by the amount of ridicule that thugs receive as a result of this news story. This is  America and we will soon see a young man attempting to run from the police with his pants down around his knees. It’s going to be a long year for run of mill criminals.

When will we stop  having sex with our mothers and find women who did not give birth to us? If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t be interviewing these thugs.

On to the grassroots

Jim Doyle and Kelda Roys
Jim Doyle and Kelda Roys (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This afternoon I received  confirmation from the Grassroots Empowerment project that my registration was approved for Empowerment Days. This event is an effort to contact policy makers in Madison from April 29-May 1. I  went to Empowerment Days several years ago but this one will be my first major advocacy effort since I became a certified peer specialist a few weeks ago.

As such it is an important step forward. The last time I went, Jim Doyle was Governor and there were democratic party majorities in both houses of the legislature. Now things are radically different, with Scott Walker as Governor facing a recall election along with five  republican state senators. The republicans have instituted many policy changes that I don’t like, which is why I signed the recall petition against Walker. However, simply shifting back to democratic control will not automatically solve all of the problems for people with mental illness.

We need to expand the funding available for consumer run services, which was an issue that Jim Doyle inherited and failed to correct . Similarly, the problem of inadequate Medicaid reimbursements for dentists and psychiatrists developed over several years and many administrations. In addition, since Grassroots Empowerment Project is a non-profit organization, there is a possibility some of the participants in Empowerment Days will be republicans. Otherwise, they could run the risk of losing their tax exempt status. This non-partisan effort seeks support from across the political spectrum.

I’m going to Empowerment Days to make a difference in the lives of the consumers where I work. I want to see change because people can’t wait. We are in a critical time where the misplaced priorities nationally and statewide are damaging thousands of vulnerable citizens. In the days ahead, I will be blogging my observations from Madison. Always remember that the journey of a thousand miles begins with first step.

 In the days ahead, I Recall Walker
Recall Walker (Photo credit: marctasman)

The Free Dictionary: To take part in something: participated in the festivities.

Ozzie and Fidel: not a match made for Miami

Español: Fidel Castro en Brasilia
Español: Fidel Castro en Brasilia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ozzie Guillen, the new manager of the newly renamed Miami Marlins, is currently serving  a five game suspension handed down by the team for…speaking his mind. If you  were watching the Internet recently you probably  heard that Guillen, an outspoken native of Venezuela, had praised Fidel Castro for being able to survive so many years in power in Cuba. The anti-Castro Cubans in Miami, who are loud, howled in disbelief.

They called for a boycott of Marlins games as long as Guillen remained the manager. The politically astute Marlins management released  a statement denouncing Castro and suspended Guillen for five games. Guillen has apologized and hopes to be able return to his job.

I don’t intend to change anyone’s mind by posting my opinion but I believe Guillen was right in saying there are things to admire about Fidel Castro. He inspired a lot of people in the late 50’s and early 60’s who loved his audacity in being able to resist the US and the CIA inspired attempts to subvert the Cuban revolution. There are American medical students enrolled in Cuban medical schools who had not been born when Fidel came to power in the 1959 revolution.

Since the United States became a world power, we have always treated Cuba like a tasty little morsel that should have slipped into our orbit from the time we began seizing land and power from Spain. The United States is sold bold, we just wrote our permanent occupation of Cuba into their constitution through the so-called Platt Amendment.

There is the often repeated narrative that by resisting continuing American control Castro first inspired but then alienated many people. There were many things that happened, including Cuba fighting South Africans in the struggle against colonialism in Angola. The last ten years of increasing South American political independence from the US can be attributed in part to the Cuban revolution.

Even after the fall of the Soviet Union and the passage of ever increasing measures intended to make the Cuban economy scream for mercy, Cuba remains firmly in the control of the revolutionaries. It is that long history of survival and change that Ozzie Guillen admired. And I believe he was correct in admiring Fidel. Having saving that I probably would not have done so in his position.

The Cuban government has been implementing changes in their economic system but they are not willing to allow American political control.Which is probably what the rich Cuban-Americans want. They want to own land, plantations, and labor in Cuba.  It is a struggle for the destiny of Cuba and the verdict is out on who will win.

I said that even though I understood why there are things to admire about Fidel Castro , I might night have done so as the Marlins’ manager. It’s a presitigious position and it pays a boatload of money. In a way, Ozzie Guillen, who previously managed the Chicago White Sox to their first World Series championship since the Bronze Age, is like one of the people portrayed in the This American Life episode You Have the Right to remain Silent. People for whatever reason refuse to shut up no matter what the consequences.

There was a police man who exposed crooked police practices in New York City and was put in a psychiatric ward and there was a loud mouth on facebook who made a comment that got him in trouble. There are people like that. Ozzie spoke up, so I guess he’s the latest one.

Ozzie Guillen - Chicago AL - 1991 Road
Ozzie Guillen - Chicago AL - 1991 Road (Photo credit: BaseballBacks)


We Have the Right to Violate You!

English: New York City Police officers being d...
Image via Wikipedia
English: An NYPD Command Unit.
Image via Wikipedia

Imagine that you have reported wrongdoing  to the people at the top of the agency and in return you become investigated. Your higher ups come to your house and have you sent to a psychiatric ward without your consent and without a psychiatric evaluation. Your family does not know where you are. Is this a story about psychiatric abuse in the Soviet Union? No, it is  abuse of power by the New York City Police Department. The very institution charged with enforcing the laws is in fact a lawbreaker. And even after being exposed for their venal behavior, the police routinely visit a police officer on leave far away from the city where they have no jurisdiction and demand that he “act  like a man” and return with them for even more abuse. As if to tell him, “we have the right to abuse you.”

On September 10, 2010 the public radio program This American Life aired a series of stories  under the theme “you have the right to remain silent” about  a groups of individuals who at great personal cost spoke up about injustices they witnessed being committed. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/414/right-to-remain-silent The most gripping story was about Adrian Schoolcraft, who exposed a widespread practice among his fellow officers of police inventing reasons to stop and arrest people. Such concerns as probable  cause, evidence and constitutional rights were thrown out the window in this reckless effort to enforce so-called “quality of life” issues. At the same time more serious crimes were being ignored or downgraded.

The Village Voice series that broke Schoolcraft’s story, written by Graham Rayman, is here. Schoolcraft’s website looking for other cops to come forward is here.

My concern is with the psychiatric abuse part of the story. If  you listen to Schoolcraft’s story, you will hear a recording of the incident I referred to in the introduction to this blog. His superiors came to his apartment under false pretenses and decided that his refusal to leave with them constituted mental illness. In my work as a peer specialist the police I have seen are scrupulous in informing mental health consumers of their rights. There are very strict procedures to be followed when declaring that someone is exhibiting dangerous behavior and must be transported to an institution. But the New York City police felt they were above this law. That is the most dangerous part of what happened to Schoolcraft.

What if others are being locked away under similar circumstances? We must continue to advocate for the right not to be violated. Employers can not be allowed to manipulate our minds, the way that the police attempted to manipulate Schoolcraft’s. We must be vigilant. Schoolcraft could be anyone. Say no to mental abuse.