Monday, December 21, 2009

Opinion Piece - Save US Now - "Save Them Now" - Quantity, Quality and Location of Services

Bob Smith at the December 2009 City of Kingston Planning Board Meeting
On the "Save Them Now" Variance Request:
"It's like placing a diabetic in an icecream shop" (Bob Smith)

Photo by NS

I have worked for human service agencies in the past, including the Mental Health Association [as a residence counselor for Mentally Ill Chemically Addicted (MICA) clients --- and at the YWCA {Teen Pregnancy Services (Case Manager)} and Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Services (APPS Program Coordinator)] --- and my husband has worked in the human services field (in many different states and capacities) --- including (locally) a short-term volunteer stint at "Chiz' 'Heart Street'" and a P/T position at the Family of Woodstock (FOW) Darmstadt (Adult) Shelter.

So we [my husband and I] have some interesting discussions regarding the state of the City of Kingston ---and the options available to the "less fortunate" (whom any one of us might join at any given moment...) people [I am addressing homeless adults that don't have custody of any children at this point...] who live within the City's confines...

Including a discussion that brought to light (for me/ something to consider...) the need for separate shelters for male clients and female clients (males and  females often present with different types of issues / needs) ; separate mental health residences [such as the one on Tuytenbridge (sp?) Road] for male clients and female clients (ditto); and an overhaul of how this entire (diverse....) population (there is a difference between being homeless purely due to economics and being homeless due to addiction, mental health issues and/or issues having to do with criminality..) is served.

Are the adult residence homeless shelters and boarding houses serving clients that they should not be serving?  Is there a need for another residence, such as the MHA MICA residence on Tuytenbridge (This has proved to be an excellent location...) Road?  Perhaps, as suggested earlier - one MICA residence for male clients and another MICA residence for female clients?

Is the same true when it comes to shelters - which are meant (I believe) - to be a temporary (a 3-6 month max?) "port in the storm" - versus providing bandaid solutions (for what are often gaping wounds...) along with revolving doors for the percentage of their clients who need more assistance (those with addictions and/or mental health issues and/or criminal histories) than a homeless shelter was designed to provide?

I am in agreement with Mary Ann Parker (see post below) - in that the City of Kingston has become the county "dumping ground." 

I am also aware that this "dumping ground" status brings a lot of money into the City of Kingston - which means it is an issue that needs to be addressed [by citizens and other concerned individuals) on at least three fronts; addressing:

1.  The fact that we have this status - and all of the problems and potential problems that entails.

2.  The fact that the quality of services being provided - and the places set up to provide such services - do not (in some cases) appear (due to the agencies limitations and oversights and/or what is available in terms of placement, finances, quality employees, etc.) to be "up to snuff."

3.  The fact that City-wide economics are (on a considerable scale) involved in all of this...

If the money that this "dumping ground" status brings into the City of Kingston is a major issue (and of course it is...) ---

Maybe we should take a closer look  [along with taking a united citizen stance against what we see as improper and lose-lose (my opinion) placements...] - at how our City's "less fortunate" [there are many paths this status, and probably none of us are exempt from joining them...] are being serviced?

Are addicts being sent for rehabilitation services?  Are these rehabilitation services being provided by people that have attained at least a Bachelors Degree in a related field?  Might we need a high-quality professionally run residential [live in / one month to a year...] rehab center in the City of Kingston?  [Why could we not welcome a major residential rehab facility into the City of Kingston?  This would mean good jobs for the city and better facilities for clients...  Plus, these types of facilities generally return their clients to their home counties, states, etc. after they have completed their treatment....] 

Are mentally ill clients and/or mentally ill / chemically addicted [MICA] clients being sent to the type of facilities [i.e, from residential / most restrictive, to supportive housing, to (eventually one hopes) independent living? ] that they need?

Are the regulations in place at facilities in the City of Kingston --- from boarding houses to City, County, State and Federal agencies --- in place? [Board of Health Regulations / Inspections / Licenses...  OSHA Regulations...  Fingerprinting and Background Checks (Regarding Staff)...  Staff trainings on how to handle anything from a client with a heroin addiction - to a client with viral Hepititis C - to a client with full blown AIDS...  Staff trainings on how to handle medications, mentally ill clients, trauma victims, etc?]

I am glad that Ulster County Comptroller, Elliot (sp?) Aurerbach [There is a link to his blog in the sidebar] is taking a closer look at some of the facilities operating in the County of Ulster and the City of Kingston - and I hope that he takes the above questions and comments [the emphasis ten-fold when children are involved...] into account.

Are we operating facilities in the City of Kingston that truly help this diverse population find the quality of assistance that they (each individual being unique) need?  Are we lacking in the type of professional facilities - utilizing professional personnel - that are truly appropriate?  Wouldn't facilites that hire personel with college degrees result in better paying jobs, better services, better outcomes and more money (all the way around) for give and take in regard to the City's overall economy?  Wouldn't this present a win-win-win for everyone involved [including the communities youth that are attending UCCC and SUNY at New Paltz - and just might - should decent jobs exist - choose to live, work and stay here...]?

I'm sorry - but I am aware of multiple instances (past and present) where people that have been in and out of jails and prisons - having achieved no degrees [and/or legitimate degrees in a counseling and/or mental-health related field] - have worked and/or do work in some of these facilities.  And I think this is an atrocity.

Should a prior felony DWI keep potential employees out of the offing?
How about a prior rape charge, assault charge, child sex offense charge, murder charge?
Are background checks, serious background checks being implemented?
Are clients being placed in the proper places - from most restrictive to least restrictive?
Are both staff and clients being treated with dignity and respect in these places?

Where do those being released from jail and or prison belong --- taking into account the welfare of the citizens of the City of Kingston AND of those that require services?

Certainly not (one would think) in an area of the City that is already depressed and has (comparitively speaking) a high crime rate...

If the City's homeless clients [I'm just addressing those that are addicts, former convicts and/or the severely mentally ill now...) grew up here - or had at least lived here for say, three years [not counting time spent in jails, mental institutions and/or prisons] shouldn't we accomodate their needs as best (with all of the above taken into account !!!!!) we can?

If the City's homeless clients [I'm just addressing those that are addicts, former convicts and/or the severely mentally ill now) did not grow up here --- or have not been residents of the City [not counting time spent in jails, mental institutions or prisons] for say, three years --- shouldn't they be sent back to where-ever they were transferred from?

This doesn't seem to be a community that is overly fond of statistics... but statistics [when not slanted by some profit motive or another] can tell us a LOT.

Couldn't the City of Kingston implement a few changes in this area - upgrade thier services [so that they really meet the needs of the clients and the staff] - and do so with a great deal more safety and security for everyone involved?

None of the above mentioned clients [with the exception of those that are homeless due to pure economics / health issues / etc.] - in my opinion - belong (residence wise) in the Mid-City.  In fact, I believe that those that potentially pose the highest risk to the citizens should be placed in residences [if they can't be placed outside of the City limits due to laws currently on the books] on the outskirts of the city --- away from children, drugs, high crime areas and (generally speaking) thier (frankly, a lot of folks relapse...) addiction and/or (recidivism rates are pretty high as well...) victim-preferences.

Safety first always seems like a good yard-stick to measure with...

Safety first for our children - safety first for our grandchildren - and safety first for our entire City's physical, social and economic well-being...

Along with safety (first) for those that have been less fortunate (whether this be through genetics, medical issues, traumatic early life experiences, other trauma experiences, addictions and/or sociopathy (the toughest situation to deal with...) - that need quality services [provided by different venues] in order to have the best chance to acheive (when and where such is possible) a truly dignified and integrated quality of life.

This is simply an opinion piece. 

Your comments are welcome.

Peace, Love, Truth, Equality and Humane Justice,


No comments: