Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A work in progress..

I have never wanted to be a leader. I believed you had to have charisma, be willing to take on more responsibilities that you could possibly handle and be a self-absorbed, power-mad jerk. At least, that was my experience with leaders in my youth. Less-than-angelic nuns, frustrated teachers and incompetent bosses seem to be expected in most arenas. In school, I wanted to help things run smoothly and efficiently and ran for student council secretary and vice-president. I was asked at a fraternity pledge interview if I was a follower or a leader. I confidently stated "reluctant leader," explained my position of not wanting the attention, glamor or glory but looked forward to the challenge and responsibility. Needless to say, I am not an Alpha.

One of my college buddies convinced me to run for student body president in the mid-eighties after I managed his campaign a year before. He lost but ran that year as my vice-president and we won. Little did I know that he saw something in me that I didn't. The following election, he parlayed his vice-presidential post to run again and won. Ah, the machinations of the power-hungry.

Since then, I have tiptoed through increasing and varied levels of leadership and management, trying not to step on those landmines common to supervisors. I have tried to keep things simple in what I do and say to balance what must be done to support my staff and what is expected of someone in my position. I strive to be as good a leader as I can and take comfort that I try harder than most. I believe I should be ready, willing and sometimes able to do anything and everything I expect from those I manage.

Being liked is swell. Being respected is great. But being appreciated is the best. Thanks to: Tracy, Kathy S, Anna, Janet, Toni, Emily, Andrea, Diondria, Vic, Eric, Sharon D, Afua, Sophia, Octavia, Connie and Rachel for making my managerial journey worthwhile.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.4

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Simple musing . . .

His baloney has a first name
It's A - N - T - H - O - N -Y
His baloney has a last name
Of W - E - I - N - E - R
He loves to tweet it every day
And if you ask me why I'll say
Because politicians have a knack for
A - B - U - S - I - N - G - P - O - W - E - R

Where could he possibly go and how long does it take to wash the stupid off?

Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.1

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Truer words best spoken by another ...

I have struggled to start out the year with optimism, determination and drive and wanted to post something with heft. Then I received this from my colleague and could not have stated anything better.

The goal for this year is to continue to inspire HOPE.

Families are in such an economic crisis. Many parents are without jobs. Many homes are in foreclosure. The state has seen a rise in food stamps and Kidcare benefits provided to families. It is amazing, discount stores, second hand shops and smaller grocery chains like ALDI; business is booming. Families are more in need of social service support than ever before. Parents are depressed, children are depressed, lifestyle changes are everywhere. Families are going from having home life, to apartment life and living out of hotels and with other family members.

Families are showing up at the doors of hospitals. Partial hospital programs are in high demand. Alternative school placements are on the rise. All are looking for additional support from SASS.

Gone are the days of treating PTSD for DCFS wards with the need of SASS services. Today we provide services for the many with Conduct Disorder, Bi Polar Disorder and yes, Autism. Today is all about good case management support.

I am committed to offering families supportive services in their time of crisis. The challenge is to walk in the door and bring HOPE to what many families describe as highly dangerous and hopeless situations. I may walk into the crisis and meet a family in total shock and trauma, when I walk out the door I want to of had inspired HOPE. To say to families you are not alone, along with your new resources for food and medical benefits your state, this State of Illinois had provided to you supportive services for your family in this time of crisis.

My goal is to not stop providing that HOPE that life does go on and it is possible for it to get better. No matter what conflicts arise after the initial crisis. I cannot be distracted by the many outside conflicts of others who may not share the same principal as I in providing the best services using the best practices. I cannot be discouraged from inspiring each family with HOPE. I must stay focused on the challenges that we are faced with in today's culture where so many are in economic crisis. I want to continue to inspire HOPE.

This will also include taking better care of myself, staying healthy to deflect the stress of providing crisis services. Eating right, working out, ha ha, getting sleep. Most of all remembering that I also have a family and life to enjoy.

This month I began my 16th year as a SASS worker, along this journey I can recall many families saying thank you as I walk away from their crisis. Let this year be the year I inspire the most HOPE.

Melissa C.
SASS since 1996

Sunday, October 17, 2010

They're Not Just Playing!

I was called to an area elementary school to perform a psychiatric screening on a 12 year old male threatening to harm the school staff. I was familiar with Alfonzo (not his real name) as a current client that I have screened and worked with over several years. Upon my arrival, I met with Alfonzo and his dad as well as his homeroom and special education teachers and the assistant principal.

As we entered the conference room, Alfonzo sat down and immediately started spinning in his seat. I was quickly reminded of his hyperactivity and my need to direct that energy. I gave him paper and a pencil and asked him to write, draw or fold something for me.

According to the special education teacher, Alfonzo kicked open the front door, flew down the hall into his classroom and dove into his seat. When confronted, he went back out, gently opened the door, walked to the classroom and sat in his seat. The homeroom teacher reported that as Alfonzo was given scissors for a craft project, he told her he would cut her like he did a teacher last year but then said he was “only playing.” And the assistant principal added that at the start of the school year when she asked Alfonzo to remove a straw from his mouth, he complied but only after telling her about the plate in his neck after being shot multiple times.

I asked Alfonzo about these behaviors and he readily admitted to each. I asked him to show me what he had done. One side of the picture was four figures with firearms and the other side eight figures with arms outstretched. I asked him to tell me about the picture. He described the scene as zombies versus the survivors, each zombie with differing characteristics and the survivors as he and his friends.

Being an avid gamer, I knew he was describing the zombies from Valve’s Left 4 Dead series. And I know these are games rated as Mature by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). But what I also remember about Alfonzo is that his father is a former gang member, his brother is incarcerated for a drive-by shooting and several other family members as victims and/or perpetrators of urban violence. The horrors in his front yard have been much worse than what he has witnessed in a video game.

I asked what he likes to do in his free time. He said “go outside to play basketball and tag or play video games.” I asked him what are his favorite video games and he mentioned Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row and Left 4 Dead.

The picture that Alfonzo drew is but one example of creative expression that has sent many school kids to psychiatric facilities around the globe. Too often, it is misinterpreted as a precursor to violence or a cry for help. In this case, Alfonzo’s picture represents his attempt to overcome and conquer his circumstances.

As he chooses and engages in his video game play, we can use that to develop rapport, assess strengths and weaknesses, explore sensitive areas and modify his thoughts, feelings and actions. As therapists are able to integrate music, art and movement into their therapeutic skill sets, video games should be seen as an evolutionary tool for multisensory engagement and behavior change.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's ALIVE!!

One of my colleagues called me on Tuesday and asked me to look online to see if was true?
“If what is true,” I asked cautiously as I did not want to seem oblivious to everything.
“Universal Health Services just bought Psychiatric Solutions!” I had not heard this news,  did a search and confirmed the information. For those of us behavioral health providers in the metropolitan Chicago area, this is huge news. This will consolidate three of the largest freestanding psychiatric hospitals under one corporation. And as a clinician who started my career during the dominance of psychiatric corporate giants like Psychiatric Institute of America (PIA), National Medical Enterprises (NME) and Charter Medical Corporation, I am having flashbacks about why these juggernauts all but disappeared.
During the early 1990’s, I worked at Charter Barclay Hospital in Chicago, one of a chain of premier freestanding psychiatric facilities throughout the country but predominantly in the western and southern regions. Many remember the Charter commercials below that aggressively targeted individuals and families with offers of “free” assessments.

We were trained at the front end to convert calls to assessments and assessments to admissions. We were told never to ask about insurance over the phone. Just get them in, and the service would sell itself.
What we weren’t told was that, once patients were admitted, they would be treated as long as their benefits would cover. The 28 days model was seen as the treatment of choice for rehabilitation from alcohol and drug addictions. Customers were involuntarily hospitalized just because they walked into the locked lobby and realized that they could not just leave when they wanted. Oh, and they had benefits to be exhausted.
Before the turn of the second century, the abuse, fraud and waste began to coagulate into fines and lawsuits and corporations learned that they could no longer exploit the mentally ill and chemically impaired population.
In 2000, I consulted with one of the premier freestanding hospitals to train and develop processes for the front end systems to increase profitability from patient admissions. After six months, I realized that the owner was nostalgic and wanted to recreate the same flawed business model so I bailed before he could resurrect his monster.
As much as I enjoy consultant work and would love to assist in developing real community mental health alternatives offered by private corporations, I realize that profit and greed are enticing and prefer to give helpful advice now before the monster is unearthed.
  • pickpocket families and shovel them into medically unnecessary treatments under the guise of providing “free” assessments;
  • abuse involuntary commitment procedures that violate basic human rights, freedoms and dignity;
  • ignore the continuum of care;
  • promise referral sources interventions you cannot support or provide, especially as it conflicts with the needs and wishes of the consumer.
  • provide actual and tangible services useful to the community – employment, consumer education, crisis consultations, level-of-care screenings, referral and linkage;
  • develop effective and collaborative networks of referral agents, health providers, educators, payors and others who benefit from an expanded customer base;
  • offer accessible treatment options from inpatient to support groups;
  • recognize that word-of-mouth can make or break any health care provider; and
  • hire and train front-line workers to do clinical work with administrative responsibilities, not the other way around.

It is imperative that behavioral health providers like Universal Health Services offer contextual, responsible and truly community oriented care or join the automobile, banking, oil and insurance corporate entities in putting profits before people. And risk that when angry consumers appear with pitchforks and torches, they will not come looking for them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Stop Backing Out of Driveways!

In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the United States began collecting data about motor vehicle accidents off of public roads and highways. And, in that year alone, 14,000 persons were injured in back over incidents, 2000 of which were children, 221 fatalities and 99 were children.

Advocacy groups have called for driver education, teaching kids not to play in driveways, reversing cameras and parking sensors. In the realm of keeping it simple, I advocate an uncomplicated remedy – back in and pull out.

Backing into a parking spot, driveway or car port creates several conditions:

  • You have to drive past and initially view the area you’re backing into and
  • When backing up, you must slow down to avoid hitting another vehicle or the residence.

Personally, I have always preferred to back into spaces because I take greater care in the process and do not like backing into major thoroughfares.

Do yourself, your friends and family a favor. Spread the word! Back In and Pull Out! Start today!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

How the Video Game Industry Can Save Our Streets

I woke up this morning to a news report of kids using kids for target practice on the southeast side of Chicago. Each time, I am sickened and the only relief I feel is when I hear that they’re in stable condition. Our streets are under siege and our children are the insurgents.

Our children have too much unstructured time. Families have limited resources to connect to meaningful activities. And what outlets do kids who are not athletes, musically inclined or aloof have?

As a youth, I spent many days hanging out at the video game arcade. I only developed proficiency at foosball but enjoyed the sights, sounds and watching others compete and bring those machines to their electronic knees. But now, all of the technology that amazed me then exists in the current generation home console units.

It is time to bring back the neighborhood arcades, version 2010.3. Storefronts and mini-malls remain vacant in these troubled areas and could be quickly modified into a technological drop-in community center. Donations from video game and computer industry corporations would provide hardware, software, consultation and technical assistance needed for start-up. Once locations have been set-up and established, the community impact would be immediate and resonant:

  • Area residents hired and trained to manage sites, provide guidance in using the equipment, monitor activity in and around the facilities, etc.
  • After-school, weekend and school holiday access for families,
  • Multipurpose use for school-sponsored field activities, structured mentoring and tutoring areas, kiosks for product demonstrations, appearances by industry professionals and game celebrities, corporate-sponsored healthy eating cafĂ©, gross motor activity sections,
  • Corporate-sponsored areas with featured hardware and software, opportunities for training, certification and continuing education geared toward video game industry, and
  • Support for learning styles and intellectual strengths.

Once established, these educational and entertainment centers can provide needed family and community supports. Students and parents could earn credits through scholarship, stewardship and volunteer efforts; local law enforcement personnel can include the centers as part of their patrol routes and possible off-duty work; legislators and community leaders can show evidence of working and flourishing community-corporate partnerships and educators can encourage game developers to include learning standards in game design.

These are a few benefits of the video game industry directly investing in communities for immediate results. While this will not solve all community ills, it would be a start. And I do not believe we will see news reports of shootings by children with a gun in one hand and a game controller in the other.