Monday, January 07, 2008

HEALING?

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HEALING? / January 7, 2008
I grew up in a home where the dinner discussion was often either about the school board or the church board. My father was a school principal and my mother a teacher. My father was also an Elder and ordained minister in the church. As an adult I worked at companies where I came in contact with their boards and even formed my own companies where I was part of the board, but it was not until I started Project Dream Again that I knew anything about editorial boards at newspapers. They are a different breed.
In Sunday’s The Charlotte Observer (www.charlotte.com) Ed Williams, Editorial Page Editor, ran their opinion piece titled Healing HHS. They are giving their endorsement to Secretary Dempsey Benton’s ideas for improving or in their words “fixing N.C. mental health woes.”
The plan they are praising according to their editorial boils down to keeping two state hospitals open longer than planned, bringing “the state’s 14 mental health facilities under his direction” (the state facilities were already under his direction and there are only four operating psychiatric hospitals the others that the Observer refers to as mental health facilities are alcohol and drug abuse treatment centers, developmental centers, residential programs for children and neuro-medical treatment centers) and convening three work groups.
First, let me point out that healing HHS here in North Carolina whatever that means to the editorial board of The Charlotte Observer or to Secretary Benton does not mean it will or it will not help heal a single one of us who are suffering from a serious mental illness. There is no direct connection between a healthy North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the recovery journey of persons like me with a mental illness. I will never see Secretary Benton or any of his staff. Real solutions will never come from the top down or from bringing in experts or from work groups. Real solutions come from the bottom up from the person being served and from frontline workers. The concept has a name. It is called participatory decision making rather than using a dictatorial management style. Participatory decision making starts with the person being served along with the people of his/her choice and the people serving the person not with the head of the agency or hospital and certainly not with the Secretary of the Department.
Second, the editorial board is praising work groups before they have produced any product. Before starting Project Dream Again, I was in sales and manufacturing. I can’t imagine getting told well done before a single product was produced or sold. Does the editorial board handing out this praise even know the expertise of the majority of the folks on these work groups?
The paper calls them “sure-footed strategies”. I call them doing what you do when you don’t know what to do. You appoint work groups to study the matter. You move the chess pieces around pretending the responsibility is now someplace else. I guess I would do the same thing if I took over a department that I knew nothing about. Where did Secretary Benton get his experience in mental health is what the editorial board ought to have been thinking about rather than praising “sure-footed strategies” that they don’t have a clue were they lead us to.
Am I being too hard on Secretary Benton and whoever wrote the piece on the opinion page of The Charlotte Observer? No, because we don’t have time for anymore experts to be brought in, study groups, or on the job training for the Secretary of HHS. We need someone in the lead now who knows about us. Not someone trying to learn on the job. This mess we are in was not caused by us. We did not decide to have a mental illness, but we are here now. We don’t need study or work groups. We don’t have time to do on the job training for Secretary Benton.
WE NEED SERVICES. APPROPIATE SERVICES. BASED ON A SERVICE PLAN WE AGREE TO. DELIVERED IN A TIMELY, RESPECTFUL, AND COMPETENT MANNER.
You can reach me directly at edcooper@projectdreamagain.com

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