Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Elephant in the room

We had an emergency meeting of the Blue Ribbon Task Force against Child Abuse. Texas has seen an increase in infant deaths from abuse in the past few months. The children were all all under the age of 3 months. We thought we were being called together to mobilize and do something to help these innocents live in an environment free of fear and death at the hands of their care givers. What we heard was how Child Protective Services was re-aligning it's staff. A few years ago, the case workers were drowning in paperwork and couldn't be in the field where the kids needed them. There was a cry from the people to do something to fix this and the 50% turn over rate For CPS case workers. We got that. Turnover now is at 2%. But since there is much less turnover now there are more staff in positions not "needed". So positions will be eliminated or adjusted to move over to work on foodtsamp applications, which is woefully behind in processing new applications. So we are back to no clerical support for the case workers. Another very interesting fact is there will be 1 million dollars designated to provide mandatory drug testing in the families that are receiving Family Based Safety Plan Services. So we now have parents who will test positive, but they have no money for treatment. There are very few treatment options for anyone who is covered by Medicaid or Medicare, which the majority of these families probably will be. Even those who have private insurance are hard pressed to find a program anywhere in the city or South Texas. No answer there again. We all know substance abuse is a blight on the country. We all know it causes a myriad of economic, social, medical and psychological issues. Mentally ill people use street drugs to self medicate. There is much less stigma to being a drug addict than being mentally ill. I know a parent who was relieved to know her 16 year old girl was just addicted to crack, and not "crazy". Until the state and the city commits to making substance abuse treatment a viable option for people who need it, nothing will change. Until Mental Health providers stop fighting over what is a priority and treat the entire person, nothing will change. Children who are raised in a drug abusing home are 10 times more likely to develop substance dependence themselves as well as mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, personality disorders and post traumatic stress disorder. Certain drugs can bring about schizophrenic type episodes and psychosis. Talk to your councilperson and let them know how you feel about the lack ofsuch a painfully obvious needed resource for our city. Let them know we all know the problem. We all know part of the solution. Stop throwing money at tourism and increasing economic development and focus on developing a city that grows healthy and strong families. Speak out for drug treatment to be part of the promise for a stronger San Antonio.
Demand insurance companies provide coverage for treatment of addiction just as they would any medical issue. Push for parity in the true sense of the word. Do some research on mental health and addiction. Then research child abuse cases. The path is clear. Will you be a voice for change for our kids? I hope so.

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