I am back home with a heavy heart and a lot of questions as well as new information running in my head. I sat at my computer while pondering for truth in this matter. As usual, the truth is in the eye of the beholder. This is how and why I see what happens daily in our deaf lives.
As you can recall my previous posting about Barry Critchfield and his employment issues with Missouri Department of Mental Health. I do respect him and I think the truth is somewhat an issue in getting to the root of the problem at DMH. (link to my posting, http://deafadvocate.blogspot.com/2008/04/dept-mental-health-has-screwed-us.html dated April 12, 2008 )
I sat in my office chair poring over pages and pages of documents that have accumulated on my desk for the past month and almost a half. (six weeks) - I have read materials on lawsuits, mental health, deaf and any pertinent reports related to the issues that are on the "front burner".
I have been struggling with which "title" to use tonight so I say it two fold -
"IS DMH WALKING US AROUND THE BLOCK AGAIN?"
"SHALL WE GIVE DMH ANOTHER CHANCE?"
The first headline "IS DMH WALKING US AROUND THE BLOCK AGAIN?" is what I feel about the on-going issue. I remember back in 1978/1979 when RTR had a community meeting on mental health. There were no access to any services. The humble beginnings of what is going on today is what I have experienced the last 30 years to today. I have seen scores of leaders and advocates working hard to initiate the steps in making mental health programs accessable to the deaf community.
The group worked hard to develop a dream of having a comprehensive treatment program for deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing people who experience psychiatric disorders, mental retardation (DD) and substance abuse disorders. I am borrowing some words of "Revisiting the Dream". Yes, I can understand the dream. It is a challenge to bring them into reality. It is also difficult to apply theories and conceptualization into real practice. I am talking about " R E A L P R A C T I C E ".
It is an application from theory to practice. It is a repitition of bureaucratic, political, evasion, manipulation, oppression and misdiagnosis that continue to this day. Today is May 28, 2008. How much time has passed? Yes - 30 years.
The block where we have walked with DMH must have deep ruts by now. We are sinking lower and lower waiting for the reality to happen and new confidence in the system. At this stage, the Missouri Deaf Community does not have any more confidence in Missouri Department of Mental Heatlh.
I am keeping my mind open to options that are happening in front of us. We need to figure out what we can do at this stage. I have recommended a two pronged approach to the problem - continue with lawsuit and continue negotiating to get the program up and running.
So the next headline is "SHALL WE GIVE DMH ANOTHER CHANCE?"
Today, I had joined the meeting offered by Keith Schafer, Director of Missouri Department of Mental Health. He was cordial and professional in explaining his handling of the programs. He did homework on making a presentation.
He made welcome and introduction of people interested in looking for ways and means to resolve the problem that is dragging the deaf services program. The meeting with representatives of the Deaf community was cordial and very interesting. We did sound off on our concerns about the lack of few things prevening DMH from doing its real job. We did cover some areas such as funding and the meat (action from them to support the needs of deaf).
Keith Schafer is sort of late deafened and hard of hearing. He seems to take it in stride that he is losing his hearing. He has worked in the past with deaf program where he teamed with Sharaine (Rice) Roberts in implementing the Deaf Services program under DMH. You may recall that nice lady who worked hard to get the program set up and she had to leave the state for more challenges in her career.
Guess what? She showed up today for the meeting. She is acting as consultant for DMH. This may be good idea as she has the expertise. She wanted me to "hear" both sides of coin.
Back to Keith Schafer, he expressed his desire to work with us in finding a next candidate for the position The title of new position is "Deaf and Cultural Services Coordinator". He wants us to help him find a right candidate for the position. So it is up to us to decide who may be qualified for the position. We will have to do some homework and some advocacy to make this happen. He plans to send out job announcements for the position. The target date may be end of July.
The next thing that Keith Schafer mentioned in today's meeting is that he wants to create a Statewide Advisory Board - and his target date is end of June to have selected people to be on the advisory board. Their duties will be to work in finding solutions and share communications among DMH staff from the top down (chain of command). This is my observation of the definition that should be considered in delegating the roles of board members.
Keith Schafer would like us to present "Revisiting the Dream" to MH Commission. (The Commissioners are appointed by the governor to oversee the Department of Mental Health.) The target date is August.
He also recommends that we have deaf community advocacy meeting with governor candidates sometime in October and November.
He stated that we need to make presentation to House Health and Mental Health Appropriations Subcommittee in January 2009.
We are advised to keep deaf community advocacy ongoing. He did mention that the Deaf community "disappeared" after 2004 efforts to get funding restored and hire Barry Critchfield. I think he is mistaken as the deaf community did try to get involved over and over. It is the system working against the Deaf community for a long time. I have attended DMH meetings the last 2 years and I try to take the time to drive to Jefferson City to be aware of what is going on. The Deaf Community Representatives have been meeting in Fulton and Jefferson City during 2007 and we were going to meet more this year but due to the upheaval, we are on "hold". We will meet soon.
There is a copy of powerpoint made by them "Mental Health Services for Individuals who are Deaf". You may call DMH office to request a copy emailed to you as an attachment or find a way to get it from them. It is your right as Missouri Taxpayer to be informed of what is happening. The responsibility is yours to keep informed of DMH's progress. They are obliged to answer any questions you may have about deaf services. We do need you to keep them on toes. Keep them focused on providing programs for deaf. We have to make "noises" both at DMH and the state legislature. It was nice to see Senator Joan Bray of Creve Coeur there. She was there the whole meeting. She has been advocating for more funding for deaf program. She was the one who helped restore the funding in 2004. She emphasized that the deaf community need to work with legislators of each ward in the community.
The more we do the more realization is that the legislators will do more for us so it is us that we have to roll up our sleeves and shake the state capitol at its foundations. We can add to three prong approach - continue lawsuit, work with DMH and educate the legislators. It seems reasonable approach but in reality, will it work this time around? I was told that the funding was not an issue.
From the discussions around the community, we are looking at the administration who handles the deaf program. We are questioning the legitimacy of the actions happened in the office. Was it office politics? Was it misunderstanding? Was it power grab? What is it? You can tell us what you think!
I would not object to what he is doing, but is his job as a bureaucrat prevening him from doing the real needs. This is my observation. What should we do? wait another six months and see what the results are from his proposal to have programs up and running? What about lawsuit? Should it wait? We look at South Carolina and its success in suing the state DMH. We look at Alabama and its success in suing the state DMH. I have reviewed information on internet with other states. They did the same thing.... SUE THEM! I have been told that it is a logical step in getting the Missouri Department of Mental Health be accountable to the Deaf community.
Ella Eakins, MoAD President (Missouri Association of the Deaf, Inc.) had informed Keith Schafer that MoAD would be available for information, advocacy and leadership. MoAD as a statewide organization can be an advocate for improving DMH. It all depends on DMH and its reception to our suggestions..
There are two videos available for anyone who wishes to watch sign language interpretation of this text and I have volunteers to read "WHAT THE DEAF COMMUNITY HAS SAID" in the report to DMH Commissioners last year. I will be happy to express my viewpoint of that report in that video.
There are some reading materials available to the links below. This is for more understanding of what we need and how we can work it out.
Suggested Reading materials:
(Mental Health Commission Meetings, May 2006 - about deaf community expressing wishes for improvements in DMH)
(Steve Hamerdinger's presentations on MH programs and Deaf while in Missouri and more)
(Helping Deaf People with Mental and Emotional Problems by Jamie Berke at about.com:Deafness)
(Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Persons Who are Deaf, May 2002 by A. Barry Critchfield)
(Revisting the Dream: May 30, 2006 (Barry Critchfield/Steve Hamerdinger)