Thursday, June 28, 2012 and Friday, June 29, 2012
Being alone on a mountain is invigorating and terrifying all at once. I hiked halfway up Lazy Mountain yesterday with my phone turned off and only the sound of the rain and my breathing filling my ears. It was a new experience. I was alone, except for a few hikers I ran into going the opposite direction, on rainy trail (super slick on the way back down), and it was absolutely amazing. I had time to think, no noise to drown out my thoughts, and a chance to look around at the misty mountainside and the valley below. And then you start to freak yourself out-hearing animals moving, or not hearing anything at all, slipping down the muddy slopes. What happens if you get hurt? What happens if you run into a bear? Or a moose? What happens if you get lost or kidnapped? Paranoia at its best, yet these are legitimate concerns. You learn a lot about yourself in both those situations, how you react to them, and how you view them and yourself. Sitting an hour up the mountain on a picnic bench overlooking the valley, I started considering my own life-the blessings I have, the support system, and the opportunities that have come from those. Yes, I am one of the lucky ones.
But what about those who aren’t so lucky? What about the people that are completely alone and trying to navigate our society? Once I made it safely down the mountain, I started thinking about this idea of being alone in context to the clients of Daybreak. I’ve seen a lot of Case Management these past few weeks. I’ve worked with a client myself in trying to navigate the Social Security process. I have witnessed the court system and some of the District Attorneys and Advocates at work. It is not easy to navigate this system in any way, shape, or form whether you have a mental disability or not.
Let me recap my week: Monday and Tuesday were devoted to our big state audit, making sure all our files were in check and that we are fulfilling our mission. Our auditor sat down with Polly and Bill (I got to sit in too!) and chatted about the work of Daybreak and where they were in fulfilling the requirements. He was impressed by the ability Daybreak has had to maintain small caseloads for all the Case Managers. Each Case Manager is capped at 15 clients making it easier on them to give each client the full attention they need to thrive. Our auditor mentioned that he wished more agencies were able to do this and stick by their mission more closely. Daybreak is able to give each client the choice and responsibility of their own personal treatment. It is not the Case Manger telling them what to do and how to do it; each client has full say in their appointments, medications, and skill building. The majority of clients are very cognizant of their disability and they want to treat it; they don’t want to live in the fog that is created by their illness and they are aware of the consequences of leaving it untreated. Most will tell you “don’t let me use my illness as an excuse.” So many of them want to be healthy and well, but they just don’t know how to do it. They just need a little help finding the resources or options that are available for them and then they’re more than willing to utilize them.
Wednesday I actually had the chance to work one on one with a client I’ve worked with before. We are working on getting her back on Social Security disability. Let me tell you; that is one very difficult process to navigate. I was asking the other Case Managers as well as Bill and Polly for help over the last few weeks so I didn’t go into this situation blind. I looked up the necessary documents and information and emailed it to her so she was prepared. I looked over the applications of the various services so I knew what she qualified for and what she didn’t. If I wasn’t sitting in an office full of other people that did this for their job, I would have been at a loss. You have to know specific dates, names, addresses, and medication names. Sounds pretty simple right? Well if you have been seeing various doctors-state ordered and otherwise- for the last 10 years, gathering all that information, most of which is not written down, is near impossible. And for someone that might be paranoid or OCD or anxious, this is a stressful process. I was asking questions and for clarification from my supervisors as I helped my client and then at the end I called the Social Security office to ask a random question and the automated voice machine is so frustrating, so I waited for the operator only to hear this, “the approximate wait time for assistance is 10 minutes”. I can see how clients get fed up and never fill out their information to receive their benefits. The role of an advocate is obviously vital in situations like these where the system itself is not friendly to the clients.
That same afternoon I went to pre-meet for CRP court. I went to pre-meet last week but this week we had a full case load and some pretty intense cases. A lot of them were following their treatment plans so their cases went pretty smoothly. But one client in particular is having some difficulty and because of this, some people are not happy with their performance in CRP. The advocates jumped right in; working to keep this person in the system in the hopes they can restart and graduate later this year. The speed with which the advocates stepped in was absolutely amazing; they recognize the need of this person and the ability this person has to thrive with a good treatment plan. This client would probably not thrive in a regular probation or court system and the treatment would be inadequate. The advocates stepped in to explain the situation to the client and to urge the client and court to consider a revised treatment plan. One of the administrators gave me some sound advice, “Never be done with a client-they always have the ability to turn around-they’re never a lost cause.”
I’ve started to understand the importance of case management, not only for the mentally ill, but for all those who are marginalized. It allows the clients to take ownership of their future and make the choices and actions necessary to thrive. Being alone can be good for the soul, but it is not always the best option. I’ve learned that a lot of clients have an element of shame in admitting their disease. It’s a taboo subject in society and so many people assume the worst. I’ve seen so many amazing people who have spent years fighting their illness-they’ve had some very dark days, yes-but where they are now is so inspiring. They’ve faced the worst and they are very in tune with themselves and their own needs. I believe that supporting these people and working towards their health is vital and they can’t do it alone. In truth, none of us can thrive while we’re alone-we’re interdependent, not independent-and this means we have an obligation to help out. Some of us are the lucky ones, some of us have beat the odds and risen from the ashes, and some of us don’t have the opportunity or ability. For those of us that do, why not reach out a helping hand and give back a fraction of what we’ve been given?