WE ARE NOT CASES TO BE MANAGED, WE ARE PEOPLE WANTING TO BE FREE!
By Max R. Weller
I’m as serious as a heart attack when I say that you could drop me into any of the places I’ve been in the past sixteen years — jail and prison, psychiatric wards, homeless shelters, or nursing homes — and it would take some time and careful study for me to determine which I was living in at that moment . . . True, there is a legitimate purpose for each of these institutions to exist (in theory, anyway); but I believe it’s equally true that all are mismanaged by staff more motivated by $$$ than good works.
Take the Missouri prison-building boom in the 1980s as my first example. When the capacity for incarcerating men and women greatly increased, the threshold for being sent to the DOC was lowered, so that thousands of nonviolent offenders did hard time. People convicted of simple possession of marijuana, multiple DUIs (even if no accidents were involved), and most puzzling of all falling behind on paying court-ordered child support. (Think about the latter: how will the “deadbeat” parent, man or woman, ever be able to pay while locked up in prison earning, at most, $30 per month? It boggles the mind.) What I quickly discovered is that an entire industry devoted to so-called treatment programs for substance abuse, run by outside firms under contract with the Missouri DOC, had come into being at every single camp around the state, and at least one camp had been entirely committed to this bogus money-making scheme, Ozark Correctional Center. It seemed to me that at least half the inmate population was herded into treatment, which consisted almost entirely of the same kind of 12-Step program available for FREE from Alcoholics Anonymous. You can be sure that those running this in the prison setting were making umpteen thousands of dollars for each and every inmate involved, and I never personally knew anyone who gained positive results in the long term. Meds were also prescribed by the DOC physicians for lots of inmates in treatment, and likewise for lots of others not in treatment; sort of passed out like candy. I doubt it had any benefit beyond turning them into docile sheep, easier to control. (Entirely justified in a few cases.)
In late 2004 and again about a year later in late 2005, I sought help for what was diagnosed as Clinical Depression with suicidal ideation. The ER physicians in both instances thought that I should be admitted for inpatient psychiatric care, and I agreed, not having any clear idea of what to expect. What I found was a regimen of group therapy, where a few of us sat around and talked about our circumstances and the very sad feelings we had. A few days away from things that bothered me made me more hopeful, and I think this would have occurred even without the group pity party. (Of course, support groups can be found all over the place for FREE.) I saw a real shrink only once, and he was a legitimate psychiatrist with both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, but unfortunately with such a thick foreign accent I had great difficulty understanding him. He took about ten minutes to do paperwork about my case, to be submitted to Medicaid for payment of my “care.” He asked if I was an alcoholic, and I admitted to having been a heavy drinker for 15 years, ending when I was arrested and later imprisoned in late 2002. He also asked if I had ever used other drugs; foolishly, I said that I’d tried marijuana a couple of times in high school over 30 years earlier. He wrote down that I was a “polysubstance abuser.” WTF? Although I continue to struggle at times from depression, especially around the Holiday Season from Thanksgiving through Christmas, I’ve learned to cope as well on my own as I would with group therapy and a greedy shrink bilking the government with an inaccurate label. BTW, I always understood that I drank alcohol to excess simply because I preferred being a jolly drunk to the boredom I found in sobriety. Well, duh! When I chose to get sober, I found that all I had to do was NEVER take that first drink and it was easy. The ridiculous depiction by actor Jack Lemmon of someone suffering the DTs in “Days of Wine and Roses” still makes me laugh out loud, because it’s so far removed from reality as I know it:
What more can I say about the homeless shelter / services industry, including both government agencies and private nonprofits, that hasn’t been covered here already? It’s all about $$$ from both public and private sources, and can be summed up this way: More Homeless People = More Money. Thus, there is no incentive to “end homelessness” nor “address” it except by spending Big Bucks regardless of the easily demonstrated lack of positive results. I have to add that I encountered more violent, dangerous people at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless than I did in Missouri DOC, as well as more crazy people there than I did during my two brief visits to the psych ward.
As I emphatically stated at the beginning of this post, it’s hard to distinguish one human warehouse from the next.
I’m now in a nursing home I call Happy Haven (not its actual name), and have been here since last Christmas. Hell of a gift, eh? This place is much better than Boulder Manor, where I spent five long months back in 2016, and saw many of the same drunks and druggies and perverts I knew from the streets of Boulder, CO. When I discovered how much money Medicaid paid to nursing homes for the most basic care of any resident, about $7,000 per month back then in the case of Boulder Manor and closer to $12,000 per month at Happy Haven today, it’s easy to understand how the riffraff fills up these places to capacity. I was referred to both by Boulder Community Hospital, and the nursing homes send their own people out to troll for would be residents, also. (Happy Haven, to its credit, currently has no registered sex offenders.) Big Money, to be sure, but I’ve not gotten the full value of what Uncle Sugar is paying, that is certain. At $400 per day, I could stay at the St. Julien Hotel & Spa in real luxury.
I’d be alone, too, with no obnoxious roommate like Jabba the Hutt.
To reiterate, none of these different kinds of facilities are being managed for the benefit of those who live there, but have all become Cash Cows (which is one reason I’ve supported the Libertarians, who claim to be in favor of largely turning off the spigot of taxpayer-funded programs):