Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Evangeline Lilly on Letterman "lost" me

Even though the plot has gotten boring, even though they decided to take months off the air, even though I'm getting way sick of the lame love interest subplots, I have stuck with "Lost" this season, hoping it would get better. I mean I've waited through seasons of Saturday Night Live (kinda like this year) that were pretty bad, and eventually they get back on track.

After watching Evangeline Lilly on Letterman last night, though, it is all I can do to give it one last chance tonight.

First, she comes out in a (cute) little dress that would have been fine if she was meeting someone for a coffee on a patio in San Diego, but everyone knows Letterman keeps it refrigerator cold. And she's been on the show before so she clearly she knew it would be cold, but she wore the dress and started the interview whining about how cold she was. So cold she needed them to bring her a blanket, which after wrapping it around her dress--and not covering any of her bare skin--she decided looked bad and promptly flung on the chair next to her. Geez.

Then she starts bitching about how awful it was to work as a flight attendant (she hated the people, the hours, the fact that she had to buy shoes 2 sizes too big, blah blah, blah). When Letterman tries to hand her a life preserver and asks if she liked the travel, she launches in on how everyone hates travel--you might get "stuck sitting next to the fat guy who stinks."

When Dave mentions her house burning to the ground last December, he asks if it was hard for her to lose everything, especially right before Christmas. Not hard, she replies, just "inconvenient." She complains about how Hawaiian homes are flimsy and made of paper or some such, and blathers on about how she just had second hand clothes and salvation army furniture. Very inconvenient, she insists.

Letterman barely gets the chance to ask her about the "Lost" hiatus before she starts a tirade about how she thinks they just can't please anyone. Waa, Waa. They play reruns and "it pisses you off!" They take a break to make new episodes and "it pisses you off!"

At this point I had enough and happily turned her off. My perogative, hallelujah.

She came off as shallow, petty and mean last night. Oh yeah, and stuck up, snobbish, and narcissistic.

At least we've still got Sayid and Jin for the hunk factor. Hey, maybe they'll actually film a couple of scenes with them and give us a break from the tired Jack-Kate-Sawyer saga. I was sick of them long before I endured the "oooo I'm cold and oooo people suck" rant from Evangeline Lilly.

The gal needs a jacket, and someone to tell her that just because you think it, doesn't mean you have to say it. Especially on national TV.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Read this, then act!

DID YOU KNOW?

Medicaid won’t allow children under 5 to have individual counseling?

*No matter what may be happening with your child, if he or she is younger than five, the only mental health service Medicaid will allow you to use is Family Counseling.

*Even if your child has been diagnosed with a mental health issue like ADD or Autism, Medicaid won’t allow individual counseling if they are younger than 5.

*Many young children need to speak privately with a counselor for lots of important reasons, but Medicaid says NO!

*If the parent or guardian can’t or won’t participate in Family Counseling, Medicaid won’t pay.

*Many parents can’t take off work to go to regular counseling sessions and some don’t have transportation to get to an office or clinic for Family Counseling, but no other option is available.

*Even if a doctor recommends it, or even if parents want their kids to be in individual counseling, Medicaid says that does not matter—they still won't allow it.

YOU can help change this!!

If you are the parent of a young child with Medicaid, your voice is very important! You can make a difference for your own child, and for thousands of young children in Missouri.

Even if you are not a parent of a child on Medicaid, if you are concerned about what the current administration is doing to young children in poverty, you can make a difference.

*Go to: http://www.moga.mo.gov/ or call: 573-751-3659 to find out who your representative is.

*Call, write or email them—tell them you want all children to be able to have individual counseling.

*Write /email your newspaper. Tell the editor all children should be able to have private sessions with a counselor

*Attend a meeting to show legislators that you want all children to have the same access to counseling!


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Imagine this: A 4 year old girl, let's call her Kaylie, lives in a trailer with her mother and stepdad. The stepdad makes meth in a shed out back, and his friends like come by the trailer to drink a little Bud and shoot a little crank. When the stepdad starts tweaking, he gets angry. Mom's been thrown into walls, punched in the jaw, and threatened with a butcher knife while the little girl watched.

At the local Head Start Kaylie has started hiding under the table during the last 15 minutes of class. Lately the teachers have noticed when Kaylie has to use the bathroom, she begins to cry and tries to avoid going as long as possible. They've seen her rubbing and scratching her private areas when she's upset. The teachers and the counselor wonder if she's being sexually abused at home.

The mental health clinician who works there has talked to mom about doing some counseling for Kaylie. Mom thinks that it would help Kaylie, but she refuses to agree to family counseling since the boyfriend would no doubt hurt her badly when the counselor leaves. The mental health clinician knows that Kaylie needs to have individual counseling to help her be able to express what is happening at home, learn how to protect herself and how to deal with the trauma she's already experienced.

Unfortunately for Kaylie, Missouri Medicaid refuses to pay for her to be in individual counseling. Because she is four, and because she is poor, she is not entitled to have the same therapies other children get every week.

The government officials who decided this was a good idea will tell you that "evidence-based practices" show family counseling is the best option for young children. Sure, on paper it looks great. But do you think Kaylie would be willing to talk about her stepdad with him in the room? Do you think Kaylie's mom would be willing to talk about the violence in front of Kaylie and her stepdad? Do you think it is right for the government to decide what psychotherapy is best for a four year old child they will never know?

If this upsets you, please act. Don't wait for these young children to grow into dysfunctional, sad or violent adolescents. Contact your representative NOW and tell them that this is unacceptable.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The children are still losing.

The Springfield News Leader ran a series this week about child abuse and neglect in our area. The series was interesting, occasionally depressing and sometimes just slightly off the mark.

They reported about a seminar held this week in which an out-of-the-area speaker (Victor Vieth) stated that “Greene County may be ahead of the curve on training mandated reporters, as well.”

The News Leader stated that “he interprets higher number of hotline calls and substantiated cases here as signs of better reporting, rather than a higher rate of abuse.”

Vieth should have done a little deeper research into the situation before he made such leaps of judgment. Mandated reporters in the Ozarks, especially Greene and Christian County, make frequent reports because they are scared—scared that they will be prosecuted. Some of these hotline calls are clearly unnecessary, but because the prosecutors have decided to take mandated reporters to court, ruining their finances, their careers (even though they were exonerated), and ruining their professional and personal reputations, mandated reporters pick up the phone at the slightest concern.

My mama called this behavior "crying wolf." When the "wolf" finally does appear, no one believes it because they've heard the cries so often when nothing was there.

Mandated reporters make calls, as this expert reported, and still up to 1/3 aren’t even fully investigated. The recent death of a six year old in Shell Knob (also discussed in this blog--Could this have been prevented, November 27, 2006) illustrates only too well how calls to the hotline by several different mandated reporters are simply filed away.

As a mandated reporter I have made countless calls. Of those calls, I can count on two hands how many were taken seriously, and even fewer where some sort of intervention was attempted.

A few years ago, I was asked to do counseling with a young mother—she was 19 at the time—who was diagnosed with mild mental retardation, and had just given birth to her fourth child. She lived in government housing, and had lots of do-gooders in and out of her house.

Her oldest child started in play therapy with me, and during the first session, without any questioning on my part, she used Barbie and Ken dolls to show how her biological grandfather, who had been imprisoned as a much younger man for sexually abusing his two sons, had molested her. I called the hotline on this case for the first time. Since the child had a serious speech delay, the investigators decided she couldn’t be trusted to explain what happened, and nothing was done.

Later the child used crayons to draw pictures of her grandfather naked. Again I called the hotline, and again nothing was done.

The next time I hotlined the case was when I came to the house unannounced and found one child locked in a bathroom and the infant had been left in the crib for hours and was almost swimming in waste his diaper was so full. Before I got to the front door a different child ran out the front door naked, swinging his dirty diaper over his head. When I got inside I discovered he’d wiped off the diaper all the way down the stairs—the brown, smelly streaks were still gooey along the handrail. The father was in the living room, screaming obsenities at the mom who simply cowered, unable to fight for herself.

Yes, I called the hotline. No, nothing was done.

Other workers that had been on the case had also made hotline calls, they, too, were "unsubstantiated."

It was on the fourth hotline call, after the oldest child used her halting words and her dolls to explain how frightened she was to have to go back to her grandfather’s for the weekend, that something was done.

I made the call to report the ongoing concerns about sexual abuse. The intervention, however, wasn’t because of the alleged sexual abuse, though. It wasn’t because of the seriously and persistently mentally ill father’s domestic violence, either. It wasn’t because the children had been left without adequate supervision.

It was because the house was dirty.

It was filthy, actually. The shit on the walls from the last week had been left to dry. The floor was coated in a sticky, slippery film. A broken lamp sat on the window sill, with big shards of glass covering the surface. The children were passing around a grimy baby bottle, sharing what was left of the infant’s formula. Dirty dishes and roaches covered the kitchen counters.

It isn’t that I think they shouldn’t have intervened because of the filth—I was cetainly relieved that something was finally being done, regardless of the precipitating events. After time passed though, I began to wonder about the State’s priorities when repeated calls about potential sexual abuse by a known perpetrator weren’t given the same credence. The filth was obvious, though, and no speech delay would prevent the workers and the police from believing it existed.

Now that Missouri Medicaid has made sweeping changes to mental health, I wouldn't even be able to work individually with that little girl, and it is highly doubtful she would revealed the abuse in front of her mother or father.

A Safe Exam, and repeated interviews eventually proved what she'd been demonstrating for so long--she had been sexually abused. She was only three years old.

I worked with this little girl for quite a while as she bounced from foster home to foster home. Ironically at one foster home I actually made a hotline call because it was so filthy. That family quit fostering long before the State actually responded. They quit, actually, after I came in the home to find my client bruised and scared to even play. I guess they knew they couldn’t take it—the child clearly had some issues, and even at age three she was difficult. Other foster homes discharged her after she sexually acted out on other kids in the home.

The State tried to send her back to her mother, but finally everyone agreed that mom simply couldn’t take care of her. By this time mom had already given birth to child number five, and was told by Medicaid officials that, even at her request, they wouldn’t perform a tubal ligation because she wasn’t yet 21.

There was a happy ending for the child, surprisingly. She was moved to a foster home where they simply dug in their heels and stuck it out with her. She got speech therapy, she got into Head Start. She continued in play therapy for a while longer. By the time she entered kindergarten, she was a bubbly, eager little girl, who already could read some basic children’s books, and couldn’t wait to bring her new kittens to the first show and tell of the year.

The story didn’t end so happily for her siblings, but that’s for another blog post.
The point of my telling this story is to give an example of how the system is basically set up to fail. Mandated reporters make call after call. Hotline workers call local workers, whose hands are tied by bureaucracy, poor training and high burnout. Nothing gets accomplished, and everyone, especially the children, loses.

Victor Vieth may have gotten his statistics right, but his interpretation of the numbers was fanciful at best. Anyone who passed a basic statistics course knows that correlations prove nothing. High numbers of mandated reporter calls doesn’t translate into “better reporting but not more abuse” in our area just because we wish it was so.

And as the bureaucrats talk about how to “solve” the problem, whom to prosecute for not calling, and even what constitutes abuse, mandated reporters and caseworkers will remain confused and unable to act efficiently, and most horrific of all, children will continue to suffer.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Do we give up the fight or change the way we throw punches?

Just mention Missouri Medicaid and you get a reaction. Some folks react with a blank stare--they can't even imagine, let alone empathize, with someone who lives below the poverty line and who might want health care for their children or, God forbid, themselves.

Others respond with a Conservative's righteous indignation: How dare poor people bilk the government for money to pay for health care. Why don't they just get a job with benefits like everybody else?

Some people look genuinely concerned about poor children being able to get their shots or get medical care outside an emergency room.

Then there are those people who believe it is all a conservative plot--the Republicans in the majority hate everyone who isn't a Republican and they will use whatever they can to silence the liberals and the poor (or the poor liberals). Some conspiracy theorists believe that the conservative government cuts health care for people in poverty because that way they'll die sooner and be less of a burden on society.

The do-gooders line up to talk about the tragedy of how this rich nation of ours can fund big business, bail out large corporations, pump big money into big oil, and still refuse to provide universal health care.

Some do-gooders have been so burned by the "system" in place now that they are unwilling to even give their names when they publicly disagree with the majority in power. They fear for their professional license. They fear an audit of their files or their income. They fear they will be set up for ridicule or professional suicide. These fears are not unfounded. I know three mental health clinicians locally whose Medicaid files were audited within weeks after they'd met with certain government officials to discuss the impact changes to mental health funding.

Working within the system to inform politicians, local concerned citizens and the media about the serious problems caused by changes in mental health funding sometimes reminds me of Sisyphus, pushing that boulder up, up, up the mountain only to have it tumble back down.

It took an election year to get certain politicians to show interest in the problems. Once the election ended, though, so did the "interest." Candidates and politicians who acted concerned haven't followed up with any of their promises. People who'd been supportive and who encouraged us to talk to officials, now waffle: Perhaps, they worry, it is doing more harm than good to discuss the way Medicaid's refusal to pay for mental health for young children is guaranteeing a future of tax payments to juvenile detention and prison systems.

Maybe, as someone suggested to me recently, meeting with politicians and bureaucrats just gives them the kodak moment they need to say they listened to concerns on all sides. Or maybe it just causes them to dig their heels in even further and flatly refuse to listen anymore. The fact that Missouri Medicaid has re-issued the provider bulletin twice in the last four months (once almost immediately after a local politician actually met with the committee director) stating plainly that they will NOT pay for individual mental health care services for young children speaks volumes.

The way it stands now, young children whose parents are using meth in one room while rats bite them in another cannot receive individual therapy. A child whose mother killed herself in the yard while her child played in the house cannot receive individual therapy. A child whose mother's boyfriend threw her into a lake out of anger cannot receive individual therapy. A child who sexually acts out in her head start classroom, probably reliving her own abuse at the hands of her "uncle" cannot receive individual counseling.

The stories are horrific. The fact that the State of Missouri refuses to pay for individual mental health care in these situation is appalling and tragic. Please don't let the politicians take away hope for these children. Call or write your representatives and tell them young poor children who have been traumatized should be able to get individualized mental health care, and the sooner the better.

Go here: http://www.moga.mo.gov/ if you don't know your representative's name, then email, write or call them. Our children's future depends on it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Back again...

Got thinkingthings back to whatever constitutes normal. This time when the Other Half rescued me, I paid close attention and I think maybe, just maybe, I understood at least some of it. We'll see. In the meantime, I'm going to try really hard to avoid clicking any shiny buttons.