A column by Haitian poet Jacques Fleury
As both a consumer and current student of Human Services, I was searching for answers to the “human needs” funding crisis. I inadvertently stumbled onto a flyer calling for ending the Iraqi war and to instead fund programs that will essentially enhance human lives by fulfilling the U.S. population’s human needs.
It raises the question that: “How many more billions will be looted from vital social needs such as jobs…healthcare…and social security?”
What is Human Services? It is a collaborative interaction between human service providers and human service consumers, for the purpose of helping individuals and families live productive lives, by responding to their immediate human needs.
In responding to human needs, society has constructed six different kinds of action plans: mutual-aid, charity-philanthropy, public welfare, social insurance, social services, and universal provisions.
The English Poor laws of 1601 was considered “the first milestone” and served as the foundation of the social welfare system. It helped paved the way for the Social Security Act of 1935, whose ideology helped to impact social welfare in present day society.
Phillippe Pinel and Dorothea Dix were both pioneers in advocating against the brutal treatment and for the moral treatment of the mentally ill—which included using kindness but firmness and a pleasant therapeutic atmosphere to encourage relative recovery from mental illness.
Hurricane Katrina is a perfect example of how ill equipped the U.S. government is to the human needs crisis, particularly to under-funded social insurance programs like Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and social welfare programs like Social Security Income (SSI).
My hope in writing this article is to raise awareness, educate and empower human service consumers with my own personal reflection and insight on the mental health system in America.
Have you ever felt judged because of a real or perceived disability? Have your community caused you to feel ashamed, anxious or depressed because you are collecting social security?
If so, you are not alone.
Timothy O’Leary, Deputy Director of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health is a strong supporter of human service programs like CASCAPS’ Consumer Provider Program (CPP). CASCAP is a private human service vendor operating under the Department of Mental Health (DMH).
The Consumer Provider Program is funded mainly by DMH and CASCAP and is designed to train mentally ill patients in providing human services to other consumers, thus empowering them to return back to the work force. I met “Tim”, as he prefers to be called, while he was a guest speaker at the CPP program in Somerville. He believes that the stereotypes about mental illness are “changing.”
He consistently advocates for the allocation of funds for the CPP program.
Today, even in the midst of stigma and cuts in funding, there are still opportunities in the form of programs designed to promote acceptable levels of self-sufficiency, dignity and self-respect. I asked Tim about his opinion on the “funding crisis” in human services, to which he responded and I quote: “Funding for human services has improved over the dark days of 1998-2004.
At the Department of Mental Health the bleeding has stopped and progress is being made on helping more people.” He goes on to say that “CASCAP’S Consumer Provider Program has been, in my opinion, the best and most effective at helping men and women with psychiatric disabilities take back their lives and achieve independence.”
However, in spite of some successes, he is aware of the imminent need for more funding by stating that 13,000 adults are still waiting for case management and 3400 adults still wait for residential programs.
CASCAP’s CPP program, which is accredited by Bunker Hill Community College, is a one-year program with an intense curriculum that involves merging the theory and practice of human services. After successful completion, graduates will receive a Human Service Certificate and twenty-seven college credits from Bunker Hill and a Family Development Credential (FDC) Certificate from Tuffs University and job placement assistance.
The FDC program was originally designed by Cornell University. I am currently enrolled in this program, whose credits I intend to transfer to Umass Boston to complete my bachelor’s degree in Human Services.
So as you can see, the Mental Health System has evolved from the days of dehumanizing treatments to offering opportunities for advancements. Logically, this is exactly why we need adequate funding from the U.S. government.
A lot of us want to achieve relative self-sufficiency, so that we can get off social security and join mainstream society. I feel very fortunate that my mental health providers treat me with kindness and respect, thus allowing me the opportunity to flourish even in the face of adversity.
I was told by one of my providers that my recuperation from mental illness is mostly due to my being active in my community and that medicine only play a small role in my recovery.
Essentially, you do not have to accept treatment that you feel counteracts your own beliefs and values. Today, due to the mental health pioneers of the past, we have been blessed with some “choices.”
Many famous people, like Roseanne Arnold and Robin Williams, suffer from mental illness but are living fruitful lives and you can too.
Finally, with adequate funding of human service programs like CASCAP’s Consumer Provider Program, we will no longer be a burden to society, but valuable contributors to our community.