When the Crisis Centers Have a Crisis
Intermittent call to Duty
Despite what we might wish for when we finally retire, there are some jobs that have a way of calling it's former staff back, that leaves little room for refusal. I confess. In the past 12 years, I've allowed myself to be pulled back into the war zone, complete with the familiar rush of adrenaline, so much a part of the uniform. Don't let this shock you but Crisis Centers quite often experience a crisis of their own in the form of enormous influx of local traffic.This traffic coming in all doors of all community centers, at all hours of the day and night, while call-staff are screening incoming emergencies via our switch boards, by the minute. Quite quickly they see the need to send out their very own S.O.S. All staff, current, on-call and available retired personnel as well, are asked to respond. That latter group includes me.
Perhaps it's been a mere four or five times I've received the frantic call from my former MHMR Director of Community Services. I should have expected that call on Saturday morning, November 12th. 2016. The post-United-States-Presidential-Election-frenzy should have given me a less than subtle warning. Apparently I was too occupied with doing my best to ignore the idiocy and insanity, to remember, "Oh yes, that's right, this is what I did for a living for 30 years, (dealing with idiocy and insanity) of course they'll be calling me to jump in." I'm fully aware of my own responsibility for this since I never say, "No." Why wouldn't they call me?
Conveniently, either for the Center or for me, I live only minutes from our biggest and busiest satellite facility. I offered to let them redirect calls to me at my home so I could help with the heavy load of call-ins, but that wasn't what they had in mind for me. No, I didn't get away with making my simple offer sound helpful. The Director herself called me and requested I literally come in, as soon as possible. There was too much dread in her voice for me to even consider refusing. So, off I go to once again walk the familiar fields littered with land mines. It's really good that the armor we build around us in a span of 3 decades is forever indestructible. No refresher course needed in this line of work, I can swear to that.
One of this area's biggest & busiest, state of the art facilities
Not fond of Triage, but I am one of the best at it
When I let myself in through the Staff's entrance, one glance through the floor to ceiling glass wall leading to our reception room, told me they'd ask me to take over triage. And one look at our very exasperated intake clerk, reconfirmed my suspicion. She managed a weak smile as she literally shoved a clip board with forms and pencil at me. She also took a deep breath and mumbled to me to begin on the east side of the room.
The very first person I approached looked vaguely familiar to me although I simultaneously thought she was more than likely a total stranger to me. The introduction is simple, brief and it's immediately to the questions. Name, address, phone, Insurance info, as well as any and all the standard red tape none of us are strangers to, to say the least.
Then comes the extremely vital part, visible, audible & years of experience keen ability to screen. "Screen?" you ask. Yes, screening is the crux of Triage. We use our eyes, ears, intuition, education, training & repeated experiences to screen human beings and their immediate needs. For a veteran as myself, it's what we call, "cake," meaning quite simple. That's not at all true. If you do it right, carefully, within legal guidelines, it's complicated. I'm told I make it look easy, but no one knows the stress I squelch.
Triage means, I need to discern among these individuals draped throughout our waiting room, which of them is in the most mental, emotional pain, with as clear as possible an explanation for the onset of this pain and from whom or what it was introduced. It's also vital to determine whether or not its looks to be a police matter. In this latter case, I must use my handy little device that puts a call through immediately and directly to our police station, to which they respond without question, to be informed of the situation by me or an assistant upon their arrival. This all needs to be done as swiftly as possible without being clumsy or sloppy with pertinent information.
I should think at this point you have realized that Triage at a Crisis Center is the very same as it is in a Medical Emergency Room of any Hospital. You would be correct. The main difference for a Crisis Center is that the trauma is less physical, therefore less "visible," so to speak.
Needless to say, threatened suicides, alleged rape and/or serious physical injury (broken bones, bleeding, etc) are pushed quickly to the front of the line. Often it's necessary for a patient to be transferred to an alternate facility for medical attention before being seen by our staff.
Sorting it out on this particular day
So, as I met with these individuals one at a time, behind a wall, within a small cubby of privacy, I began to realize so many of the complaints presented had a very real connection to the anxiety, depression, anger and unrest seemingly caused by the public's violent reaction to the recent election for President in our country.
Many of them were related to this backlash of the election, however, there was a rape allegation that required immediate attention, a police report and an ambulance to the closest Hospital emergency to do the all important rape kit procedure. One of our staff counselors always accompanies an alleged rape victim to where ever she is taken and documents all activities, dialogue and treatments.
There was also an incredibly weak and pale, visibly shaken possible victim of domestic violence. Another Police matter as well as voluntary physical examination, before we could proceed with our intervention.
These two cases taken care of, I found myself in a cubby with the first young lady I'd approached when I arrived at the center. While I first had thought she looked familiar, her name and other info given, gave me no clear indication I may have seen her in the past. Just five minutes into her story, the light went on and I did in fact know this woman years ago. At that time, she was one of the minor children of a repeat client of ours. Her mother was not only a drug addict but a back-alley prostitute as well. I did lose count of the visits by that woman, either in severe withdrawal or having just been roughed up by some man in the streets. I also recalled the night I had to place an emergency call to CPS to request they immediately check on her three kids, more than likely, home alone and hungry. Of course these kids were subsequently removed from the home and placed in foster care.
A couple of years after I'd retired, I recall a former fellow-staff member calling to tell me that sadly, this addicted Mom had died from an overdose, never to have been reunited with her children. I remember my tears for those kids and the lump in the pit of my stomach. Some things, you just don't get used to.
This young lady I sat face to face with was the eldest of those kids so many years ago. These are the really tough parts of this job. They're the saddest and the most egregious realities we hope to never revisit. It happens. I'll never get used to this part because it's then that my own sense of denial likes to take over. You know the feeling. When you desperately don't want to believe it but you must. It's in your face and you do not have the privilege to look away. Let me tell you something as plainly and simply as I can, it sucks.
Her crisis this day was a complicated one. There's no need to get into all the details here. Suffice it say that her main issue involved a nasty, abusive landlord. Believe this or not folks, her landlord approached her in a drunken stupor that day to ask her who she voted for. Here's the insane part. He went into a rage, verbally attacked her and evicted her from her apartment, immediately, kids and all. He pad-locked her doors and there she was with 2 kids and no place to live at that moment.
I ask you, can we all spell C-R-A-Z-Y? Of course this was a crisis and one headed for the judge, but it was Saturday and nothing could be done until perhaps Monday morning. We made arrangements for this woman and her kids through the Red Cross, without whose cooperation, I don't know how the Crisis Centers would survive.
No need to ever feel alone.
Get a grip and act like an adult human being
By the time I had been at the Center over 6 hours, I was ready to call it a day. I announced my departure and told them if necessary they could forward a phone line to my home and I'd be glad to handle the overflow in incoming calls. They thanked me and off I went.
At this point, I'd like to address my readers. Or, to put it another way, I'm addressing my sane, intelligent, mature readers who maintain common sense and believe in community, family, humanity and country.
Any of you who do not meet these simple, basic qualifications~~well, you darlings just stew in your anger and have your childish tantrums over the recent elections or for that matter, over any little thing you care to gripe about. Make your snide remarks and throw all the insults about to whomever you choose. Have no respect for man, woman, child, young, elderly...just kick 'em around if it floats your toy boat. You're suddenly an expert on all the issues of our world, right? Wrong.
Put a real good show on as though you even know what you're talking about. Go ahead, try to tell others who are older, more experienced, more educated and well-read, that you have all the answers because you watch REALITY TV or listen to TALK RADIO. That's amusing. Just not amusing enough.
Continue please to feel rejected and neglected, so mistreated by the people around you. No one understands you. No one loves you. I can't imagine why, can you? Continue to express your disappointments....awww, poor baby, you're so disappointed? Who has the nerve to disappoint little important you?
You're "disappointed?" OK sweets, but trust this: You aren't nearly as disappointed as you are disappointing to others. You aren't a part of any solution, you're an enormous part of the problem. Pouting and being all worked up and oh-so-concerned....yeah, that does nothing positive. Not a damned thing.You actually have to shut your mouth and dry up your tears and take some corrective action that may be good for our country. Can you do that? I didn't think so. Bottom line? Shut up until you can come up with some successful plan to get America out of debt, erase terrorism, clean up the streets, something, anything besides shoot your ignorant mouth off about WHO is and is not good enough to run things. One thing's for sure~ we know that you can't run your own damned simple life. How do you think you'll run an entire country? I thought so. Like I said, Shut up.
Suggestion: get a grip on reality, create your own uplifting environment, try behaving like an adult. Stop spewing your ignorance & hatred. It stinks to high heaven. If you thought you were alone and lonely and secluded from society before...".you ain't seen nothin yet." Only you believe you are right. Take a look. Everyone else believes they're right. Hey, that's the way it goes. It's called life and freedom of choice. Who the hell are you to point at anyone? How dare people be self-absorbed to the degree where they feel it's OK to cause strife and chaos for others. Releasing frustration by kicking or knocking someone else, well, believe it or not, causes more crisis all around.
One more thing. I'm as exhausted and as overwhelmed as anyone else is right about now. I'm also feeling re-energized and hopeful. I'm happy to be alive, to be healthy and have a home... to have a loving family and a close circle of friends and most of all, I'm proud and happy to be an American. I will protect my rights and privileges as an American just as feverishly as we are all entitled to. Take care of your own and by the way, watch your step where mine are concerned. What you don't get to do is bring pain or heartache into the lives of innocent bystanders.
In all fairness, I'm compelled to add a slight warning. I dare any one of you bitter jerks, fools, vandals and violators to come at me with your crap. Oh yes, please....go for it. I am ready for you.
To all my friends and loved ones...Have a wonderful evening! I LOVE you all.
To the rest of you. Keep rioting, beating people in the streets, starting fires and looting.. It's all you know., I'll be waiting at the Crisis Center to patch you off to the police. Display all the tantrums you must, while you're still free to do so.