We started by building an 8′ X 2′ box in our three-season room, and (with help of good persons at Growing Power and some worms) grew, with mixed results, salad greens and seedlings for the first summer’s garden. As the seasons change, our focus shifts back and forth between the sun-room and its evolving Growing Power Home Garden Project Box, and our Growing Power backyard garden, where we use the rich soil, worm castings and worms from the indoor box outdoors. Same system yet different.
Digging in the earth can uncover all kinds of things, and so can digging deep in ourselves. In my online journal, I have been recording daily reflections on the progress of our efforts in adapting the Growing Power model to our home and garden, mixed with my observations about life, peace, justice, faith, family, community and friends. Enjoy. Thank you! — Bob Graf
Today’s headline in the newspaper reads “Racial disparity in infant mortality rates widen.” The article goes on to point out that African American babies died at a rate that was 3.2 times that of White babies in 2015. The medical director and chief medical officer at the Milwaukee says preterm birth is responsible for about 60% of infant deaths. , said Geoffrey Swain, medical director and chief medical officer at the Milwaukee Health Department and a professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He goes on to say: “Stress experienced over the course of a mother’s life — chronic stress caused by such things as poverty, violence, racism, food insecurity, housing insecurity, undiagnosed health problems, pollution and unemployment — is a key cause of prematurity.”
It hit me that the main cause of high infant mortality of black babies is the same cause of many of Milwaukee’s problem with homicides, violence, poverty, high incarceration of black males, education and housing. While Milwaukee seeks quick fixes, like Pack N Plays for babies to sleep in to avoid death in co-sleeping with adult, the city avoids dealing with long term solutions, changing the environment the young mothers live in, creating a less stressful environment where things like food and housing insecurity, are not of great concern.
Recently, there have been a rash of youth carjacking cars. The City’s response is to increase policing and for Criminal Justice system to be tougher on these youth. Again the environment these youth live in, one of hopelessness, poverty, poor education, food and housing insecurity, lack of recreational activities, high unemployment is not considered.
Study after Study have demonstrated the way to lessen people incarcerated, homicide and crime rate as well as infant mortality rate is by dealing with the underlying causes, poverty, education, employment, lack of affordable housing, Yet we seek short term solutions, food pantries, more police, homeless shelters while avoiding the long term answers creating housing equality, restoring cuts in education, replacing lead lateral water pipes.
If all the money used for short term solutions, jailing persons with mental illnesses, providing Pack N Plays, extra policing, prisons was used to create an healthy and safer environment for all people the city would be a healthier, less stressful for children to be born and live it.
Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker says our job is to build a “society where it is easier for people to be good. Yes, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind. The infant mortality gap between black and white can be changed by creating an environment for black woman like that of white woman
Sign in Urgent Care Center
For years I have waged a personal campaign to not call people with mental illnesses ‘mentally ill’ as we would not call people with cancer ‘cancerous’. I was trying to say: “do not identify a person as an illness.” But now I realize that the real problem was not with labeling people as mentally ill but with the word ‘mental’ itself. How is a mental illness different from any physical illness? Mental implies that the illness is of the mind, whatever that means, but not of the body or brain, like Alzheimer’s or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
On a recent Sunday in Church the chairman of Milwaukee County Mental Health Committee prayed for people with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues. I realized that by calling the illness ‘mental’ we are putting it into the same category as alcoholism. A local church based community organization deals with mental illness in its Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) Treatment committee. I understand that medical books treat mental illness in the same category as alcohol and drug abuse illnesses. I am not saying that drug and alcohol addictions are not physical and mental illnesses. They are, but mental illnesses are not ‘addictions’ and cannot be resolved with programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
My deceased son really could not identify with having a mental illness. I tried calling it a ‘brain illness but was contradicted by mental health workers. When we heard about PTSD he could really identify with this diagnosis. He even recalled a serious car accident in which he was involved with in college that was a turning point in his life.
Once at a NAMI meeting a doctor described mental illnesses as illnesses which people have genetic predispositions for, but which are usually set off by some traumatic event. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event. These events can include: “Natural disasters, Car crashes, Sexual or physical assaults, Terrorist attacks or Combat during wartime”. Our son was very creative, a true artist, and he might have triggered his genetically predisposed brain illness from the car accident or by some other traumatic experiences.
My son self-medicated with alcohol. I remember a mental health ‘case worker’ telling me that people with mental illnesses are like alcoholics and needed to hit bottom before they could accept treatment. At the time I did not know much about the brain but I did not believe him. Once, after going through an alcohol treatment program and ready to deal with his brain illness, the mental health clinic insisted he go to another alcohol rehabilitation program. I was upset at the agency but my son went along with the agency’s recommendation. However, when not drinking and still not showing further results, he was put into another forced living situation — one not of his choosing. Later, after he went back to drinking and his roommate tried to hurt him, he was allowed to live with family. Eventually, when he did not have the ‘desirable outcomes’ for the agency and its funding, he was dropped, even though he had been with the agency for 15 years. Under a commitment order he was then sent to yet another agency where he became just a number with little or no personal, compassionate care. He remained there for less than a year when he committed suicide by taking an overdose of his prescription medicine with alcohol.
Public television had an excellent series on the brain a few years ago. When they got to ‘brain illnesses’, like schizophrenia and bipolar conditions, they talked about the physical impact of these illnesses in the brain. Two professionals on the show talked of how they had gotten control of their brain illnesses by the judicial use of medicine along with therapy. The host stated how therapeutic that combination was and all persons should have access to both, concurrently. However, a doctor on the show pointed out how this was nearly impossible for most persons because medical treatment was often handled by ‘mental health agencies’ giving out medicine; but, most insurance programs only allowed a brief doctor’s appointment every three months. Many agencies do not have professional therapists on staff; and a therapist one might have, is often not connected to the medical treatment that person is receiving. Mental Health agencies often separate physical medical treatment from therapy, even though the combination serves a person best. Therapy sessions are proven to cause positive physical changes in the brain but ‘case workers’ are not therapists or medical personnel.
A doctor once told me — if your son was suffering from a car accident or heart attack would you not take him to an emergency room of a hospital, with or without his consent; or to a clinic with only caseworkers to care for him. A person suffering a ‘mental illness’ should be treated the same way. Hospitals have slowly rid themselves of ‘psychiatric beds’ so they do not have to take in people suffering from mental health crises.
A friend of mine, a certified ‘peer specialist’ for persons with mental illnesses, also has a mental illness. I asked her what she called her illness. She told me she describes it as a ‘neurological condition or disorder’. She found that people looked at her with more understanding than if she called it a ‘mental illness’. I read recently how the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) was now calling these illnesses ‘mental health conditions’ since young adults have difficulty associating with the term ‘mental illness’.
If we call what we now call ‘mental illness’ a ‘neurological condition’ instead, it will also squarely put these illnesses under ‘medical health conditions’. If a person with a ‘neurological disorder’ crisis goes to the ER of a hospital that person will be treated as any other patient. If health clinics which we now call ‘mental health clinics’ were clinics for neurological disorders, these clinics would have medical doctors and therapists for treatment. Hospitals are required to treat people with brain illnesses and brain injuries. This switch from ‘mental illness’ to ‘brain illness’ might cut out some mental health organizations and their funding, as well as many ‘case and social workers’. But brain illnesses would then not be treated in the criminal justice system as they are now, when they are called mental illnesses. Also, treating a person with a health crisis as having a neurological condition would insure proper treatment at the first psychiatric episode and save in the long run money society spends on the revolving door of mental illness, especially in the criminal justice system. And, it would free up money for more doctors and more therapists to treat these disorders or conditions as they should be treated, as medical issues requiring medical and therapeutic components in a competent and compassionate manner.
At a recent visit to an Urgent Care Center I found this sign, to the left, on the wall: “IF YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR ARE IN LABOR, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO RECEIVE ……..An appropriate MEDICAL SCREENING EXAMINATION…. Necessary STABILIZING TREATMENT…..an appropriate TRANSFER to another facility…”
If this is accurate, all we need do is drop the ‘mental of mental illness’ and replace it with ‘neurological illness or disorder’ and we can finally treat persons with these medical conditions like they should be treated.
Workers replace an old lead pipe
with a new safer copper pipe at a
home in Flint, Michigan, March 4, 2016.
Saturday morning I attended the Community Brainstorming Conference with Ms. Lucille Berrien, 88 year old civil rights leader in Milwaukee. The Community Brainstorming featured the city clerk for City Council and Mr. Ashanti Hamilton, the President of the City Council of Milwaukee. In the question and answer period I asked Mr. Hamilton what the City Council was doing about this serious health problem of lead in the water of 70,000 homes with lead lateral pipes in city of Milwaukee. He did not really answer the questions but made reference to a report saying lead levels of children in Milwaukee was lower in recent years. I came home and wrote this letter.
Dear Mr. Hamilton,
You made the statement this morning at the Community Brainstorming Conference (CBC) session that lead poisoning in Milwaukee children has decreased in recent years. Could you please send me a copy of this study? The Wisconsin Watch Report of Jan. 2016 states:
The percentage of lead-poisoned children among those tested in Wisconsin — 4.5 percent — is similar to the 4.9 percent of children diagnosed in 2015 in the Flint region, where state and federal officials have declared a state of emergency over the spike in lead in drinking water and children’s blood.
‘’In Milwaukee, the percentage is even higher: 8.6 percent of children tested in 2014 had blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which children are known to suffer health problems, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
(See also Lead pipes, antiquated law threaten Wisconsin’s drinking water quality a Feb. 2016 report of Wisconsin Watch.org)’‘
You probably received these reports but ignored them. Please send me the report you referenced at CBC.
Also you made it sound like lead poisoning was discovered last January, when in fact the City of Milwaukee put a ban on replacing water mains in areas where the new main pipes would disrupt the lead lateral pipes. Many of us might have learned of danger of lead at that time but city officials have known about the dangers of lead pipes in children and infants since at least 2001, when Madison undertook a successful comprehensive plan to eradicate lead laterals in that city.
The dangers of lead poisoning in children has been well documented. Here is one report that is footnoted in a report that I wrote a while back about the intense danger to Milwaukee children from lead poisoning. Another recent report by a professor from Harvard, on the link between lead water pipes and homicide rates in cities, strengthens the case to rid our city, over 70,000 homes, mostly in North Central and South Central Milwaukee, from lead pipes.
Mayor Barrett and the Common Council have known about this lead poisoning for a long time and have not developed a strategic and comprehensive plan to deal with it. More talk and study while spending millions on a downtown streetcar and new sports arena is not the answer. I can give you specific examples where the Common Council has discussed the issue of lead laterals but failed to come up with a strategic plan to rid Milwaukee of Lead Lateral pipes.
The City of Milwaukee’s Water Department, Milwaukee Water Works, is very profitable. Since it is a non-profit it does not need to pay taxes but in lieu of taxes gives the City of Milwaukee a significant amount of money each year. The City of Waukesha is getting approval from the Great Lakes Compact to get water and return water from Great Lakes. They will be purchasing millions of dollars of water from Oak Creek since Milwaukee said no to City of Waukesha, even with the approval of 8 states and 2 Canadian provinces to the request. Our city water bills were raised to pay for new main water pipelines that are now on hold. With millions earned or being spent on downtown streetcars and sports arena it is not a matter of money while we have lead poisoning for our children. It is a matter of moral priority.
I live in one of 70, 000 homes with lead laterals. I had my water tested and found out it had a low level of lead for adults. But when I checked on safe levels of lead for children I found this: “EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.” (EPA reporton Lead in Drinking water)
I came this morning looking for understanding of this great moral and health issue in Milwaukee. Both my parents grew up in Milwaukee, as well as I, in older homes with lead pipes. Maybe I can blame lead in my brain for my disruptive behavior this morning; but I know better. The same old talk and study, running water or filters will not solve this problem. I came looking for a commitment from the Common Council President to develop a comprehensive plan to rid this plague from our children. I still have hope but a little less in the Common Council.
March on the Pentagon, 1967
An Easy Essay In spirit of Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement
From the history of the 60′s
The “powers that be”
Leaned how to manipulate
People like you and me.
“Do not react to people seeking justice.”
“Placate them and if does not work
Attack the person not the message.”
“And if that does not work,
Completely ignore the person and message.”
We the people did not learn from the history of the sixties
We forgot that real social change
Comes from direct nonviolent action
Of the people for the people and by the people.
Now people think that signing a petition
Or voting for someone fixed by powers that be
Is doing something
We are a generation suffering from TMI, Too Much Information
And the gatekeepers are the “Powers that be”
They keep us busy and dizzy
With so much stuff
That we forget that unless we work together
We are just spinning our wheels,
Going in circles getting nowhere,
Just like the powers that be want us to be.
The search for truth has become
“That is your opinion and I have my opinion”.
“Do your thing and I will do mine.”
Diversity leads to more diversity not unity.
We are kept divided not united
And the ‘powers that be’
Laugh all the way to the bank.
In my perennial garden I can count of particular flowers coming at certain time of spring, summer or fall. As the daffodils fade the tulips are in full bloom. One of my neighbors across the street planted a whole bunch of tulip bulbs between sidewalk and street when our street was being reconstructed last fall. Now there is an abundance of tulips that will come back year after year. Tulips and other perennial flowers, with a little care come up every year.
A friend called the other day, someone I had not talked to or seen for a long time. Although she struggles personally and for social justice she always seems hopeful and optimistic. She is a forever tulip.
Today while taking a friend to see a doctor in a clinic I was this quote on the wall. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) This bible quote also reminds me of tulips. Faith like tulips is something we hope for and gives us a glimpse into the spiritual life as tulips give us a glimpse of the beauty of nature.
So once we plant tulips bulbs they bloom year after year, forever. Once we make a good friend the friend is a friend forever. Once our faith grows it is forever. Tulips, friends and faith are forever.
The Dade Correctional Institution’s
Transitional Care Unit,
This afternoon I attended a Community Justice Council Mental Health Committee Meeting. It was announced that a Judge from the Miami-Dade Criminal Health Project, a model program to keep persons with mental illnesses out of jail and prison was speaking in Milwaukee next month. I came home and read a New Yorker magazine article on Madness subtitled: “In Florida prisons, mentally ill inmates have been tortured, driven to suicide, and killed by guards.” The prison in the article is the Dade Correctional Institute in Dade County Florida. There is probably some logical explanation to this contradiction of how Dade is a model and madness but I will let you figure it out. It is the Featured Article of the month.
Yesterday I spent two hours at Milwaukee County Justice Council meeting hearing about a 2 million dollar grant to keep persons with mental illness out of jail. Today I went to a three and half hour meeting of the County Mental Board talking how to budget money for the County Mental Health system. The boards are not connected and the Director of Mental Health for the County was at neither one. Also there was no talk in the five and half hours of the two meetings about medical treatment of persons with mental illnesses. The Medical Board meeting today mentioned that no local hospital was willing to run a hospital for “persons danger to self and others” replacing the Mental Health Complex. However, it was mentioned that there were three outside for profit health organization interested in taking the money for a new limited private facility. I got creative in the session today and wrote the first essay. After I got home I wrote the other ones. Here they are. You might learn about the state of mental health treatment in Milwaukee County in these easy essays than I did in the two meetings.
Money or Baloney
Money or baloney
No matter what
The local hospitals say no
To medical treatment of ill
persons in a mental health crisis
But three outside for profit
Health businesses say yes
We will take your rejected sick
Feed them baloney
And make some money
We say people with mental illnesses
Are ill just like people with cancer.
Yet we call them ‘mentally ill”.
Are people with cancer ‘cancerous’?
Certainly not, we say
People with cancer are not their illness
And their illness should not identify them.
And we go on calling people mental illnesses ‘mentally ill.”
Board Talk and No Medical Treatment
At the Community Justice Council Board yesterday
The talk was about using a new million dollar grant
To reduce the number of persons with mental illnesses
Going to jail.
Criminal Justice imitative were explored
But no medical treatment for those ill and jailed.
At the County Mental Health Board meeting today,
(No connection with the Community Justice meeting)
The talk was about spending money
To privatize the county mental health system
Privatizing mental health treatment
But no medical treatment for the ill was discussed.
Sending Our Ill to jail
With all the money, and time spent
To study and PR the Mental Health System
And with all the endless talk,
Ill persons are being sent to jail
With mental illness as their ‘crime’.
Milwaukee, when we will Stop
Sending Our Ill to Jail.
Rejection of Poor at SVDP store
When we visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN last year I was struck by the exhibits of African American civil rights resistance which started soon after the first slave ships arrived from Africa and mostly ended after the assassination of Martin Luther King.
Overt acts of racism are rare but discrimination against poor Blacks and Latinos/as continues in the New Jim Crow. A small group of us were picketing on the sidewalk in front of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store on April 23, 2016 in the predominately white suburb of Greenfield.
The mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is for lay volunteers to make person to person visits to people in need and help them gain basic needs like clothing, household items, stoves and refrigerators. The mission of a St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) thrift store is to assist members of SVDP with vouchers to buy these basic items and to offer low income persons, like the segregated people in North Central Milwaukee, a place to shop for low cost items. However, the local staff and board in Milwaukee have spent, raised and loaned 10.5 million dollars from 2013–2015 with only $250, 000 going to serve the needs of the poor by members. A large sum of the 10.5 million had gone to purchase, renovate and operate a SVDP thrift store, not where people needed it but, in the far south middle class suburb of Greenfield. The picket was asking for the Staff and Board members in Milwaukee to“Show Us the Money’ that the Society rules claimed “belongs to the poor” but was not used for the poor.
At the Grand Opening of the new Greenfield store last summer we were made aware that there was No Room for Poor in the new store when we, after the grand opening ceremony, were made to leave the parking lot and store by the Greenfield police. After this picket last Saturday, three of us: Ms. Lucille Berrien, 88 year old civil rights activist, Pastor Shelia Williams from the central city and myself decided to check out the inside of the thrift store. We entered and were welcomed. Ms. Lucille exchanged her walker for a shopping cart to get around the store. Suddenly, the store manager appeared and came up to us and said we had to leave the store immediately. When we asked why she made reference to a sign on the door which said people who protest in the store or parking lot were not welcome. We pointed out that our Show Us the Money Picket was a legal one on the sidewalk not on the store property. Her response
Banning sign on SVDP Greenfield store
was to have an employee call the police who were in the parking lot. About four police came rushing in and said we had to leave and threatened us with arrest. When we asked the police what law we were violating they said ‘trespassing’, the owner of the store wanted us to leave. We pointed out that in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul “all money belongs to the poor” and the manager was not the owner. It did not matter and they started to push us out of the store. Not prepared to get arrested for attempting to shop in the store, we decided to leave. Outside the police said I could get my car and pull it up to the store since Ms. Lucille would not have to walk so far. When I pulled up with the car our friend Amada came walking into the store with her mother, Berta, her infant son and two other children. Berta, a Mexican-American knows Ms. Lucille from the civil rights movement. They embraced each other and the store manager told the police that they also were not allowed in the store. There was no good reason for this action and I, the only white person, started to again argue with the police who kept saying the owner wanted all of us removed from the property. I kept quoting the manual of the Society that “all money belonged to the poor” which was the purpose of our picket.
A small group of persons, mostly white suburbanites, have taken over the Milwaukee SVDP and are investing millions in this suburban store that, instead of making money for the poor, is wasting money belonging to the poor. Our group, called Power to the Poor, is a small group of Blacks, Hispanics and Whites trying to restore the Society to its true mission to serve persons in need. In the Jim Crow of the South some business decided not to serve blacks at lunch counters with whites. In the segregated south blacks sat in at the white lunch counters until they won their civil rights. In the New Jim Crow of the North, some middle class white persons have decided that they know what is best for the poor by creating a store for suburban whites. Last Saturday in segregated Milwaukee County a small group of Blacks and Hispanics try to enter a thrift store that took “money belonging to the poor” and used it to offer thrift items for middle class whites. We were denied but we have discovered the new lunch counter of the North. We will be back!
Today’s newpaper’s headline was about how downtown Milwaukee’s underused Grand Avenue Mall hopes to attract a grocery store. The new owners of the Mall reported this was the major request at a meeting with downtown residents, mostly ‘millennials’, young adults born from 1981 through 1996. I found this interesting since there is the “Public Market”, a major food destination downtown. Also I have come to understand that when the word ‘millennials’ is used to describe young adults living and working downtown it actually means white upper middle class young adults. Few, if any, low income Black and Hispanic young adults are considered ‘millennials’ and live downtown.
Downtown white ‘Millennials’ have cars to get out to grocery stores in the surrounding neighborhoods and soon will have their own trolley line to get around downtown from home to work to shop and to entertainment. Residents of North Central Milwaukee live in what is considered a ‘food desert’, a lack of major food stores and many do not have cars.
So the lesson to be learned seems to be that in Milwaukee if you are white, hungry and have money and transportation there will be many places to shop and eat. If you are black, hungry and have little money or transportation you will not have many places to shop and eat. White downtown ‘millennials’ will get their grocery store and urban blacks will not.
The grave of Cornelius Hawkins, one
of 272 slaves sold by the Jesuits in
1838 to help keep what is now
Georgetown University afloat.
A New York Times Article how Jesuits at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. sold 272 Slaves for money to pay off Georgetown debts and keep it alive. In today’s culture selling slaves for money for to save a Catholic University seems unthinkable but in those days the Catholic Church allowed slavery and the Jesuits morally justified owning and profiting from slavery.
This story reminded me of our struggle here at the local Catholic University, Marquette, to “Be Faithful to the Gospel, and No Longer Host Departments of Military Science”, (ROTC). The Department of Defense contracts with Marquette University to host training of military offices. For example the Department of the Army openly admits that it teaches students at Georgetown and Marquette how to wage War and Killing, reflexive killing, killing without conscience.
Why does Marquette and Georgetown teach and justify war and killing, contrary to Gospel and Catholic moral values. An elderly Jesuit friend used to tell us it was for the money, the same reason Georgetown sold slaves. I was hesitant to believe this reason but why investigating the military at Marquette I discovered the contracts with the Department of Defense (DoD) does provides teachers and money to Marquette. A friend and myself one day after a protest found ourselves in conversation with the Provost of Marquette. We asked him if he would reveal the military contacts with Marquette. With a smile on his face he said “over my dead body.” Years later I met the provost, who had returned to teaching as a professor at the school, at the Marquette Library. I asked him if he could now tell us about the DoD contracts. He admitted that the military contacts were so secretive that even he, at Provost, does not remember seeing them.
Georgetown University in 1838 justified owning slaves and selling 272 slaves of all ages for money to help the it prosper and Marquette and Georgetown Universities contract with DoD for money to training young men and woman and how to wage war and kill without conscience. Slavery and killing without conscience are immoral but for money is justified.
Artist rendering of new
Buck’s area. Reminds me of
a cutaway of lead pipe.
Wait a minute! Good Deal or Bad Deal for Bucks area.
Did you hear the good news that a 30 years lease for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team area was signed?
Wait a minute! Who signed the lease for public with Buck owners?
The State Legislature gave Scot Neitzel, state Department of Administration secretary sole power to sign the agreement for public.
The Bucks owners, Wall Street investors, are spending 175 million on the new Buck’s arena.
Wait a minute! How much is the public spending on the arena?
The public, taxpayers, are spending $250 million dollars on area.
Wait a minute! What other expenses is public occurring?
The public will occur hundreds of million dollars on interest. The County sold the downtown land for a $1 and there are infrastructure cost.
The Bucks will pay 1 million dollars a year for rent.
Wait a minute! Who will control the revenue from the arena?
The Bucks will control all revenue from the arena, except for events operated by the district. The teams revenue will include the arena’s naming rights, hosting Marquette University basketball games, concerts and other events.
Along with the 524 million spent on the area the project $500 million in privately financed downtown commercial development, according the Bucks’
Wait a minute! Who will benefit from this investment?
It will be good for those visitors and those living in the newly developed downtown area. The Mayor says the city wants to attract the “Millennials”, that hot market of young adults.
Wait a minute! In all the new real estate development in downtown has there been any affordable housing for low income residents and are there any ‘black Millennials.
The development has been for the wealthy and black young adults, especially low income ones, are not in the Millennials group the Mayor and young adults are talking about.
Wait a minute! The Buck’s deal sounds like bad news to people.
My son committed suicide in 2010. When my son was alive I became aware of how we stigmatize persons with mental health illnesses in Milwaukee and often send them to jail when they are sick. I decided to take a look at how we treat persons with brain illnesses, like schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, today. Except for my son’s name, I have changed names to protect privacy but all the experiences below are true. The information about the present Milwaukee County mental health system comes from interviews with police and mental health professionals.
On a cold winter night in 1998 I was awakened by a phone call from Cathy, a friend of my son’s. My son, Peter, in a mental health crisis, was banging down the door of Cathy’s house. Cathy had helped Peter when he was struggling with his illness, but since my son stopped taking his medication, she had to back off. Cathy had called the police begging them to take Peter to the County Mental Health complex where he had been committed before. The police officer came and told her they could only arrest my son for disorderly conduct. She called me in the middle of the night so I could talk with the police officer about my son’s history of illness. I did, but he just repeated to me that he needed to arrest my son and put him in the county jail. I did not realize at the time that meant solitary confinement in a padded cell with nothing to do except get sicker. When I bailed out my son he was very angry and swore he would never go back to county jail. His greatest fear became being sent to jail again.
I became more aware of the horrendous situation of jailing persons with mental illness years later when, Sam, a friend of my son, who also had a mental illness diagnosis, called me crying to help him get out of these same isolation cells. Sam had been in a domestic quarrel with his girlfriend when someone had called the police. Since his girlfriend would not press charges the police put him in a holding cell at the police precinct until they claimed he broke something in his cell, arrested him on disorderly conduct charges and put him in the county jail isolation cell. It was a week after his arrest Sam, suffering a mental health crisis, that he was able to make this phone call to me.
During the years of 1995 – 2010 I watched as treatment at the County Mental Health Complex deteriorated due to cuts by three County Executives. This included among other things the loss of certification of the complex, reduction in staff and psychiatric beds, loss of the Froedtert\ Medical College unit and more. In fact, in one of my son’s commitments to the Mental Health Complex he was in the Froedtert\ Medical College unit. The doctor there really treated my son and us with respect. In our visit, when my son was leaving the complex, the doctor said that if Peter was ever brought there again she was going to try some new medicine that she thought would work. Peter was sent back there again but she and the Froedtert unit were gone and, as usual, there was no record of his past treatments.
The conditions at the Mental Health Complex due to lack of county funding and staffing have grown so bad that a few years ago the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper wrote a series on the dreadful conditions. Instead of improving the conditions the present County Executive has plans to close the Mental Health Complex and privatize services to persons in crisis with mental illnesses.
Now in 2016 the Milwaukee police are finally receiving Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), to learn how to better deal with persons in a mental health crisis. This training was started in 2006 but became mandatory for all police officers in 2015. Also, now there is a special unit in the County Jail and House of Corrections for a limited number of persons suffering serious mental health illnesses. There are 19 beds for the seriously ill in this unit and they are constantly full. The average stay in jail for a person with mental illness, for a variety of reasons, is about four times the length of others in jail. One or two persons ill persons a day are sent to the County jail from the County Mental Health Complex but is difficult, if not impossible, to send an ill person in county jail to the Mental Health Complex, even when a person judged to be dangerous to self and others is released by the courts. The county jail units are run by a private company whose role is to provide more humane jail conditions but not to run a treatment center.
No matter how well trained, police are limited as to where they can take a person in mental health crisis. If an ill person voluntarily seeks treatment, something rare with mental illnesses, and has not broken a law, the person can be taken by police to any hospital that has a psychiatric unit. But the large hospitals serving the city of Milwaukee such as Aurora Mt. Sanai, St. Luke’s, St. Joseph’s, and Fretter in Wauwatosa no longer have psychiatric units and thus the police cannot take an ill person to any of these facilities. There are only about 30 psychiatric beds in the two hospitals in the city of Milwaukee with psychiatric units. As distress, poverty, segregation, unemployment, violence, homicides and incarceration, all triggers for persons genetically predisposed to mental health illnesses increase in Milwaukee the numbers of beds for psychiatric treatment have decreased and thus more people are being jailed.
If a person suffering from a mental health crisis does not volunteer for treatment, he or she must be taken to the Mental Health Complex in Wauwatosa which has been reduced over the years to around 48 beds presently. If an ill person is judged not to meet the strict definition of Chapter 51 of the State “being a danger to self and others” he or she is released to the street or sent to County Jail if he or she has a ‘police hold’. If judged “danger to self or others” they can be committed to the complex or sent to other contracted facilities, like Rogers in Brown Deer or Aurora Psychiatric in Wauwatosa, depending on insurance and voluntary agreement. At these facilities the patient waits for a court hearing or is calmed down and released.
If a person in a mental health crisis commits a crime, like trespassing or disorderly
conduct he or she is taken to county jail or, if dangerous to self and others, a hold is placed on them at the Mental Health Complex.
Back in the 80’s there was a sudden increase in homelessness. Why the increase? Because there was a significant move during the eighties to deinstitutionalize persons with mental illnesses. It had become too easy to commit a person. The move at the time was toward community treatment. It sounded good but there was not enough money for community care and often persons with mental illnesses, like other illnesses, needed time in hospitals or treatment centers before returning to the community. I discovered that nearly fifty percent of homeless persons had mental health illnesses. Now Milwaukee County government is using community treatment to justify privatizing the handling of persons with brain illnesses. Would we take a person seriously ill with cancer to a community clinic rather than a hospital?
It has become harder and harder for families to get care for someone with a serious mental illness. In 1994, while we were living in Madison, our son Peter became seriously ill and refused treatment. We went to a psychiatrist to ask him what to do. He said that if it were his son with a mental health crisis he would seek to place his son in a hospital which in our case would mean a three party commitment. We did this and committed Peter for the first time at Mendota State Hospital. Shortly after Peter’s commitment expired he disappeared from Madison. Rumor had it that he had gone to New Orleans or Texas. We moved back to Milwaukee in 1995 and were glad when Peter was found in a mental health facility in Texas, where a kind public defender had arranged him to be placed from jail. We were able to move him back to Milwaukee.
From 1995 to his death in 2010 Peter was committed to the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex by police, community agencies and my wife and I six times. Often I sat in the Mental Health Court waiting area with police and other family members of persons with brain diseases. I saw police and family members frustrated when someone from the complex would come out to tell them there had been a stipulation with the ill person who was then released. Once, when a very understanding police officer had taken Peter to the Mental Health Complex under an emergency detention, the secretary of the Milwaukee Corporation Counsel office called off the hearing and my son was released much to dismay of the Officer, the agency serving Peter at the time and us. Even when he was committed by court order the goal of treatment seemed to be to release Peter as soon as possible. The hospital staff, for the most part, was very understanding but they were understaffed and there was very little follow-up from previous commitments.
Once when the doctor said he had no response from a particular medicine I told him and the staff about the great skills my son possessed “cheeking” the medication. Peter done this at previous visits to the Complex but it had not been recorded. One of our greatest frustrations as family members was with the County Corporation Counsel office whose job was to pursue the case on behalf of County. I had become a skilled advocate and knew how to pressure the Corporation Counsel to do its job. Once when we were in the waiting room of the Corporation Council office I saw a mother and some family members waiting to pursue a commitment of a young man. In the little time we had together I tried to school them in how aggressive they would have to be to get their loved one help. However, I feared that their concern for this young man would be trumped by the Corporation Counsel’s goal to dismiss cases.
Friends of ours have a son, Adam, who was very ill but they were afraid to call the police since they feared he would be harmed by police or thrown in jail. After numerous trips to the Mental Health Complex they were able to get him there under an emergency detention. When they were waiting for the commitment hearing I tried to prepare them. However, he was sent to one of the subcontractors of the Mental Health Complex and was released with no stipulation before any hearing was held.
When I smashed my finger recently I drove myself to the ER of St. Joseph’s Hospital, the only hospital available in Milwaukee’s North Central neighborhood, the most segregated, distressed and impoverished area of Milwaukee. As I sat there waiting for medical attention I saw all kinds of persons including sick children with their mothers, elderly people in wheel chairs and persons who had suffered an accident like me. I thought if I were there for any medical emergency except mental illness I would be treated and hospitalized if necessary. However if I was ill with a mental illness, like schizophrenia, there would be no care for me in the hospital.
If a person suffers an emergency crisis like a heart attack, car accident, stroke or even being shot while committing a crime, police or emergency crews can take the person, voluntarily or not, to any ER, and he or she will be treated and remain in the hospital or treatment center until he or she could be released. There is one major exception to this system. Persons with mental illnesses and in medical crisis are not welcome at most hospitals. If they are low income persons they are likely to eventually end up in the County Jail, House of Corrections or State prisons. Jail and prisons have become our largest mental health facilities with over 35% of persons incarcerated having serious mental illnesses.
The mental health system in Milwaukee County has changed since 2010 but, sadly, we are still sending ill persons to jail and prison. Milwaukee, City and County, we can do better than this. We need to stop sending our ill to jail.
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Sadly the 10 principles of How to Get Elected in the USA applied to the local elections last night. I was hoping the election of the County Executive would be an exception to the rules voted yesterday. But the candidate that spent 4 million dollars easily beat my candidate that only spent a few hundred thousand dollars. There was some hope when our million dollar Mayor in his victory speech, winning his fourth four year term, mentioned doing something about lead lateral water pipes to 70, 000 homes in mostly black and Hispanic low income neighborhoods. Maybe now, after 12 years in office, he will do something about the lead poisoning of our children. We can only hope.
The Milwaukee Council of the St. Vincent de Paul Society has spent or loaned nearly 11 million dollars of “money belonging to the poor” in 2013–2015. The problem was that only $225,100 (about 2%) of the money was used for works that involve the personal service of Society members”, which is “works that involve the personal service of Society members”, like home visits. At least this is what the Rule and Manuel of the St. Vincent de Paul requires. Maybe our upcoming “Show Us the Money” picket will provide a glimpse into this injustice to the poor. At least, we can only hope.
1. Have the most money in campaign fund and PACs and Super PACs.
2. Run negative ads
3. Say what you need to say even it is not true or misrepresenting facts
4. Strike fear into populist
5. Repeat statements over and over again
6. If you need minority support get established minority leaders to endorse you
7. Get the most media coverage, paid or not, as possible.
8. Ignore attacks when you can , and when you cannot, attack the attackers relentlessly.
9. Always smile and seem to be peaceful.
10. Have the most money.
The Mental Health Board of Milwaukee County, a group charged to close down the County Mental Health Complex finally had a public hearing on persons ill in Milwaukee County with a brain or mental illness. People were allow three minutes to testify. After some of the people would testified the board would ask for copies of their statement. They did not do that for my statements but I decided to send it to them anywhere. Here is a slighted edited version of my testimony.
On a cold winter night in the winter of 1998 I was awaken by a phone call from a friend of my son. My son had stopped taking his medication and in a mental health crisis was banging down the door of his friend. The friend had called the police to take my son to the mental health complex where he had been before. The police came and told this person they could only arrest my son for disorderly conduct. She called me to talk with the police officer about my son’s history of illness. I did but he repeated to me that he needed to arrest my son and put him in the county jail. I did not realize at the time that meant solidarity confinement in a padded cell with nothing to do except get sicker. When I bailed my son out he was angry and swore he would never go back to jail. He did not.
My son committed suicide in 2010 with his greatest fear still being sent to jail.
During the years of 1995 – 2010 I saw the mental health complex deteriorating thanks to cuts by County Executives Ament and Walker, decertification of complex, loss of Froedtert Medical College unit and more. In fact, in one of my son’s commitments to the Mental Health Complex he was in the Froedtert Medical College unit. The doctor there really treated my son and us with respect. In our visit when he was existing, the Doctor said that if he was ever brought there again she was going to try some new medicine that she thought would work. He was sent back there but she and the Froedtert unit was gone and, as usual, there was no record of his past treatments.
Now in 2016 I am researching the mental health system for persons ill with mental health illness and find in part the following: Police are being trained in Crisis Intervention training how to better deal with persons in a mental health crisis and there is a special unit of County Jail and House Correction for a limited number of persons suffering a serious mental health crisis.
However, police are limited where they can take a person in mental health crisis and the jail is not a treatment center. If they are voluntary and have not broken a law they can be taken by police to any hospital that has a psychiatric unit. But the large hospitals in Milwaukee serving Milwaukee Aurora Mt. Sanai, St. Luke’s, St. Joseph’s, and Froedtert in Wauwatosa do not have psychiatric units and thus the ER will not serve them.
If they are suffering a crisis and involuntary they must be taken to Mental Health Complex which has been reduced over the years to 48 beds at present. If an ill person is judged not to meet the strict definition of Chapter 51 of “being a danger to self and others” they are released to the street or if they have a ‘police hold’ sent to County Jail. If a danger to self or others they can be committed to complex or sent to other contracted facilities, like Rogers in Brown Deer or Aurora Psychiatric in Wauwatosa, depending on insurance and agreement, to wait a court hearing.
As distress, poverty. Segregation, unemployment, violence, homicides and incarceration, all triggers for persons genetically predisposed to mental health illnesses, increase in Milwaukee the number of beds for psychiatric treatment have decreased and more are being jailed.
Now the County Executive is talking about privatizing crisis mental health services and using newspaper articles about the County’s failure to maintain a proper level of treatment to justify it. A person in an emergency crisis like a heart attack, car accident, stroke or even being shot while committing a crime, can be taken, voluntarily or not, to any ER, will be treated and remain in hospital or treatment center for recovery. Persons with a mental health illnesses are not welcome at most hospital. Most likely they will eventually end up in the County Jail, House of Corrections or State prisons. They are not health treatment facilities but house over 35% of persons with serious mental health illnesses. Stop jailing our ill in Milwaukee!
“I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me. “ (Matthew 25:40)
I have rightly been accused of writing or talking too much on various issues of peace and social justice. Some say I am passionate and some say I am obsessed. Either way I plead guilty. I have instilled in me to research statements and invite people into real dialog where there be a conflict of beliefs that often can be resolved on common search for the Truth. I do not believe “you have your opinion of truth and I have mine and let’s agree to disagree.” I believe there is a truth that we are seeking and something that is true cannot be half true and something that is false can also be a half-truth. But I would like to be a part of the new generation so here are some one or two liners of issues of peace and justice, some I have researched and some not.
The Milwaukee Central Office of St. Vincent de Paul says Vicentians “Made 4, 955 visits to homes, senior care centers and prisons. The St. Vincent de Paul Council in Milwaukee has no ministry to senior care centers and prisons.
Officials in Milwaukee have known for years that people, especially infants and children, in 70,000 homes are being poisoned by lead in water pipes but have no strategic plan to deal with it.
The downtown of Milwaukee is being developed with new housing units, business development, sports and entertainment, trolley lines to make it more attractive for ‘Millennials’. It should be white, fairly wealthy ‘Millennials’ not black, brown and low income ‘Millennials’.
Marquette University its Catholic Jesuit moral beliefs yet host training for Department of Defense, to train young men and woman in War and Killing.
City and County officials can take any person suffering an emergency, heart attack, stroke, car accident or being shot in commission of crime, with or without consent of person, to any ER of any hospital and they will be treated with one exception. The exception is a person suffering a major brain injury classified as a mental health crisis.
Millions and millions of dollars has been spent by Milwaukee City and County and private and community organization over the years to combat poverty, unemployment, violence and poor education in North and South Central Milwaukee yet these neighbors are become more impoverished and distressed, unemployment remains high, gaps in education between blacks and white is increasing, housing is deteriorating more vacant lots.
Today’s newspaper has a front page article articles about the killing in Brussels of 34 people by ‘Islamic extremists’ and a small ‘briefing’ article about the US Army General, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, apologizing, for the US bombing last year for 29 minutes and 211 shells on a hospital killing 42 innocent civilians.
Elsewhere on www.nonviolentcow.org you can find research and essays backing up these one liners. Just Search on top for probably more than you want to know.
Part 1 Poison in Milwaukee Water
The Flint Michigan water crisis has made us all aware of the lead in water poisoning in our children. However, are you aware that “4.9 percent of children diagnosed in 2015 in the Flint region, where state and federal officials have declared a state of emergency over the spike in lead in drinking water and children’s blood, had unacceptable levels of lead in their blood.”
However in Milwaukee “the percentage is even higher: 8.6 percent of children tested in 2014 had blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which children are known to suffer health problems, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
The high numbers of blood lead levels in both Milwaukee and Flint do not include infants till 1 year of age. “Infants who drink formula prepared with lead-contaminated water may be at a higher risk because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size.” Also the brain of an infant is more vulnerable t o the permanent brain damage caused by lead.
Mayor Tom Barrett and the City Council of Milwaukee have been aware for a long time that about 70, 000 homes, mostly in low income black and brown neighborhoods have lead lateral or service pipes from the main water pipeline into home.
City Water passing though these pipes is contaminated with lead poisoning. An attempt to help city and home owners to replace these lead pipes was passed by the City Council in 2011, over the veto of Mayor Barrett. However, the program was discontinued in 2013 by the Mayor Barrett appointed Department of Public Works Commissioner Ghassan Korban.
In January of this year the Mayor Barrett put “on pause” 5 miles of water main replacement projects scheduled this year in older residential neighborhoods where lead pipes connect municipal mains to around 500 homes.
The disturbance caused by water main replacement, “has been found to contaminate drinking water and present a public health risk especially to vulnerable populations such as young children, pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers,” according to Dr. Baker, long time City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner.
What about all the lead water pipes “disturbed” before January 2016? What about all the lead in water consumed by children and infants since birth?
In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article on January 27, 2016 Mayor Barrett said: “This is a statewide problem, and we believe we’ve brought this problem to the state’s attention.”
The City of Madison, also aware of the problem in lead pipes has taken another approach. Since 2001, the Madison water utility has worked with property owners to replace 8,000 lead laterals. While in Milwaukee there are still 70,000 homes with lead lateral pipes and nothing has been done by Mayor Barrett and the Common Council, yet the number of homes with lead lateral pipes in Madison is near zero.
Maybe after the April 5 election the Mayor and Common Council will be concerned by this crisis. However we the citizens of Milwaukee should demand from the Mayor and the Common Council, present or running, a commitment to eliminate this danger to our infants and children.
The next Mayor and Common Council needs to make our infants and children a priority over the downtown streetcar and the new sports arena downtown.
Part 2 Sending our ill to jail! Coming soon!
Milwaukee faces daunting costs with lead water pipes. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Dr. Baker’s letter to State
Lead taints drinking water in hundreds of schools, day cares across USA USA Today
Lead in drinking water poses danger for children, pregnant women Wisconsin Watch
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Hazard of Lead in Infant Formula The New England Journal of Medicine
Infants who drink formula prepared
with lead-contaminated water may be
at a higher risk because of the large
volume of water they consume relative
to their body size.
Here is a letter to the editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel regarding the lead poisoning in Milwaukee children crisis that the politicians and media are ignoring. Check Lead Poison in Children More Than Flint for more detail.
Milwaukee seems to have money for a downtown trolley and for a new sports complex downtown. Yet the City of Milwaukee has 70,000 homes, mostly in low income communities, with lead lateral pipes that bring water from the main into homes. Recently I learned 8.6 percent of children tested in 2014 in Milwaukee “had blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter”, the level at which children are known to suffer health problems, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services” In Flint Michigan a test of children in 2015 found that 4.9 percent of children had similar blood lead levels.
The Mayor and Common Council have known about this issue of lead in water to our children for a long time. Yet in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article on Jan. 27, 2016 the Mayor says that 5 miles of water main replacement is “on pause” while the public works and health officials plan how they will work with property owners to remove the lead service laterals throughout the city.
I have a suggestion: Mayor and Common Council put “on pause” the downtown trolley and city investment in the downtown sports complex. The health of our children is a priority over any trolley or building.
Black = 70,000 Older Residential Properties
with Lead-Pipe Laterals in Milwaukee
Yesterday morning, I attended a press conference on the “Looming Water Crisis in Milwaukee.” After a while one major local TV station showed up and near the end of the press conference another one arrived. When the speakers talked about the brain damage that lead causes I was not surprised. Neither was I surprised that the Mayor and City Council members have ignored doing something about lead pipes carrying water to homes.
Interest perked up when an alderman spoke about how 70,000 homes, mostly in black and brown neighborhoods in Milwaukee were affected. He told us that in 2011 he got the Common Council, over the veto of the Mayor, to support a program that would help homeowner pay for the replacement of lead pipes connecting the main line to their homes only to see the Mayor and water department cancel the program in 2013. When the water crisis in Milwaukee was compared to the one in Flint, Michigan I was very alert. It was explained how the Mayor and the majority of City Council members have committed millions of our taxpayer dollars to a downtown trolley line serving the wealthy white people moving there and also millions of our tax dollars to fund a sports complex downtown for a few Wall Street billionaires. However, they have postponed dealing with the lead in water crisis until after the election.
I was really disturbed after I got home and did some research about lead in children in Milwaukee as compared to lead in children in Flint, Michigan. A Wisconsin Watch study of Water in Wisconsin found that the percentage of lead-poisoned children among those tested in Wisconsin — 4.5 percent — is similar to the 4.9 percent of children diagnosed in 2015 in the Flint region, where state and federal officials have declared a state of emergency over the spike in lead in drinking water and children’s blood. However in Milwaukee “the percentage is even higher: 8.6 percent of children tested in 2014 had blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which children are known to suffer health problems, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Even those percentages likely understate the magnitude of the problem, claims Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor whose team helped identify the lead problem in Flint’s water. In the same report he says that standard testing for lead in blood begins around age 1, a time when children become mobile and may be exposed to lead paint or dust — ignoring infants on formula who may be ingesting large amounts of lead-tainted tap water. “Neither in Flint nor in Wisconsin is the greatest at-risk group being tested,” Edwards said.
A speaker at the press conference called out a City Council member for dismissing the issue when it came up at recent Council meeting saying the Council has been talking about this issue for a long time. The speaker admitted that the Council has been talking about the issue for a long time but doing nothing about it. I looked for media coverage of the press conference and found none, not even by the TV station present.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in a report on January 27, 2016 in an article on lead service pipes (laterals) to homes reported “since 2001, the Madison water utility has worked with property owners to replace 8,000 lead laterals.” The same article reports that “in Milwaukee the Milwaukee Water Works has canceled 5 miles of water main replacement projects scheduled this year in older residential neighborhoods where lead pipes connect municipal mains to around 500 homes. The Milwaukee Water Works decision on main construction was made out of concern that the brief disconnection required in main replacement work temporarily would boost lead contamination in the drinking water of those 500 homes.
The Mayor of Milwaukee who has been aware of the lead in lateral pipes to homes in predominately African-American and Hispanic low income neighbors in North and South Central Milwaukee for the twelve years he has been in office says, in the same article, the projects are “on pause,” while public works and health officials plan how they will work with property owners to remove the lead service laterals throughout the city. Will the “on pause” end after the upcoming elections? When will the people demand no lead pipes to homes in low income Brown and Black neighborhoods? The health of our children in Milwaukee demands we do something about the higher than Flint lead poison in our children.
Milwaukee is the new Birmingham of segregation. Will it be the new Flint, Michigan of lead poisoning in children?
The wounded finger keeps me from typing much but I am still able to cut and paste so is an excellent article about how War, What is it Good for? Absolutely Nothing. Literally.