Like many of you, I have many friends that work for the state in one way or another. Not just the political types, but also some teachers, social workers, that kind of thing. The state after all provides most of these services.
You’ve probably read far more than you would possibly want to about teacher layoffs. Across the state, teachers, parents, and generally concerned people are protesting. Take San Diego for example:
Educators from around San Diego County joined teachers statewide yesterday in protesting an estimated 26,000 tentative layoff notices being sent in school districts throughout California.
Dubbed Pink Friday – after pink slips that had to be delivered by this weekend – the protest focused on teachers carrying banners across freeway overpasses from Otay Mesa to Oceanside during rush-hour traffic after classes had ended. (SD U-T 3/14/09)
But while teacher layoffs are perhaps the most visible sign of the times, consider what is happening to our social services. As an example, the statewide system of regional centers has for many years been a service provider for the state’s mentally disabled citizens. Each regional center based its services on a client model, where social workers would work with the disabled to provide them with necessary services. In many cases, this involved going out to visit non verbal clients, assessing the standard of care at group homes, and generally determining the needs of vulnerable clients.
Visiting these clients and checking up on them is how we avoid situations like the one at the Texas State School in Chorpus Christi:
Authorities on Thursday began arresting the six state workers accused of forcing mentally disabled Corpus Christi State School residents into “fight club”-style brawls, as advocates came to the Capitol to protest the state’s handling of the scandal.
By evening, Corpus Christi police had arrested one person and had confirmations that three more were turning themselves in. They were seeking the others, and said they had good leads.
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The criminal charges stem from allegations this week that Corpus Christi state school employees forced disabled residents into orchestrated, late-night fights over the course of more than a year. They were caught after they captured at least 20 of the episodes on a cellphone camera, one turned over to police. (Dallas Morning News 3/12/09)
The fact is that these are our most vulnerable, subject to abuse and molestation. The only way to combat such abuse is for committed, long-term social workers to develop relationships with the clientele. It’s a people-heavy business, yes, but it’s vitally important. How can we say that this is waste, fraud, and abuse? The only abuse would be to cut such funding.
And of course, that is what we have done. The Regional Centers are laying of a large percentage of their professional staff. Those remaining are expected to carry an unmanageable workload, and only respond when clients contact them. Of course the problem with that is that the mentally disabled frequently can’t speak for themselves, can’t stand up for their own rights. In some cases, there are parents or other relatives there to help, but that is not universally true.
We are throwing the mentally disabled under the bus so that Jon Coupal and the HJTA can stand on their high horses about taxes. What kind of America do we live in when we simply allow people to rot in warehousing institutions or abusive homes?
But this is what we have come to, where caring for Californians is subjugated to the almighty tax dollar.