Monday, September 19, 2016

No Words

It hasn't sunk in yet. Sabrina has had two best friends since the beginning of middle school, and Makayla was one of them. Makayla is the oldest of three siblings, and her little sister Haylee was someone I frequently saw for years. I particularly remember the day I took our softball team to Old Forge, to Enchanted Forest, and Haylee went with us; she had a blast, as did the rest of us. She was 11 then, seemed to have her whole life in front of her.
That life is over. Details are not clear at this time. She did have a heart murmur, but those usually do not lead to death. In the context of Broome County's ominous heroin/opiate epidemic, that is, unfortunately, where everyone's first thoughts go. Haylee did not use drugs, to anyone's knowledge. But an OD of some sort is a possibility, because there is an endemic mental health crisis around here and indeed nationwide--that of teens with mental health issues so deep and pervasive that suicide is on the table for a distressingly large number of teens. And Haylee, without getting too deeply into private matters, had serious mental health concerns. We don't know the answers yet, and although I know some people's motivations aren't malign, it really brings no comfort to the family and friends of the family by speculating. We can wait a day or two to find out for certain what happened, can't we? People don't have to talk about the matter like they actually know what's going on.
I am pissed, though, and yes, this is going to go in a political direction. Several years ago, a conscious decision was made by the county executive's office to close the county's mental health department, and the first part of the department to close was the juvenile services unit. In my former job, there were a lot of my clients that needed counseling and therapy, and most if not all of them could not afford to see a mental health professional regularly. At the time, a whole lot of us were screaming that things like this could happen, that young people desperately in need of help were not going to be able to access it.
And I remember the commissioner of Mental Health, who also runs Social Services, airily dismissing concerns, saying that no child that needed services would go without them. Well, guess what. Art? At least one child went without them, and that child is dead now. And I am quite sure that Haylee isn't the first one that wasn't able to get the help she needed because services that were once available aren't anymore.
I am aware that the financial health of the county isn't great. But there's enough money around to make necessary services available. It's a matter of priorities. And this administration has consistently proven that its priorities are somewhere other than providing necessary services for the citizens it serves. Governments are supposed to provide services for those that can't access them reliably or at all through any other provider. There is a constituency that is morally OK with not providing those, because their basic world view is Social Darwinism, that people that need those kind of services are burdens upon society and that nature should be allowed to run its course.
I despise those kind of people. They are failed human beings. And when something like this happens, it is all I can do not to go off on a rant of epic proportions. But it does underscore the necessity of voting this fall. Trump vs. Clinton is ultimately not half as important as changing the nature and focus of local government. And we have an opportunity to make a change, to stop the rot, to start to take care of the very real problems bedeviling our community.
Not taxes that are too high, not too many people stealing welfare services, but actual, real problems. Like kids that need counseling. Like young people that get addicted to opiate medication that end up heroin addicts and have no realistic options for help and treatment. The problems are real, and unfortunately, so are the consequences. People DIE when the problems are not addressed. And the current people holding county-wide office are not willing to change their priorities, not willing to face reality.
They must be retired. Preston must go.

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