21. Thoughts on Natural Supports

The greatest barrier to employment and an enriched life for those who have a family member who are developmentally and/or psychologically disable is no natural supports. What are natural supports? First of all we must remember there are two models for services, the Recovery Models and the Clinical (professional) Models. Natural supports have a long and established history in the Recovery Models. Typically natural supports are relationships and connections that occur in every day life. They typically involve the extended family members, faith communities, friends, work, and other acquaintances. Natural supports is a non-professional means of providing services to those who have disabilities and impairments. In many natural support networks the primary role of professionals is to provide medical and counseling services, support services and programs are provided by a non-professional natural support network.

Natural support systems is basically a return to the family structures before our modern era and congregations existed as collectives that provided support services.
The natural support agenda has been on the table for a long time now, but has received lots of resistance and for a variety of reasons. Faith communities are resisting because of the behavioral health issues often associated with disabilities, they want to become places that are safe and removed from challenging behavior. The anti-domestic violence community has deep reservations about the disabled in family homes and neighborhoods, because they are opposed to the intermittent explosive disorder and similar disorders that often co-occur with developmental and psychological disorders. Families are resisting the idea of becoming care givers again, many have delegated care giving to professionals and programs. Social organizations like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club are resisting because of liability concerns.

Because of the below market reimbursement Medicaid has only a small market and state resources for the disabled and impaired is limited, therefore the dependency on natural supports by government agencies and their case workers will continue. While states want natural support networks to provide a meaningful life for the disabled, the private sector is largely unaware of this. While state and private social and health programs know about the desire by the states for natural supports, many other parts of American society has not received the message. Part of the reason the message is not getting out is the separation between professional services and recovery services. Because of the lack of resources the states are using recovery based resources, but many in society use professional services.

Developing and maintaining a natural support network for those who live on the higher functioning levels of their condition and those who are able to keep their condition stable is not a problem. However, those who are moderate and low functioning face a variety of challenges. One of the most common challenges is the quick fix approach used by state resources and Medicaid. When the mental health of an individual becomes seriously unstable he/she goes into residential care for 10 to 14 days and stabilized. Once they are stabilized they are released back into the community. Without a natural support network the road towards destabilization starts all over again. One might think that at some point the state would open the purse strings and provide more intensive care for these individuals, but more often then not, it does not happen. Natural supports and quick fixes is the cheaper option. With this in mind, you can see how challenging it can be creating natural supports for those who are low functioning and you can also see how important it is. Over the last few years I have walked the streets and have seen the growing number of individuals with developmental and psychological disabilities living under highway bridges and in abandoned buildings because they have no place to call home and no natural support network. So I think the time has come to make some serious decisions about how the disabled are cared for and supported.

Written by Dave Pflueger May 2016 (c) copyrighted by Pflueger. Dave is a former Correctional Chaplain of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and certified for mental health peer counseling.

20. Why Security Guards Do Not Pursue Shoplifters

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One of the most heart wrenching things a security guard can hear from a store employee is, stop that man, he is stealing from the store. Why? When there is only one security guard, which is often the norm, they must follow wisdom and not an immediate sense of justice. From all appearances it sounds reasonable, after all that is what security guards are there to do, protect store property from being removed from a store without payment first. But this is the commonly accepted appearance of a security guard and not the reality of the circumstances.

The circumstances that surround shoplifting today is very different from the 1950’s, when shoplifting was done by bored kids looking for something to do or by a very poor mother looking to give her hungry child an apple. The shoplifter of today is more likely to have a chemical addiction, associated with organized street gangs, or their mental health may be compromised by a psychological condition, all of which are potentially very dangerous. While a commissioned police officer has the training and immediate resources to confront individuals with a chemical dependency issues or those involved with street gangs, the typical security guard does not.

Again, in appearances the shoplifter may look like the average person, but when confronted by an authority figure like a uniformed security guard, a person with a chemical addiction or a mental health condition can become defensive and combative, because the uniformed individual is perceived as someone who will prevent them from supporting their habit or take away something they currently cherish.  Their altered minds to not allow them to follow reason and common sense, and when you find yourself in a potentially physical confrontation with them it is very dangerous on so many different levels.

Every security guard has been trained on the realities of one-on-one confrontation with the shoplifter of today and what can happen if they attempt a citizen’s arrest under a Merchant Statute. They know if they are alone this can be a dangerous and life-threating event.  Therefore, when you see a security guard is not pursuing a shoplifter, it is not because they do not what to make an arrest, it is because they have chosen wisdom rather than an immediate sense of justice. The security guard would rather have the store security cameras and their written report be another chapter in that criminal’s history, then face a lengthy stay in a hospital or worse. In the security guard community this is called, being a good witness.

Written by Dave Pflueger in May 2016 (c) copyrighted by Pflueger. Dave is a former Correctional Chaplain of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and certified for mental health peer counseling.