20. Thoughts on Natural Supports

The greatest barrier to a meaningful life and employment opportunities for those who live with developmental and/or and psychological disabilities is not having a natural support network. When done correctly this kind of newtork can provide meaningful and sustaining levels of support for disabled individuals. Natural support networks are extended communities and they typically involve family members, faith communities, friends, work, programs in the neighborhood, and other acquaintances. In many natural support networks the primary role of professionals is to provide clinical services and the extended community provides support services. 
Natural support networks are basically a turning back of the clocks to a point in history when families, churches, and neighborhoods were the principle supports for individuals. While state agencies and professional providers know about the emphasize on natural support networks many other parts of American society have not received the message and there are many reasons why the word is not getting out to a larger audience. Because of the ongoing reduction in government funding, the states are going to use recovery based resources like natural support networks, but many in society prefer the use professional services.

The use of natural support networks has received resistance 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 aggressive behavioral symptoms. 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 Medicaid provides a below market reimbursement to professional services and state resources for the disabled is often limited goverment agencies are heavely dependant on natural support networks. These networks are seen as a way of filling the gaps and providing support and pro bono services. One might think that at some point the state would open the purse strings and provide services and a better reimbursement to professional services, but this is not going to happen any time soon. This leaves government agencies and their case workers dependant on natural support networks for the foreseeable future.

Behavorial health agencies are very aware of the role natural support networks can be in the stablization of those who live with a psychological disabilties. This is especially true when someone is reentering society after inpatient care. Once they are stabilized they are released back into the community and without a natural support network the road towards destabilization starts all over again. Therefore, behavorial health agenices will be advocates of natural support networks and will explore ways of expanding them.

Over the last few years I have walked the streets and have seen the growing number of high and low functioning 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 networks. 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.


19. Why Security Guards Do Not Pursue Shoplifters


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 nt.  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.

There is another reason why security guards do not pursue shoplifting suspects and this one is not always noticeable. Some corporations operate with two different security companies. One company provides uniformed security guards and the other provides loss prevention officers. When a store has separated uniformed security guards and loss prevention officers there is often clear boundaries. Many loss prevention security companies do not want the uniformed security guards to apprehend shoplifting suspects. This policy often leads to some very frustrated local store managers, because when they see a shoplifter moving towards the door they want immediate action. They want the uniformed guard to confront the individual and retrieve the items. This leaves a uniformed guard in a very awkward position. On the one hand they want to make the store manager happy and on the other hand they have to comply to the directives given by their company. So the next time you see a uniformed guard allowing a shoplifter to run out the door it does not mean that the suspect is going unnoticed, the company that is providing loss prevention services most likely has recorded the suspect on video.

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.