Sunday, September 9, 2007

Out of Town

I'm takin' a short hop down to Houston for a few days. My Bro down there hasn't been dragged into the 21st century, yet, so I won't be posting until I'm back home. I'll try to have something helpful to say when I return.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Question from the Mailbox

A Reader wrote in with a question about Worker's Compensation. Reader didn't say what state the person having a problem lives in, so my answers will be for Texas, but the basic steps for finding your own answers will be the same. And Worker's Comp rules are fairly standard from State to State.

So, let's get y'all started:
Use your Search engine of choice and enter {your State} Workers Compensation.
I got several choices, and choose the official State agency. From their home page, I clicked on the Division of Workers Compensation Home. I found a treasure trove of information and links on that page.
When you are injured at work you can choose your Doctor from the Workers Compensation Health Care Network, if your employer is a member. If your employer is NOT a member of that Network you can choose ANY Doctor from the Approved Doctor List kept by the Division of Workers Compensation. So remember, it is YOUR choice which provider you see, NOT your employer's choice. If you are unhappy with the provider, go see another one. Just remember, when you go see a new Doc, take all your employer's contact info, including their Human Resources information, or whoever the person who handles W.C. claims is. Or the name of their W.C. insurance carrier and that contact information. If you already have your claim number, that would speed things along, too.

If you are unhappy with the way your employer is treating you after you are injured; if you feel that you are being discriminated against, or if you have been demoted or fired because you filed a W.C. can contact the Office of Injured Employee Counsel at 1-866-393-6432, if you live in Texas for FREE legal advice.

The page also lists an Ombudsman for further assistance. But you can find that on your own by following the link and clicking on the Division like I did.

Of course, State provided counsel is always going to be overworked. So if changing Doctors doesn't solve your problem, as I understood it from your letter, you might have to hire your own Attorney. Since the person with the injury was terminated after filing a W.C. claim, despite being told it was for other reasons, when other, lighter duties could have been assigned while the injury healed, I would suspect that a good case could be made for a discriminatory termination. Back pay and reinstatement would be the minimum to be recovered. The employer also could be fined. Given their reprehensible behavior, I say they need to be fined and given a good swift kick in the rear! Waiting on the Injured Party, hand and foot, taking care of their house, doing the laundry and cooking for them doesn't sound bad either, but that ain't gonna happen.

I hope this info was helpful to you and others.

Now...I gotta go write three 500 word articles I'm gonna try to sell. Mama needs a laptop!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Questions about the NEW days...

In the absence of anyone writing in with questions or problems, I'm just gonna take the bit in my teeth and address myself to the Anon. Texas P.O.

I will be completely honest [because I've never been shy about admitting my ignorance] I had to go to the TDCJ [Texas Department of Criminal Justice] website so I could look up the collection of letters you used. I have been out of the loop so long [over a decade] that it wasn't at all familiar. I better find a way to stop using all these brackets or the Grammar Police will come and slap me with a Big Ol' Fine.
Anyway, for those of you, like me, who were puzzled by the "SISP/EM/SO" in the comment the P.O. left, I will share my new found knowledge. It stands for Super-Intensive Supervision Program/Electronic Monitoring/Sex Offender.
Show of many of you had a flashback to "Animal House"; Dean Wormer, and laughed when you read "Super-Intensive Supervision Program"? I know I did.
Anon.P.O., please forgive me, I mean NO disrespect. In fact as someone who has toiled in the vineyards of the Board of P&P, I KNOW how frustrating it can be. I was reading about all these new "special programs" they have instituted in the years since I left. I was wondering about the COST of these programs. I noticed on the home page that P.O.'s got a raise in pay and a raise in "Hazardous Duty" pay.
Hazardous Duty pay was something the State Employees Union was pushing for when I left, back in the early 90's. That was when the physical assaults on officers were starting to increase. And Officers "could" carry pepper spray and stun guns but weren't required to carry them. And cell phones, in the early 90's? Forget that! No way was the Board gonna pay for THAT expense! SO tell me... did HD pay take the place of something like longevity pay? or is it truly a benefit that other State Employees, who are NOT exposed to dangerous convicted felons don't get? Because if all they did was replace one benefit with another, essentially changing the name from longevity pay to Hazardous Duty pay that's not much of a dahm benefit, but about what I came to expect from the State.

Also, about a year after I left, I heard that because most of us who were in the FIRST Batch of Sex Offender P.O.s started burning out after a year to 18 months, it was decided to rotate the P.O. off that caseload every 9 mo. or so. Did they implement that or not?
I had a caseload that was about 40 Sex Offenders with the balance of my caseload, about 80-85 parolees, being everything from burglars to murderers, male and female. But then, I had some female sex offenders, too.

Also, I'd be interested to know just how many of the folks on your caseload who have alcohol or other substance abuse problems actually benefit from the ENTIRE 4 hours of counseling they get in the SACP. The Parole Division Counselors, did they get their alcohol and substance abuse counseling training from the State, or did they go out and go through an independent course and internship?
I see the wisdom of the SACP-ISF, it keeps them from going back to TDCJ-ID. Back in the OLD Days, at least 75% of my caseload had a substance or alcohol abuse problem in their history. I have a story in my archives on Holly's Hystrionics about the Old Drunk who had about 6 pages from TCIC, going back 40 years, of DWIs. And he just kept on drinking and driving. Do you still see guys like that?

The Therapeutic Community Substance Abuse Aftercare Treatment Program is bound to be an expensive program. Has it proved cost effective yet in terms of reducing the recidivism rate, or are the figures not in,yet? Because we had a recidivism rate of close to 66% for all parolees, and closer to 80% for drug offenders and this was BEFORE the meth explosion. It was around, sure and one of our county had a bunch of labs, but it wasn't as big a prob as it is now.

Does every District have a District Resource Center? Because my District was composed of 4 counties. The District Office was in the County Seat and once a month the Officers responsible for the outlying counties would go there and take report for the Parolees who simply could NOT make into the DPO.

I'm gonna take a big leap here and guess that the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative Program is offered to guys who are gonna be released on Mandatory Supervision anyway, right? 'Cause if it's being offered to some felon so he can get PAROLE, I Thank GAWD I don't live in Bexar, Dallas, ElPaso, Harris, Nueces, Tarrant or Travis Counties. In fact, where I live is not far enough away from those counties. I am now giving serious thought to moving to Brewster County!

The Special Needs Offender Programs for the mentally ill, mentally retarded, terminally ill, physically handicapped, and medically recommended intensive supervision offenders, seems like it would take a toll on the psyche of the officer. When I got hired in the mid-80's they were hiring anyone with a degree in the Social Sciences. By the time I left, there seemed to be a preponderance of CJ degree holders. I don't mean this as a criticism of people who choose Criminal Justice as a degree field, but I fear for their mental heath working with this particular group of offenders. What do you hear about these officers and what they do to cope with the stressors of their particular offenders? Is there a time restriction placed on their tenure with this caseload?

I'm glad I went to the website to see what's going on with these new programs. I hope you have time to reply and answer my questions.
The website makes it sound like all these programs are available all over the state. But I know that all too often the good programs are only available in the big city areas. I truly hope that the Drug treatment programs are available statewide. The Parolees in the cities can always find help. It's the Parolees in the rural areas that are usually SOL. I know that about 1/3 of the parolees I handled, if they'd had access to a better treatment and aftercare system, like what the State has in place NOW, they wouldn't have re-offended. So it will be interesting to see how these programs fare. And if the Lege is willing to continue to fund them.

Also, what are caseloads like now? Because a caseload of 125+ was not at all uncommon when I left. We were just runnin' ourselves ragged trying to keep up with all the home visits, job visits, and documentation, jail visits, violation report writing, hearings, applications for warrants, and then of course there was the much loved Duty Day! If a Parolee came in on whom you had a Blue warrant, you had to stall and find a way to keep him from getting suspicious until the P.D. or the S.O. could get there to arrest him. Reading the entire Parole Certificate to the Parolee on his first visit; whether he was YOUR Parolee or he was to be assigned to someone who was out of the office that day. Yeah, my Duty Day was Friday, so lots of days, it was the Supervisor, the Secretary, and ME.

And then of course, we started doing UAs in the OFFICE! Do y'all still test the pee of Parolees there in the office? If that's one of your duties from the beginning I guess you are conditioned to be used to it. BUT, on the other hand, I spent those years getting a degree,Ididn't plan on testing somebody else's URINE at the end of a long hard duty day! If I'd wanted to handle someone bodily fluids I'd have gone into a Health Science, NOT a Social Science!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Welcome to my Office!

Sit down, make yourself comfortable, let's talk for a bit.
No, that's OK, you don't need to shut the door, let's just let the breeze blow through.

Since you're my very first client here in my new office, let me explain the office policies:
  • If you should bump into another client coming in or on the way out, just nod and give each other a polite greeting. There's no need to trade life stories in the waiting room.
  • For now, I'm letting all comments be anonymous. Whether or not Google will let you be Anonymous, is completely out of my hands. And as long as I don't get spammed, I'm not doing word verification, either. I hate that on other folk's blogs, so I'm not putting it in here.
  • I'm also not doing comment moderation, for now. If any commenter should flame, or otherwise be unkind to another commenter, I may have to start that. So please, don't be the cause of me starting comment moderation.

That's pretty simple, nu?

The purpose of this blog is to help you, the reader, with any problems of the type that my training and experience in Social Work and a variety of Social Service agencies qualifies me to help with.

Right about now, if you are not a regular reader, you might be asking, "Well, just what have you done that makes you think you can help ME, Miss Smarty Pants?" I would answer that I have done work with Alcoholics, Drug Addicts, Parolees, the newly diagnosed HIV+ and the end-stage AIDS patients and their families. I have helped retired folks, who were living on fixed incomes apply for Medicaid benefits that would pay for their Medicare premiums, deductibles and co-pays. When you're 70, trying to live on $700/month, having those medical bills off your shoulders can be a literal life saver! I have also shown the grown children of elderly folks living in nursing homes how to save Mama's house and still get Medicaid to pay for her Nursing Home care. And it was all legal, above board and I was a State employee when I did it. Did you know that if your spouse needs Nursing Home care you have one year to transfer ALL your jointly held assets into YOUR name without penalty?

How about this one? I used to give Safer Sex talks to groups of strangers. SO I can help you talk to your kids about HIV, STDs and Teen Pregnancy. I can tell you where to go to find the latest stats for your state on all three, but since most teens think they are bullet-proof and immortal they think it won't happen to them, that probably won't do you much good. But, I have some tricks up my sleeve that might work. Email or leave a comment for me and I'll be off and galloping on this subject. It's my favorite hobby horse.

The drugs and alcohol experience I have has served me well in my own fam. I can trace the addiction in my family back 3 generations. Two of my siblings are effected. I somehow managed to dodge that bullet. So far, all of our children are relatively unscathed, too. So bring on the addict and alcoholic relative problems, I've heard it ALL before.

Since some of my time with Parolees included time working with Sex Offenders...I can handle listening to your tales of sexual assault, incest, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse. Bring it on. I can say, "there, there", but then I will tell you what you can do to start healing, and how to get OUT of that situation if you are still in it.

I've done some grief counseling. Being 52, I've suffered my own losses as well. I can honestly say I KNOW what it's like to lose someone you love. There are many strategies to deal with loss, not every one works for every person, but I can help you find the ones that will work for you.

So, what do you say? Ready to come back for another session? Hey, at least the price is right!