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Money or Baloney - Thursday, April 28, 2016

Yesterday I spent two hours at Milwaukee County Justice Council meeting hearing about a 2 million dollar grant to keep persons with mental illness out of jail. Today I went to a three and half hour meeting of the County Mental Board talking how to budget money for the County Mental Health system. The boards are not connected and the Director of Mental Health for the County was at neither one. Also there was no talk in the five and half hours of the two meetings about medical treatment of persons with mental illnesses. The Medical Board meeting today mentioned that no local hospital was willing to run a hospital for “persons danger to self and others” replacing the Mental Health Complex. However, it was mentioned that there were three outside for profit health organization interested in taking the money for a new limited private facility. I got creative in the session today and wrote the first essay. After I got home I wrote the other ones. Here they are. You might learn about the state of mental health treatment in Milwaukee County in these easy essays than I did in the two meetings.

Money or Baloney

Money or baloney
No matter what
The local hospitals say no
To medical treatment of ill
persons in a mental health crisis
But three outside for profit
Health businesses say yes
We will take your rejected sick
Feed them baloney
And make some money

Cancerous Persons?

We say people with mental illnesses
Are ill just like people with cancer.
Yet we call them ‘mentally ill”.
Are people with cancer ‘cancerous’?
Certainly not, we say
People with cancer are not their illness
And their illness should not identify them.
And we go on calling people mental illnesses ‘mentally ill.”

Board Talk and No Medical Treatment

At the Community Justice Council Board yesterday
The talk was about using a new million dollar grant
To reduce the number of persons with mental illnesses
Going to jail.
Criminal Justice imitative were explored
But no medical treatment for those ill and jailed.

At the County Mental Health Board meeting today,
(No connection with the Community Justice meeting)
The talk was about spending money
To privatize the county mental health system
Privatizing mental health treatment
But no medical treatment for the ill was discussed.

Sending Our Ill to jail

With all the money, and time spent
To study and PR the Mental Health System
And with all the endless talk,
Ill persons are being sent to jail
With mental illness as their ‘crime’.
Milwaukee, when we will Stop
Sending Our Ill to Jail.


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The New Jim Crow Lunch Counter; SVDP Thrift Store in the Suburbs - Monday, April 25, 2016

Rejection of Poor at SVDP store

When we visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN last year I was struck by the exhibits of African American civil rights resistance which started soon after the first slave ships arrived from Africa and mostly ended after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Overt acts of racism are rare but discrimination against poor Blacks and Latinos/as continues in the New Jim Crow. A small group of us were picketing on the sidewalk in front of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store on April 23, 2016 in the predominately white suburb of Greenfield.

The mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is for lay volunteers to make person to person visits to people in need and help them gain basic needs like clothing, household items, stoves and refrigerators. The mission of a St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) thrift store is to assist members of SVDP with vouchers to buy these basic items and to offer low income persons, like the segregated people in North Central Milwaukee, a place to shop for low cost items. However, the local staff and board in Milwaukee have spent, raised and loaned 10.5 million dollars from 2013–2015 with only $250, 000 going to serve the needs of the poor by members. A large sum of the 10.5 million had gone to purchase, renovate and operate a SVDP thrift store, not where people needed it but, in the far south middle class suburb of Greenfield. The picket was asking for the Staff and Board members in Milwaukee to“Show Us the Money’ that the Society rules claimed “belongs to the poor” but was not used for the poor.

At the Grand Opening of the new Greenfield store last summer we were made aware that there was No Room for Poor in the new store when we, after the grand opening ceremony, were made to leave the parking lot and store by the Greenfield police. After this picket last Saturday, three of us: Ms. Lucille Berrien, 88 year old civil rights activist, Pastor Shelia Williams from the central city and myself decided to check out the inside of the thrift store. We entered and were welcomed. Ms. Lucille exchanged her walker for a shopping cart to get around the store. Suddenly, the store manager appeared and came up to us and said we had to leave the store immediately. When we asked why she made reference to a sign on the door which said people who protest in the store or parking lot were not welcome. We pointed out that our Show Us the Money Picket was a legal one on the sidewalk not on the store property. Her response

Banning sign on SVDP Greenfield store

was to have an employee call the police who were in the parking lot. About four police came rushing in and said we had to leave and threatened us with arrest. When we asked the police what law we were violating they said ‘trespassing’, the owner of the store wanted us to leave. We pointed out that in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul “all money belongs to the poor” and the manager was not the owner. It did not matter and they started to push us out of the store. Not prepared to get arrested for attempting to shop in the store, we decided to leave. Outside the police said I could get my car and pull it up to the store since Ms. Lucille would not have to walk so far. When I pulled up with the car our friend Amada came walking into the store with her mother, Berta, her infant son and two other children. Berta, a Mexican-American knows Ms. Lucille from the civil rights movement. They embraced each other and the store manager told the police that they also were not allowed in the store. There was no good reason for this action and I, the only white person, started to again argue with the police who kept saying the owner wanted all of us removed from the property. I kept quoting the manual of the Society that “all money belonged to the poor” which was the purpose of our picket.

A small group of persons, mostly white suburbanites, have taken over the Milwaukee SVDP and are investing millions in this suburban store that, instead of making money for the poor, is wasting money belonging to the poor. Our group, called Power to the Poor, is a small group of Blacks, Hispanics and Whites trying to restore the Society to its true mission to serve persons in need. In the Jim Crow of the South some business decided not to serve blacks at lunch counters with whites. In the segregated south blacks sat in at the white lunch counters until they won their civil rights. In the New Jim Crow of the North, some middle class white persons have decided that they know what is best for the poor by creating a store for suburban whites. Last Saturday in segregated Milwaukee County a small group of Blacks and Hispanics try to enter a thrift store that took “money belonging to the poor” and used it to offer thrift items for middle class whites. We were denied but we have discovered the new lunch counter of the North. We will be back!


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White Millennials Will Get Grocery Store and Urban Blacks Will Not - Thursday, April 21, 2016

Today’s newpaper’s headline was about how downtown Milwaukee’s underused Grand Avenue Mall hopes to attract a grocery store. The new owners of the Mall reported this was the major request at a meeting with downtown residents, mostly ‘millennials’, young adults born from 1981 through 1996. I found this interesting since there is the “Public Market”, a major food destination downtown. Also I have come to understand that when the word ‘millennials’ is used to describe young adults living and working downtown it actually means white upper middle class young adults. Few, if any, low income Black and Hispanic young adults are considered ‘millennials’ and live downtown.

Downtown white ‘Millennials’ have cars to get out to grocery stores in the surrounding neighborhoods and soon will have their own trolley line to get around downtown from home to work to shop and to entertainment. Residents of North Central Milwaukee live in what is considered a ‘food desert’, a lack of major food stores and many do not have cars.

So the lesson to be learned seems to be that in Milwaukee if you are white, hungry and have money and transportation there will be many places to shop and eat. If you are black, hungry and have little money or transportation you will not have many places to shop and eat. White downtown ‘millennials’ will get their grocery store and urban blacks will not.


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Slavery and Killing at Catholic Universities for Money - Monday, April 18, 2016

The grave of Cornelius Hawkins, one
of 272 slaves sold by the Jesuits in
1838 to help keep what is now
Georgetown University afloat.

A New York Times Article how Jesuits at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. sold 272 Slaves for money to pay off Georgetown debts and keep it alive. In today’s culture selling slaves for money for to save a Catholic University seems unthinkable but in those days the Catholic Church allowed slavery and the Jesuits morally justified owning and profiting from slavery.

This story reminded me of our struggle here at the local Catholic University, Marquette, to “Be Faithful to the Gospel, and No Longer Host Departments of Military Science”, (ROTC). The Department of Defense contracts with Marquette University to host training of military offices. For example the Department of the Army openly admits that it teaches students at Georgetown and Marquette how to wage War and Killing, reflexive killing, killing without conscience.

Why does Marquette and Georgetown teach and justify war and killing, contrary to Gospel and Catholic moral values. An elderly Jesuit friend used to tell us it was for the money, the same reason Georgetown sold slaves. I was hesitant to believe this reason but why investigating the military at Marquette I discovered the contracts with the Department of Defense (DoD) does provides teachers and money to Marquette. A friend and myself one day after a protest found ourselves in conversation with the Provost of Marquette. We asked him if he would reveal the military contacts with Marquette. With a smile on his face he said “over my dead body.” Years later I met the provost, who had returned to teaching as a professor at the school, at the Marquette Library. I asked him if he could now tell us about the DoD contracts. He admitted that the military contacts were so secretive that even he, at Provost, does not remember seeing them.

Georgetown University in 1838 justified owning slaves and selling 272 slaves of all ages for money to help the it prosper and Marquette and Georgetown Universities contract with DoD for money to training young men and woman and how to wage war and kill without conscience. Slavery and killing without conscience are immoral but for money is justified.


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Wait a Minute! Bucks Arena, Good Deal or Bad Deal? - Friday, April 15, 2016

Artist rendering of new
Buck’s area. Reminds me of
a cutaway of lead pipe.

Wait a minute! Good Deal or Bad Deal for Bucks area.

Did you hear the good news that a 30 years lease for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team area was signed?

Wait a minute! Who signed the lease for public with Buck owners?

The State Legislature gave Scot Neitzel, state Department of Administration secretary sole power to sign the agreement for public.

The Bucks owners, Wall Street investors, are spending 175 million on the new Buck’s arena.

Wait a minute! How much is the public spending on the arena?

The public, taxpayers, are spending $250 million dollars on area.

Wait a minute! What other expenses is public occurring?

The public will occur hundreds of million dollars on interest. The County sold the downtown land for a $1 and there are infrastructure cost.

The Bucks will pay 1 million dollars a year for rent.

Wait a minute! Who will control the revenue from the arena?

The Bucks will control all revenue from the arena, except for events operated by the district. The teams revenue will include the arena’s naming rights, hosting Marquette University basketball games, concerts and other events.

Along with the 524 million spent on the area the project $500 million in privately financed downtown commercial development, according the Bucks’

Wait a minute! Who will benefit from this investment?

It will be good for those visitors and those living in the newly developed downtown area. The Mayor says the city wants to attract the “Millennials”, that hot market of young adults.

Wait a minute! In all the new real estate development in downtown has there been any affordable housing for low income residents and are there any ‘black Millennials.

The development has been for the wealthy and black young adults, especially low income ones, are not in the Millennials group the Mayor and young adults are talking about.

Wait a minute! The Buck’s deal sounds like bad news to people.


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Stop Sending Our Ill To Jail - Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My son committed suicide in 2010. When my son was alive I became aware of how we stigmatize persons with mental health illnesses in Milwaukee and often send them to jail when they are sick. I decided to take a look at how we treat persons with brain illnesses, like schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, today. Except for my son’s name, I have changed names to protect privacy but all the experiences below are true. The information about the present Milwaukee County mental health system comes from interviews with police and mental health professionals.

On a cold winter night in 1998 I was awakened by a phone call from Cathy, a friend of my son’s. My son, Peter, in a mental health crisis, was banging down the door of Cathy’s house. Cathy had helped Peter when he was struggling with his illness, but since my son stopped taking his medication, she had to back off. Cathy had called the police begging them to take Peter to the County Mental Health complex where he had been committed before. The police officer came and told her they could only arrest my son for disorderly conduct. She called me in the middle of the night so I could talk with the police officer about my son’s history of illness. I did, but he just repeated to me that he needed to arrest my son and put him in the county jail. I did not realize at the time that meant solitary confinement in a padded cell with nothing to do except get sicker. When I bailed out my son he was very angry and swore he would never go back to county jail. His greatest fear became being sent to jail again.

I became more aware of the horrendous situation of jailing persons with mental illness years later when, Sam, a friend of my son, who also had a mental illness diagnosis, called me crying to help him get out of these same isolation cells. Sam had been in a domestic quarrel with his girlfriend when someone had called the police. Since his girlfriend would not press charges the police put him in a holding cell at the police precinct until they claimed he broke something in his cell, arrested him on disorderly conduct charges and put him in the county jail isolation cell. It was a week after his arrest Sam, suffering a mental health crisis, that he was able to make this phone call to me.

During the years of 1995 – 2010 I watched as treatment at the County Mental Health Complex deteriorated due to cuts by three County Executives. This included among other things the loss of certification of the complex, reduction in staff and psychiatric beds, loss of the Froedtert\ Medical College unit and more. In fact, in one of my son’s commitments to the Mental Health Complex he was in the Froedtert\ Medical College unit. The doctor there really treated my son and us with respect. In our visit, when my son was leaving the complex, the doctor said that if Peter was ever brought there again she was going to try some new medicine that she thought would work. Peter was sent back there again but she and the Froedtert unit were gone and, as usual, there was no record of his past treatments.

The conditions at the Mental Health Complex due to lack of county funding and staffing have grown so bad that a few years ago the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper wrote a series on the dreadful conditions. Instead of improving the conditions the present County Executive has plans to close the Mental Health Complex and privatize services to persons in crisis with mental illnesses.

Now in 2016 the Milwaukee police are finally receiving Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), to learn how to better deal with persons in a mental health crisis. This training was started in 2006 but became mandatory for all police officers in 2015. Also, now there is a special unit in the County Jail and House of Corrections for a limited number of persons suffering serious mental health illnesses. There are 19 beds for the seriously ill in this unit and they are constantly full. The average stay in jail for a person with mental illness, for a variety of reasons, is about four times the length of others in jail. One or two persons ill persons a day are sent to the County jail from the County Mental Health Complex but is difficult, if not impossible, to send an ill person in county jail to the Mental Health Complex, even when a person judged to be dangerous to self and others is released by the courts. The county jail units are run by a private company whose role is to provide more humane jail conditions but not to run a treatment center.

No matter how well trained, police are limited as to where they can take a person in mental health crisis. If an ill person voluntarily seeks treatment, something rare with mental illnesses, and has not broken a law, the person can be taken by police to any hospital that has a psychiatric unit. But the large hospitals serving the city of Milwaukee such as Aurora Mt. Sanai, St. Luke’s, St. Joseph’s, and Fretter in Wauwatosa no longer have psychiatric units and thus the police cannot take an ill person to any of these facilities. There are only about 30 psychiatric beds in the two hospitals in the city of Milwaukee with psychiatric units. As distress, poverty, segregation, unemployment, violence, homicides and incarceration, all triggers for persons genetically predisposed to mental health illnesses increase in Milwaukee the numbers of beds for psychiatric treatment have decreased and thus more people are being jailed.

If a person suffering from a mental health crisis does not volunteer for treatment, he or she must be taken to the Mental Health Complex in Wauwatosa which has been reduced over the years to around 48 beds presently. If an ill person is judged not to meet the strict definition of Chapter 51 of the State “being a danger to self and others” he or she is released to the street or sent to County Jail if he or she has a ‘police hold’. If judged “danger to self or others” they can be committed to the complex or sent to other contracted facilities, like Rogers in Brown Deer or Aurora Psychiatric in Wauwatosa, depending on insurance and voluntary agreement. At these facilities the patient waits for a court hearing or is calmed down and released.

If a person in a mental health crisis commits a crime, like trespassing or disorderly
conduct he or she is taken to county jail or, if dangerous to self and others, a hold is placed on them at the Mental Health Complex.

Back in the 80’s there was a sudden increase in homelessness. Why the increase? Because there was a significant move during the eighties to deinstitutionalize persons with mental illnesses. It had become too easy to commit a person. The move at the time was toward community treatment. It sounded good but there was not enough money for community care and often persons with mental illnesses, like other illnesses, needed time in hospitals or treatment centers before returning to the community. I discovered that nearly fifty percent of homeless persons had mental health illnesses. Now Milwaukee County government is using community treatment to justify privatizing the handling of persons with brain illnesses. Would we take a person seriously ill with cancer to a community clinic rather than a hospital?

It has become harder and harder for families to get care for someone with a serious mental illness. In 1994, while we were living in Madison, our son Peter became seriously ill and refused treatment. We went to a psychiatrist to ask him what to do. He said that if it were his son with a mental health crisis he would seek to place his son in a hospital which in our case would mean a three party commitment. We did this and committed Peter for the first time at Mendota State Hospital. Shortly after Peter’s commitment expired he disappeared from Madison. Rumor had it that he had gone to New Orleans or Texas. We moved back to Milwaukee in 1995 and were glad when Peter was found in a mental health facility in Texas, where a kind public defender had arranged him to be placed from jail. We were able to move him back to Milwaukee.

From 1995 to his death in 2010 Peter was committed to the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex by police, community agencies and my wife and I six times. Often I sat in the Mental Health Court waiting area with police and other family members of persons with brain diseases. I saw police and family members frustrated when someone from the complex would come out to tell them there had been a stipulation with the ill person who was then released. Once, when a very understanding police officer had taken Peter to the Mental Health Complex under an emergency detention, the secretary of the Milwaukee Corporation Counsel office called off the hearing and my son was released much to dismay of the Officer, the agency serving Peter at the time and us. Even when he was committed by court order the goal of treatment seemed to be to release Peter as soon as possible. The hospital staff, for the most part, was very understanding but they were understaffed and there was very little follow-up from previous commitments.

Once when the doctor said he had no response from a particular medicine I told him and the staff about the great skills my son possessed “cheeking” the medication. Peter done this at previous visits to the Complex but it had not been recorded. One of our greatest frustrations as family members was with the County Corporation Counsel office whose job was to pursue the case on behalf of County. I had become a skilled advocate and knew how to pressure the Corporation Counsel to do its job. Once when we were in the waiting room of the Corporation Council office I saw a mother and some family members waiting to pursue a commitment of a young man. In the little time we had together I tried to school them in how aggressive they would have to be to get their loved one help. However, I feared that their concern for this young man would be trumped by the Corporation Counsel’s goal to dismiss cases.

Friends of ours have a son, Adam, who was very ill but they were afraid to call the police since they feared he would be harmed by police or thrown in jail. After numerous trips to the Mental Health Complex they were able to get him there under an emergency detention. When they were waiting for the commitment hearing I tried to prepare them. However, he was sent to one of the subcontractors of the Mental Health Complex and was released with no stipulation before any hearing was held.

When I smashed my finger recently I drove myself to the ER of St. Joseph’s Hospital, the only hospital available in Milwaukee’s North Central neighborhood, the most segregated, distressed and impoverished area of Milwaukee. As I sat there waiting for medical attention I saw all kinds of persons including sick children with their mothers, elderly people in wheel chairs and persons who had suffered an accident like me. I thought if I were there for any medical emergency except mental illness I would be treated and hospitalized if necessary. However if I was ill with a mental illness, like schizophrenia, there would be no care for me in the hospital.

If a person suffers an emergency crisis like a heart attack, car accident, stroke or even being shot while committing a crime, police or emergency crews can take the person, voluntarily or not, to any ER, and he or she will be treated and remain in the hospital or treatment center until he or she could be released. There is one major exception to this system. Persons with mental illnesses and in medical crisis are not welcome at most hospitals. If they are low income persons they are likely to eventually end up in the County Jail, House of Corrections or State prisons. Jail and prisons have become our largest mental health facilities with over 35% of persons incarcerated having serious mental illnesses.

The mental health system in Milwaukee County has changed since 2010 but, sadly, we are still sending ill persons to jail and prison. Milwaukee, City and County, we can do better than this. We need to stop sending our ill to jail.


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We Can Only Hope! - Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Sadly the 10 principles of How to Get Elected in the USA applied to the local elections last night. I was hoping the election of the County Executive would be an exception to the rules voted yesterday. But the candidate that spent 4 million dollars easily beat my candidate that only spent a few hundred thousand dollars. There was some hope when our million dollar Mayor in his victory speech, winning his fourth four year term, mentioned doing something about lead lateral water pipes to 70, 000 homes in mostly black and Hispanic low income neighborhoods. Maybe now, after 12 years in office, he will do something about the lead poisoning of our children. We can only hope.

The Milwaukee Council of the St. Vincent de Paul Society has spent or loaned nearly 11 million dollars of “money belonging to the poor” in 2013–2015. The problem was that only $225,100 (about 2%) of the money was used for works that involve the personal service of Society members”, which is “works that involve the personal service of Society members”, like home visits. At least this is what the Rule and Manuel of the St. Vincent de Paul requires. Maybe our upcoming “Show Us the Money” picket will provide a glimpse into this injustice to the poor. At least, we can only hope.


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How to Get Elected in USA - Saturday, April 02, 2016

1. Have the most money in campaign fund and PACs and Super PACs.
2. Run negative ads
3. Say what you need to say even it is not true or misrepresenting facts
4. Strike fear into populist
5. Repeat statements over and over again
6. If you need minority support get established minority leaders to endorse you
7. Get the most media coverage, paid or not, as possible.
8. Ignore attacks when you can , and when you cannot, attack the attackers relentlessly.
9. Always smile and seem to be peaceful.
10. Have the most money.


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