The Social Services Safety Net

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We again find ourselves with a mass shootings and a call as to why the social services and law enforcement system failed.  Today there are thousands of Cruzes falling through the cracks.  Just about all of them will simply fume on the Internet with like psychopaths.  Some will commit petty crimes or even participate in a felony not involving violence.  A few will eventually shoot up a room full of people, possibly a school.


Our social services and the part of law enforcement that deals with troubled people is overburden to the point of silliness.  They are also massively underfunded.  Things began to get far worse starting around 2007 when suddenly millions of middle class and even upper middle class people began to be unemployed or vastly underemployed.


Two extensive studies showed that job creation under the Obama years was 90% low wage, gig, or temporary.  Trump claims its gotten much better but those in public and private charities and social work would disagree.  These are people with college degrees, what was a stable work and living history, financial responsibility.  Many have gotten back to work but in jobs that pay far less than what they had been making.  Those particularly hit hard are older Americans, a little more men than women and people with limited skills that had achieved a solid middle class living.  They seek social services to make ends meet and mental health professionals to help with the high anxiety, depression and apprehension of a destroyed financial condition.


Poverty leads to problems of housing, food, mental and physical health.  Credit gets ruined as well as relationship, including the family gets destroyed.  All of this has been dumped on the hands of mental health professionals and local law enforcement.


Even before 2007-2009 agencies were already buckling trying to take care of and monitor the traditional poor and mentally unbalanced. Then the flood came but no additional funding.


Keeping tabs on someone like Cruz is timely and expensive.  He would need a dedicated case worker that would need hours to assess his issues and needs.  There would need to be adequate facilities to refer him to and since caseworkers can't hold hands it would be the responsibility of Cruz to seek those services.  There is the issue of costs and who would pick up those expenses if the patient could not.  A counselor might have 20 minutes with a patient.  If the patient appears not to be an immediate threat or appears to be making some progress a quick decision has to be made.


In the event of someone truly troubled then there needs to be coordination with law enforcement.  Again, if the person has committed no specific crime law enforcement can't follow him around.  They like case workers have a short period of time to make a decision based upon very superficial observations.


To keep someone like Cruz off the street would take far more intervention by people with more training.  This is not to say there were failures here, or shortcomings, but the system as is just can't function to that degree.  Remember at least at the time of the shooting Cruz was living in a stable situation with support, going to school and maintaining a part time job.  Those unfortunate people took in a troubled young person, seemingly trying to do the right thing and paid a heavy price.


To create an improved social and mental health system and coordination with law enforcement will require more people, better training, greater infrastructure and the change in some laws.  Most of this involves more money and of course too many of you claim the social/welfare system should be cut in funding as it is (in part you live under a false assumption the welfare system is blowing the budget out of the water.) 


Our politicians do not want to touch this thing with a ten foot pole.  You see it already.  After too long the camera truck will leave, the protests will die down and all will be forgotten until the next massacre. 




Dino Manalis Added Feb 26, 2018 - 5:05pm
Social services are needed as soon as possible, including inside prisons to deal with people's problems and prevent future crimes!
Katharine Otto Added Feb 26, 2018 - 5:15pm
Having worked with the down-and-outers in a number of settings, I can tell you the current system, expensive as it is, offers only band-aid, short-term solutions.  I contend homelessness is at the root of it, which leads to instability, vagrancy, people in and out of hospitals, psych hospitals, jail, prison, crack houses, and streets.  Even old fashioned orphanages would be better for kids these days than our chaotic foster care system.  The professionals in many cases are not much more competent than the people they are supposed to help.
The people calling the shots look to expensive solutions, but I believe simpler is better.  Offering barracks-type housing for the homeless would get them off the streets on cold, rainy nights, but those are few and far between and usually run by churches or non-profits.  
I know it sounds simplistic, but had Cruz lived in a group-type home, he could not have stashed weapons and shot all those people.
George N Romey Added Feb 26, 2018 - 5:23pm
Yes Katharine they are. Homeless shelters in South Florida offer comphrensive services, monitor resident goings and offer rental and job assistance. They are on a voluntary basis and there’s a waiting list. Someone can’t simply show up. 
However case workers are not trained to deal with that kind of severe mental health.
Dave Volek Added Feb 26, 2018 - 5:52pm
The homeless in Calgary tend not to use the homeless shelters unless it gets really cold. It seems when these people are crowded together, all sorts of petty crime happens. When they do use shelters, they know to sleep in their clothes and shoes and use their meagre possessions as a mattress. In this way, they won't get their stuff stolen when sleeping.
This is a very complex issue. There are no simplistic solutions.
I attended a mental health first aid course a few years back. Basically it teaches us how to better handle someone with the mental illness until the professionals can somehow be involved.
The instructor said that at any given time, 1% of the population has a mental illness severe enough not be functional in the workplace. Such people are often  living on social assistance. In a city of 100,000, this means 1,000 have a severe mental illness. Yet very few of them would commit a serious crime. 
I think we need to accept that regardless of how well we try to treat these illnesses, there will always be a few that we can't reach in a timely way.
Leroy Added Feb 26, 2018 - 6:49pm
It must have been hell a couple hundred years ago without all the government provided social services.  In the case of Cruz, he didn't fall through the cracks.  He was hammered through the cracks with Thor's hammer.  He couldn't have been arrested even if he opened fire on the police station and the FBI on his way to the school.  I had mentioned here on WB before and El Rushbo was talking about it today.  There was a program implemented by the O administration that rewarded schools for avoiding the arrest of minorities.  It's a laudable goal, but like most government programs, it has unintended consequences.  If there is no criminal record, there are no means to prevent a kid like Cruz with a mental disorder from buying a gun.  The warning signs were all over the place with this kid.  We just didn't listen.  The bigger the safety net we try to create, the bigger the problem becomes.  More government is not the solution.
George N Romey Added Feb 26, 2018 - 6:55pm
Where could they have taken Cruz? He wasn’t homeless. There are very few inpatient facilities for seemingly troubled youth and those have waiting lists. Jail? Up to then he hadnt commuted a felony. 
At the time he was in the best place he could be, a private home.
Dave Volek Added Feb 26, 2018 - 8:30pm
Leroy: I have to agree.
Back in my university days, we kind of chummed around with a fellow we nicknamed "Ax-Murderer". The fellow was more than slightly unbalanced and had a few ideas that were a little too weird. We were quick to predict his future-----except that future never materialized. Somehow he managed to find his way in the world without making the headlines for the wrong reasons. 
If we common folk were able to lock people up on suspicion of that someone is a little crazy, a lot more people might be locked up. Hell, I might even be one of them.
I would wager that the police get thousands of "tips" on a daily basis of someone behaving strangely. While it would be nice that they have the resources to investigate them all, it's not practical.
I'm not too sure what society could have done to prevent this tragedy.
Stephen Hunter Added Feb 27, 2018 - 8:47am
Great perspective George! Coming to terms with Mental Illness and the impact that it has on society is a start. And that begins with the fact that we are all mentally(emotionally) unbalanced to a certain extent. It is not just something that a few people have. Like physical health, there are degrees of sickness. 
Jeff Jackson Added Feb 27, 2018 - 9:27am
Nice article George, and timely. While I dislike taking away rights and freedoms, if the person indicates a danger to society, then things need to happen. If you're crazy, then at the least your access to guns should be curtailed. The fellow in question in the Florida incident spoke, and (they have witnesses,) that he was going to "shoot up the school." That would have been enough for me. Several of the schools where I work have had threats made (and taken quite seriously) as well as one active shooter who locked the whole school down for 2 hours. The active shooter killed himself, by the way. Sad he killed himself, but think of the lives he could have taken, mine included.
wsucram15 Added Feb 27, 2018 - 4:03pm
George this has been a problem for years.
The reason for such things is apathy and everyone is to blame. We of course would rather have our paychecks than properly fund schools, mental health centers, homeless centers, and Lord help us..Social services in which the Dept of Aging, Family services and Children services falls under. 
Underfunded by both the federal and now the states.  So what does everyone expect?  Dont hold your breath for a resolution anytime soon though.  Money is a huge factor with people and it takes money to solve problems like this one.
Leroy Added Feb 28, 2018 - 12:13am
If we need this much government resources to deal with our problems, many the entire human race should self-abort.  Are we that screwed up that the only way we can survive ourselves is for the government to mollycoddle us from cradle to grave?  Let's all get a life--literally.
George N Romey Added Feb 28, 2018 - 6:45am
It’s a sign of society. 50 years ago we weren’t experiencing several mass murders a year. Houston we have a problem.
Stephen Hunter Added Feb 28, 2018 - 7:36am
Many more are self medicating themselves with legal and illegal addictive drugs, compared to previous generations as well. Another sign that the mental health of the population is deteriorating. Society, we have a problem!
Autumn Cote Added Feb 28, 2018 - 9:47am
Please note, the more personal and prompt responses you offer, the more likely I'll publicize your articles to a wider distribution.  Also, the more likely your articles will remain popular and commented upon.  
Katharine Otto Added Feb 28, 2018 - 10:49am
We live in a crazy-making society, and the psychiatric establishment (in collusion with pharma, insurance companies, and government) are working hard to make us crazier.  Every new DSM adds diagnoses, most of which there's a pill conveniently patented to address.  
Consider that our jails and prisons are full and overflowing, and that for-profit prisons are thriving on Wall Street.  We have more incarcerated people than any country in the world, and most inmates are there for non-violent infractions.  What part of for-profit prisons is sane?
I agree with Dave above that most homeless people avoid the shelters unless weather is bad, then they pile in, but your article is about providing support for the mentally ill.  I'm just saying, like Leroy, that the government is trying to assume too much control and responsibility, for too much money.  We have too many "helpers" who need "help" themselves to expect more "help" and more money will ever solve pervasive social problems.  
Gerrilea Added Feb 28, 2018 - 11:03am
George-- great conversation stater.  50 yrs ago, we funded mental health services.  For decades, they've been stripped and shutdown. NOT one State has increased funding for mental health.  Heck, I saw a therapist years ago and the fee was based on my wages.  Sometimes you need a secure, neutral person to help you sort things out or just listen to you.
Many psychiatrists used drugs to "fix" their patients.  That was and still is their only solution. And why not?  They get kickbacks, paid vacations, cars, etc from Pharmaceutical companies based on how many scripts they write.
I do not believe we need more bureaucracy or funding, just better bureaucracy. 
The FBI and the teachers themselves was given 5 or 6 different warning about Cruz, they ignored them all.  BUT write a paper for a school assignment that requires you to see from another perspective...and wham...they're all over you.
I'd love to see a discussion on the failures of the school system, the local police and the FBI. LEO were called to his home 45 times.
And yes, we have laws already that could have put him in a psych ward for observations and laws to stop him from owning a firearm.
Katharine O-- He didn't stockpile weapons, he bought one rifle, a year previously and the foster parents had weapons of their own and claimed they didn't know he had a key to the safe.
George N Romey Added Feb 28, 2018 - 12:09pm
Guys again I think it goes back to an economic system that is destroying people. Once you hit a state of forced financial hardship all kinds of horrible things happen. It’s those involved in the social safety net trying to cover too many people with too many problems. The truly violent ones escape the net. This trend will only continue to accelerate.
Until we get some balance between the need for profits and the needs of people our society will move in this direction.
Leroy Added Feb 28, 2018 - 12:11pm
I had a colleague who retired and became a Life Coach.  I suppose if I were a millennial, I would ask, "Isn't there an app for that?"   I suppose if you are rich enough, you can hire someone to coach you on how to live your life.  Personally, I find it comical for someone would need a life coach.  I never got the impression this particular guy knew what he was talking about.  Once he became a manager, he was golden and floated from position to position.  One might say promoted to his level of incompetence.  I suppose that makes you competent on advising others how to live their life.  The government should provide everyone one with a life coach.  We can no longer expect our parents to do that, right? 
Gerrilea Added Feb 28, 2018 - 12:51pm
George--- Agreed, but we can't keep adding to our bureaucracy. We can't afford it.
We got this way by three different venues: 
--Our government being sold/taken over by corporations.
--Said "corporate/government employees" not being held accountable when they failed to do their jobs or intentionally failed so as to destroy the institutions we paid for, like Medicaid.  Did you know it was the most efficient government institution in world history?  It's operating expenses were 3%.
--Politicians using said safety nets to buy votes.  We can't save everyone without paying the price for it. The Democrats raided Social Security for 50 yrs on "pork barrel" and pandering to special interests.
They did the same with Medicaid/Medicare, more and more people were "deemed" disabled or whatever and then given benefits that we couldn't afford, bankrupting both programs.
I want better government, not more.
George N Romey Added Feb 28, 2018 - 2:09pm
Big business results in big government. Since the 80s we’ve thrown anti trust out the window and today we live with corporations to big too fail or to big too jail and adequately regulate,
Pardero Added Feb 28, 2018 - 8:45pm
Thank you for that valuable article. I tend to support minimal essential government but agree that we are failing too many people. Like Gerrilea, I believe that we need smarter and leaner government.
We could pay for all those programs and more if we cut back on the wars and foreign intervention. 
It is disgraceful what we spend on foreign adventures and can't even take care of our own. 
I am not a fan of the welfare state but I would that over all these never ending wars.
George N Romey Added Feb 28, 2018 - 8:50pm
One problem the welfare has is that it doesn’t distinguish very well between those that want to improve their life situation compared to those using the system.
Gerrilea Added Mar 1, 2018 - 1:58am
George--- Does it have to???
How many people today can get a living wage job?  How many have been branded or marked because they got arrested for drugs and can't get a minimum wage job?  How many know no other existence because they were raised with Daddy or Mommy in prison or hooked on drugs or dead?
It would be nice if there was an easier answer to all this.  We got to this point over decades and multiple generations, we won't be able to fix it overnight.
We must start somewhere though. I'd say, fix the family first.  Without a solid moral foundation, no society can survive. 
George N Romey Added Mar 1, 2018 - 9:16am
I’d also say rearrange our prorities. We can’t fix the family if too many of us are shoved into non living wage jobs. It leads to all kinds of horrible dysfunction situations.
Its why I’m for guaranteed employment and living wage jobs. Not because I’m a bleeding heart liberal but because it will stabilize society and ultimately lead to a productive workforce. Not to mention tax base. If we say in 2018 we truly can’t have this kind of developed country we’ve not made much real progress.
Poverty causes some of the most negative human characteristics from violence to hate to apathy. Yes corporations that are existence to serve some function of the human race have a responsibility to the human race.
Pardero Added Mar 1, 2018 - 10:17am
They won't work now. Why would they work if they made as much as me for playing video games all day?
Do you have some concrete plans that I can chew on? 
The snowflakes, after crawling out of their safe spaces, would just throw more money. The right would dismiss it out of hand, consider it an outrage on top of a present outrage. Let me use a term that horrified me at the time, what would a compassionate conservative do? How would you begin to break the cycle, assuming no work ethic and low IQs?
Gerrilea Added Mar 1, 2018 - 12:04pm
George, ain't that the gospel truth! 
     "Poverty causes some of the most negative human
    characteristics from violence to hate to apathy. "
Sadly, that was their plan all along.  Get us into a perpetual state of fear and hate.  We become so easy to control, manipulate and execute. Right out of the playbook of Hitler, Stalin and Mao.
Pardero-- I'll take a shot at answering your question.
It really is easy to fix. Give each person a plot of land with a monolithic dome house  built for them. Teach them how to grow their own food, can said, raise animals, make clothing and then leave them at it.
If they want an X-box, the have to get a job and work for it.  If they don't grow food, they starve, if they don't tend to their animals, like sheep, they go bare-ass, if they don't pay their electric bill or gas bill they can't play their video games or can their own food to actually live and survive.
Okay, maybe we should just end property taxes on personal dwellings, with exceptions of course.  Say if you own multiple homes, only one is tax free.  If you use it for business, nope, you pay taxes on it.
How about we pay taxes based on income?  Oh dang it, we've tried that too.  Wait, I got it, how about NO exceptions or "credits" for anything?  No "losses" can be deducted, etc.  If you make $10,000 you pay $100 dollars. If you make $20,000 you pay $1000.  You make $100,000 you pay $10,000. If you make a million you pay $100,000.
There, that should work.
Now we have to end the Fed.  Shoot, four-horse quarter or throw any Congress Critter off the highest building in the nation that doesn't do their sworn duty, as we gave it to them in that damn piece of paper???
THEN we have to change patent laws and incorporation "rights".
No corporation can own a patent, only issued to a person and only valid whilst they are alive.
No more corporations with "special privileges".  They serve the public and have no rights.
Boy, we could get there in less than 10 yrs. No more homeless, no more welfare, no more poor people.
Dave Volek Added Mar 1, 2018 - 12:38pm
One problem the welfare has is that it doesn’t distinguish very well between those that want to improve their life situation compared to those using the system.
In Canada, this sorts itself out within a few months. Those who use welfare as short-term bridge eventually become self reliant again. Give me a day, and I probably could remember 100 friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, etc. who used social assistance for a short time in their lives.
And it has been said that when someone is on social assistance for a year, it is very hard for them to move back into the workforce. This one-year period may be the signal for an intervention beyond just sending a check every month.
Gerrilea Added Mar 1, 2018 - 1:14pm
Dave V-- I read your article the other day and this relates well.  What would an "intervention" compose?  How could we verify the person is trying to get a job or training?  Here in NYS they require sending proof of job applications and proof of being enrolled in a training class.
What basic criteria would you find reasonable?
Pardero Added Mar 1, 2018 - 4:36pm
Thank you for that response!! We give them the means to provide for themselves and then require personal responsibility.
I can think of some counter productive wars and interventions that would have easily paid for such a venture.
Your other ideas are easily as radical but I don't imagine they will get traction in the current climate.
When I was growing up, the nearest town with a real variety of shopping was in B.C. The change was obvious after crossing the border. Tidy homes, gardens, and grounds. Elaborate gardens with lots of flowers and shrubs. No junkpiles or wrecked cars parked in fields. No collapsing garages or outbuildings. No peeling paint with fascias and soffits falling off.
There are some cultural differences. I saw it with my own eyes. Of course, we had similar neighborhoods but I never did see any of our distressed neighborhoods have a counterpart in BC or in Alberta around Yaak, either. It could be that Canadians are somewhat more industrious, on average.

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