Over the past several months, I have spent time with the community-based staff in order to better understand the services that Aspire provides in the homes and communities within Madison, Hamilton and Marion Counties. I have gone into homes that included rundown mobile home parks, assisted living facilities, and apartments within Indianapolis neighborhoods dubbed, “The Killing Zones.” I have attended a DCS supervised visit with two young parents, one of whom must get clean and sober before the 2-year old child can return home. I have talked with staff just after they witnessed the police killing a fleeing suspect and have felt the imaginary bed bug crawling on me after riding in the cloth seats of an Aspire-issued vehicle. I witnessed a Child-Family Team meeting where the youth jetted out of the meeting and nearly straight into bypassing traffic. I listened to a young mother as she defeatedly agreed with the judge of the Mental Health Court to leave her home and young children, including a 10-month-old, because she was violating a restraining order she had filed on her husband who was also living in the home. I sat with a staff member over lunch who is struggling with trying to keep up on documentation while out in the field. I got my leg scratched by a dog because I didn’t know enough not to wear a dress on a home visit.
I think I could have personally used debriefing after every visit I made with each of the staff on their normal, routine, everyday job. We do this amazingly courageous group of staff a major disservice by merely calling them ‘community-based staff.’ They are nothing short of First Responders in the daily crises that they experience! And, they respond with graceful calm, compassion, and skill. Wow! While my shadowing experience was limited, here’s what they actually experience each and every day they show up for work:
- Psychiatric emergencies
- Suicide attempts
- Domestic violence
- Drug use, intoxication, meth labs
- Police interaction, shootings, dog mauling
- Animals and feces
- Lice, bed bugs
- Strangers in the homes and neighborhoods
- Hostage situations
Even more amazing is that we actually have very few critical incidents out in the field. One would think that these types of experiences would constitute the bulk of our reported incidents. However, they do not. Why? It is because these teams are well-managed and supported within their own departments. Supervisors look to hire individuals with the proper characteristics (e.g. people who know their own boundaries, people who stay calm in a crisis, people who have realistic expectations and can accept the living standards of their clients, people with a sense of humor and experience in the community). Supervisors
teach their staff how to engage with the client and the family, how to really know the people they serve. Crises are often diverted long before they ever become a reality by the way staff interact with their consumers. Both the Youth and Family Community Services (YCFS) and Recovery Support (RST) teams have a culture of communication. They rely on each other before, during, and after a crisis. The Crisis Department provides a huge amount of support as well to staff throughout the workday and after hours, assisting in knowing what to do during a crisis. The department will often call the community staff the next day to check on the staff and resolution to the crisis. Lastly, and most importantly, staff know to trust their gut, their instinct, and be aware of their own feeling of safety.
Between the two service lines I visited, YCFS and RST, there are about 90 community-based staff. These staff drive nearly 1800 miles per day! That’s like driving one way from Indy to Sacramento every day; or taking a trip around the world every week; or shuttling to the moon and back every year!!!
I do not know how these brave staff members do this day-in and day-out! My heart goes out to each and every one of them. While I always thought I appreciated you, I did so at a distance. Thank you for letting me get up close and personal and see you perform the service you do so well. I cannot thank you enough for the time you took hauling me around, answering my questions, and giving me a glimpse of your daily experience. A special thanks to Dewey Norton, Emma Lindvay, Kathy Leising, Bo Campbell, Elaine Scott, Kate Richards, Pat Fisher, Jacqui Cook, Auburn Miller, Alyssa Pearson, and various teams, including: Chase RST, Carmel RST, and Noblesville YFCS.
If you haven’t thanked a community-based staff recently, do so TODAY!!! Thank you for being the First Responders of Aspire!!!
About the Author: Barbara Scott is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Aspire Indiana. While the beliefs and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Ms. Scott, you can learn more about Aspire Indiana at https://www.facebook.com/AspireIndiana.