Do you know where the largest mental health facility in the State of Texas is located? Do you think it is in a large suburban hospital outside of Dallas or Houston? Could it be Galveston where the patients can enjoy the cool Gulf breezes? If you guess one of these possibilities, you are wrong! The largest mental hospital in the State of Texas is the Harris County Jail, located in the heart of Houston. At any given time, there are 10,000 inmates there and 25% of them (2,500) have some type of mental illness as evidence by their need for psychotropic medication.
Several years ago, the Texas legislature slashed funding for community mental health services by $400 million. Since then, the burden has been shifted to local taxpayers. Harris County is trying hard to deal with it. In 2003, the jail employed three full-time psychiatrists. Now, eleven are on duty 24 hours a day but it is an awesome struggle and the resources allocated are simply not realistic in terms of the needs.
Jails are not mental hospitals and mentally deranged people need hospital care not being locked up in jail. The problem is awesome, destructive, extraordinarily dehumanizing and a threat not only to the patients themselves, but to the larger society. Regretfully, we have a society of which many of us consider the jail as a solution to juvenile delinquency, mental illness and even unemployment.
The fog is getting thicker.
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Yesterday, I mentioned Casa Marianella, a wonderful emergency shelter for male immigrants who need assistance in getting settled in a new country, especially in view of the fact that for most of these men they have not yet achieved any working knowledge of English.
Casa Marianella has a sister house called Posada Esperanza, which does for women and children what Casa Marianella does for male immigrants. Posada Esperanza has better facilities, is clean and orderly, and since I have dined there a few times, I know that the food is excellent. Jennifer Long directs Casa Marianella and her counterpart over at Posada Esperanza is Patti McCabe. I am happy to say that these two entities work very well together and the Casa/Posada staff of volunteers is extraordinarily generous and effective. May God bless them all.
A wonderful thing about these two extraordinary places is that both are able to deliver their services 24 hours a day, seven days a week without any type of backing from any type of large organization or sponsors. The sponsors are the generous people who make it happen. May their number increase.
You may not be able to assist a frightened immigrant yourself. Give some thought to helping one or the other of these two wonderful islands of love and generosity.
Again, their contact information:
Jennifer Long, Casa Marianella, 821 Gunter Street, Austin, Texas 78702, (512) 385-5571, Patti McCabe, Posada Esperanza, (512) 928-8862 http://www.casamarianella.org/posada-facility.asp
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I have been a priest for 54 years and more than half of that time was spent as a bishop. People are always asking me how I liked the work and were always curious about “what do you do?” My favorite answer to that was always that being a bishop was much like either being an orchestra leader or a fireman. As an orchestra leader, I tied all the various programs of the diocese together, never made a sound and, like the man with the baton, got credit for everything. As a fireman, I found myself constantly putting out fires generated by hypersensitive people who took everything too seriously.
I have given a great deal of thought to the pleasure and pain of those 54 years and there is one thing that I would like to mention to the readers today, and that is one particular aspect of the office of bishop that I enjoyed tremendously. That was the fact that I was in a position, time after time- dozens and possibly hundreds of times- to see extraordinarily wonderful things, good and generous things, important things, generated by an individual person who saw a problem and had the courage to undertake at least a partial solution. I salute those people and thank God for what they have done for others, and I was certainly one of their beneficiaries.
I think I am going to take these programs up one by one and fill you in on so much extraordinary generosity that is accomplished so very quietly with little fanfare or publicity. I will start tomorrow with Casa Marianella over in East Austin.
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Gridlock! Anger! Lack of cooperation and lack of trust!
These are words used repeatedly to describe one or another aspect of the actions of our Congress. The senators and the congressmen seem to have a very difficult time of working together with any degree of effectiveness. This is tragic for our country and bad for the members themselves.
There are many issues but I would like to raise one that would surprise some people. In my opinion, the problem is that both House and Senate members go back home too frequently. Before jet travel, it was impossible for anyone other than a few congressmen from the greater Washington area to get home on weekends. With jet travel and pressure in the home district to spend more time in their district, a large majority of the congressmen are out of Washington by Friday returning on Sunday night or Monday. Gone are the weekend barbecues, gone are the long, relaxed conversations over a drink. When they do get back to their families, however, many are so busy with the never-ending burden of raising money that they don’t even have the world’s best possible hours with their families. This results in members who are tired, over-extended and do not know each other personally as well as they used to.
Hey, congressmen. Give yourself a break and calmly stay in Washington for more weekends. Get to know those people on the other side of the aisle as friends and develop relationships of trust that can enable our country to move forward effectively.
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