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One Rouge Community Check -In - Week 153

The tough on crime rhetoric has been with us since the 70s. And though longer and more stringent sentences are a logical deterrent to crime, it does not have the affect we as a society appear to seek. Statistics suggest we cast too dim a light on the causes of crime - treadmill of poverty, oppression, and disenfranchisement – as opposed to the crime itself. Meanwhile, it makes good sense that ensuring our residents have support, services, full employment, and equitable pay they need would be the best antidote to crime. Join us Friday as we talk public safety with our featured speakers:

  • Flitcher Bell - Community Liaison, Vulnerable Communities and ... Initiative and Adjunct Professor, Southern University Law Center

  • Janet Hays - Director Healing Minds NOLA

  • Anne Nowak - Certified Job and Career Transition Coach and Academy Certified Resume Writer Career Center Goodwood Library

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!



Anne Nowak: I run the career center at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library. For those of you who don't know, we exist So we are a library department and we are housed at the main library on Goodwood. However, we are very different from the rest of the library in many ways. So all our staff is very well trained in what we do. I'm a professional certified coach through I C F. I'm also a certified resume writer, certified career coach. I have on staff two more certified resume writers. So that already gives you a glimpse into what we do. We work for the community, so we are here to serve the community. Anybody and everybody that walks through our doors, we work with. So that can be in the morning at 9:00 AM somebody walks in with an eighth-grade education and needs to apply online, and we help with that. And two hours later, somebody with a jd. MD PhD walks through the door that needs a CV or that needs help with an academic job search or whatever else they need, and we work with them. So that is the fun of what we're doing. We work with absolutely everybody. So what do we actually do? We help you with anything that has to do with job search or career. And that can be as basic as sitting with you at the computer and walk you through how to apply online at McDonald's or Walmart. And it goes as far to administering assessments for younger people, trying to find out what they want to do with their life, what they want to do after high school, or doing job search strategy, talking salary negotiation. If you come and say, oh, I've been a nurse for 20 years, I want out. I don't know what to do with the rest of my life. We help with that as well. We have a YouTube channel with about 150 videos right now. Also covering the same thing. We have a ton of videos on interviewing. Oh, we also meet with you. We take two hours and walk you through job interviews, the most commonly asked questions and how to best answer those. We take a lot of time with that. So you also see some of that on our YouTube channel. So we have videos on interviewing, on resume writing, on career development, on, again, kind of everything in this arena. So what differentiates us from other players in this field, and we know they're a good number. They're all wonderful. What differentiates. US is number one, a stable funding source. Thankful to the library tax. So we are here, we're hopefully not going anywhere. We've been here for 15 years. So that's one thing. Also, we don't have to chase grant money that's has strings attached. So we can, we are very nimble. We're very if somebody comes to us, say, can you do a, can you do a seminar for us? Oh yeah. We're also coming out into the community to you if you need a specialized seminar and we will do that for you. And again, we will customize, we will do that. So we are nimble, we are not tied to a certain constituency. Again, we're well trained. I have absolutely wonderful staff. The other thing I think that we have the luxury of doing is we have time. So we actually if it takes you one and a half hours to complete that Walmart application, We will sit with you for one and a half hours. We will not complete it for you. That is not what we do, but we will teach you how to do it. The same with the resume. We will develop it with you. We will not type it for you. So in a nutshell, that's what we do. We are here, we're here to stay. I hope we're here to serve. And that's what we do.

Flitcher Bell: Everyone. I am Fletcher Bell. I work with the V C P I, that's a vulnerable community and people initiative through the Southern University Law Center. I wanna first give com commends to our chancellor, John Pierre, who has the vision and the onsite to see that we need to be more than just a law center. We need to be more of a community university, reach out into the community and do things to help, do things, to assist, do things, to lead the way in making our city our community one of the best our. Main goal the V C P I, we are an anti-poverty group. What, and what do I mean by anti-poverty? Glad you're here. Glad you has, when people lack the means to satisfy their basic needs, satisfy the needs of housing, satisfy the needs of education, satisfy the needs of taking care of their family, those are the things we are interested in. My supervisor and I Dr. Frida Till investor who we graduated law school together, we, when we first started talking about this program and we had the onsite, we thought it was gonna be something small. We thought that people didn't do better cause they didn't know better. But we realized that the work that we do goes far beyond, just was small. We help with just about everything. That, as I say, that deals with. Our city, we help when people need help with policy, when people need help with advocacy, when people need help reaching services, when people need help. In any area we try to help with, we deal with Everybo one from the mayor's office. We deal with the city council at times. Sometimes we have to deal with the legislators, deal with our state representatives and our state senators, and sometimes area now that we even have to reach out on a congressional level or state, supreme court level to make some in inquiries and things of that nature. Now, we do not tell people how to vote. We do not try to sway. We are information. Group I was at a community event last week at Star Hill Baptist Church. And lady say, she said, babe, I heard you up there talking about what exactly do y'all do? So I took her back for those who could remember back to the days of the old Sanford and son. I say, you remember two police officers used to show up and the Caucasian guy used to give the technical terms and then the other officer used to break it down. That's who we are. When people come to us, we break it down simple for 'em. Our goal, everyone who comes to us, no matter what their problem is, no matter what their situation is, no matter what their question is, we want them to leave our group with a better feel, a better understanding, and a better overall feeling of who they are and where they're going. We have people come to us sometimes with lease agreements and people come to us sometimes with simple application where we deem simple and we have people who come to us a question about ordinance, about laws, about statutes and things like that. They do not understand, but we are here to interpret. We're here to help. We are here to assist. We also, as part of our work, we collaborate with a lot of different entities. We work with the Louisiana Center for Health Equity. We work with Blue Cross Blue Shield. We work with whoever, the Scoville Association, whoever needs help. Whoever wants to collaborate, we go to webinars, we go to events, we show up, and we do what's necessary. Now when it comes to public safety, that's one of our main goals because our goal is to help with the nine drivers of pro poverty as our central effort. But we also. Also know that when you talk about public safety, people usually talk about it in two phases. First phase be that of course, of enforcement, of law, that being arresting and keeping the streets quote unquote safe and things of that nature. But we, that's a different subject for a different time at that I can go that I did a whole nother show to go on. But our goal at V C P I is to b build of healthy communities. So as I say, we look at the building of health communities, what it takes to build these health communities, what it takes to fight against a nine drive to power wood. Takes to help the Alice population. For those who don't know, Alice is an asset, limited, income constrained, employed people. That's basically the working poor, and we deal with that, but also help with the homeless. That's a brief setting of what we do, but as I say in closing, our goal here is to help the city, help the community, help anybody who needs no questions. Too big, no questions, too small.

Janet Hays: I'm the director of a nonprofit that I began a few years ago, healing Minds Noah. And our mission is to find alternatives to incarceration, homelessness unnecessary repeated acute psychiatric hospital visits and death for people suffering with serious mental illnesses and in particular untreated serious mental illnesses. I began the organization as an advocacy organization, and our work centers around removing barriers in including policy and legal barriers to treatment and care for this population. That includes lack of beds, lack of funding. I work with families to educate on serious mental illness. And as part of my work have implemented or I'm in the process of implementing. We're doing great, but there's always troubleshooting. An assisted outpatient treatment court with Judge Kern re, civil District Court, division L. And so what we do, the law we have a law in Louisiana, Nicole's law that was passed after the death of Officer Nicole Cotton. There was a gentleman who shot her and killed her, who met criteria for what we call involuntary outpatient treatment, not inpatient, but out outpatient. And what that law does is it allows someone to be petitioned through the civil court system to have to stay on their medication. And then we provide them with services so that they can be successful in the program. Most of our clients In addition to serious mental illness, suffer from what's called Ansy Noia. They have no insight that they're sick as a result of the illness that takes their insight away. And it's just very difficult to help somebody who doesn't think they have an illness and doesn't want help. And so we have to use involuntary measures to compel them to treatment. We have about 37 people in the program right now. About 80% of them are doing really well. I can say it's not easy. In the beginning we're usually wrestling with people to get them into the program and trying to explain to them in kind and com a compassionate way and believe in in a trauma informed way why they're there. But once they've been in the program for a minute, they really start to like it because not only is the judge an authority, then ensure they adhere to their treatment plan, but then he also becomes their advocate and they like to have that power of the judge to advocate that the system gives them what they need. So we've had some really super wonderful success stories. We did in initially the law really envisioned that hospitals would be the primary petitioners to the program, which is ideal. That's the person coming right from a period of inpatient stabilization into outpatient, where we can help keep them stabilized. Because the hospitals just aren't referring for a lot of different reasons that I won't get into here. We change the law. Judge Reese and I work to amend our law to allow family, me, or to remove restrictions so that family members can petition. So we now have a system where if the hospital won't petition, a family member has recourse where they can come to us. We provide them legal services at no cost to file petition. They'll represent the petitioner in court. And then we also have means to pay for psychiatric evaluations if the family member doesn't have access to the person's evaluations. So again, it's not ideal. I think my P pepper just flagged me when my five minutes is up, because I could go on for two hours. But there are a lot of problems in the system. Still a lot of barriers with lack of long-term beds. The state's not doing anything to help that situation. In fact, they're cutting back. They're also cutting back on assertive community treatment, which is the full wraparound treatment modality of care that we provide to our clients. So funding is a problem. And then we also have no intermediate level of step-down beds for people that truly need longer term stays, and then something in between the hospital and returning to the community where they end up often in jail or homeless. We really try to prevent that at all costs because our homeless population is the very most difficult population to find housing for that works for them. They just independent living doesn't work for them. They need something a little more supportive with managed care on site. So that's what I do. I'm a bit of a scrapper. I've, I go to the legislature also and trying to change some state laws to make to make the system work better. And we also, I should mention, just started a new arm of the organization where we now have funding. It hasn't come in yet, but will we have a little bit of funding for, to provide legal services for people who want to judicially commit or interdict or file a o t petitions. And then also we have some funding for advanced psychiatric directives for people who want to, when they're stable get that get something notarized that if they get sick again, tells the doctor what they want, how they wanna be treated, and what they want in terms of medications, care, so on.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All right legal scholars define public safety as the protection of the general public. The C D C says that public safety is five sub-sectors, fire service, law enforcement, correction emergency medical services, and wildland fire service. How does what you do Anna Fletcher and Janet, how does what you do contribute to public safety? I know it's an obvious and stupid question, but I'm asking it anyway.

Janet Hays: I can see as I deal with this every waking moment of every waking day I can say that getting people into hospitals for treatment and care before. They have to be dangerous to self, others, or gravely disabled is probably one of the most important safety measures that we can take. We also changed our law last year, our work with senator, now senator du plus's to amend the grave disability standard in Louisiana to include psychiatric deterioration as a criteria for commitment. So that means that we can intervene earlier to get somebody into the hospital before they have to be fluidly psychotic and coming at you with a weapon or threatening to kill themselves. Or half dead on the street. So that hasn't been implemented yet. Mostly because I'm chief cook and bottle washer over here. I could do some help, but eventually we'll get to that. And I, and we also have problems with people who barricade in the house for whatever reason. There's now the police it has something to do with the, a coroner's changed the policy so police can no longer enter to take someone who's barricading the house to the hospital. And so it's a real problem for families because they're not gonna call for help if they know that the loved one's not gonna get help, especially if they're paranoid. We're working through those battles. But as far as assisted outpatient treatment and the work that I do to help get people hospitalized before. They do something tragic or something tragic happens to them, which is often, also, often the situation, right? They can, they're vulnerable. Is it's a is a, it's definitely, it definitely contributes to the safety of the individual in the community. And unfortunately what happens is we have very well, c i t trained police officers who, when somebody's in a psychiatric crisis and makes a call or gets an order of protective custody from the coroner, which I'm sure all of you know how that works if you're here no one knows how that works outside of Louisiana. But anyways it's one feature I think that our state should hold up as something, as a model, because when people find out what we do here they're always just floored. They're like, oh God, I wish we had that. But when we if we get some, somebody who's a nine one call or O P C, the police will safely transport person to the hospital. They're now implementing another modality of transport to the hospital that involves mental health professionals. I personally think they should have police and mental health professionals working together as an option on some of these calls, but they haven't. They're not talking about that. It's either or, but nevertheless the problem is then the hospitals are not keeping people long enough. They just simply release them. So you have these people, cotton perpetual limbo where they're just in this revolving door, in and out of the jail, in and out of the hospital, in and out of homelessness with no return on investment and no way out. They talk about it's like Groundhog Day, right? So I work with the hospital, like I work individually with families to or try to orchestrate situations where we can maybe, you know, where we can connect people to the system and then have the system stay connected to them. And just lastly as much as we know that most people with mental illness are no more violent than anyone else, and in particular, they're usually less violent than most people when in treatment. People who have untreated serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder sometimes major depressive disorder, they are at more at risk for violence and in particular when you add drugs into the cocktail, into the mix. And so we wanna keep people in treat, wanna get people treatment, and we wanna keep them stable because unstabilized untreated is unpredictable and it can often result in very dangerous situations.

Pepper Roussel: All right. Thank you ma'am.

Anne Nowak: Yeah. So I have to admit, when you called and said, oh, the topic's, public safety, at first I was like, okay, this is interesting. How do we fit in? But then actually you answered this question yourself, pepper, because you said to me people don't commit crimes when they're working. So I think that that fits it perfectly. So I think that's how we fit, fit into this. We help people either stay employed or get employed. The library as a whole has lots of resources for further education that is free. So if people were just to take advantage of it you can get lots of certifications, micro certifications here for free. That might really further your chances for career progression or career entry or finding a job. I think from that point of view, that's how we fit into the public safety then.

Pepper Roussel: I think that's perfect and accurate.

Flitcher Bell: Yes. We try to, as stater we try to focus on the key areas of what's keeping poor people poor. And so we, as a group, try to focus on things such as getting people job ready. Sometimes we have expungement events and things of that nature to try to clear up people records so that they could be employed. We try to focus, as I said, on education, trying to make sure everybody have assets and free education and that they're adequately Getting the fundamentals set they need. We try to work on opening doors and have opportunities for people because we know people without hope, people without means people without the opportunity. They revert sometimes to things which would not keep our public safe. We try to work on making sure people have good a access to healthcare and things of that nature. I remember when I was, the chair was now Care South and I first got the grant to build that building. I was asked in a lot of different other neighborhoods on the other side. Go the streets had tried to build it there, but it was my concern at that time to notice, let's keep it in the community, let's keep it in the heart of community where it is needed. So we know as a group, as V C P I, we know that there are different factors what keeps people whether it's red lining, whether it is unfair banking practices. And we work with, as I say, multiple groups. We work with different organizations and we are here as a community group to help our community as a whole to stabilize, help our community as a whole to get better, to help our community as a whole, to improve in all areas. And we get called seven days a week because poverty is seven days a week. We don't take holidays. We don't take weekends off because we know that there's four people trying to struggle and need our help every day.

Pepper Roussel: Thank y'all very much. I appreciate it. Since we are five minutes to none, I wanna encourage those of y'all who are on the call to drop your questions in the chat so we can start getting to them. But I've got a couple more. As we sit and we listen to things that are impacting PO or to your jobs and how you are working against poverty, help me understand what the complexity of the situation and how it is that y'all are trying to dismantle these or detangle these issues that are creating hardships in ways downstream and even, is there a way that y'all could hand off to each other?

Flitcher Bell: I'll go first on this one and we try to one of the key things we try to do is to always talk about the importance of voting. A lot of these issues, a lot of things that's go on are centered around voting. You can ride down any street in Baton Rouge or any other city of Metropolis and you can tell community where people do not vote because they have less stability, less infrastructure, less things to affect. But it is hard, as in this is what I keep emphasizing. We try to work around whole wraparound services for people because it's hard for us to talk to people about, hey are you gonna vote in Saturday's election? If they don't know whether they may be living Saturday, they don't know whether they're gonna have food for their family Saturday. They don't know if they're gonna have a ride or transportation Saturday. So what we try to do is try to say, okay, What's the problem? How can we help you and what can we do for you? And as I said, we look at things from a holistic part of a wraparound through, and we try to be of service. We try to, as I say, affect, especially when it comes to policies that need to be changed. And we are not a service provider, but we try to have enough connections though when people come to us, when people call us we have enough services where we can make sure that they're being taken care of, that they're getting things done and that they're leaving our program better than when they came.

Janet Hays: Okay, I'll go next. That was great. And so one of the things that we do, again, we just started this fund to assist families who can't afford attorneys to do filings for judicial commitments, which are longer term hospital stays, interdictions, which it's like guardianship for those of you that are unfamiliar with interdictions. And then the assisted outpatient treatments, which our court thank, thankfully, judge Kern Reese has arranged to be able to reimburse an attorney who works as a curator for the court to provide legal services. So that doesn't come out of Healing Minds and Noah's pocket, but we do also healing minds and Noah also will work with families to get those advanced psychiatric directives. So legal fees really is a huge barrier to accessing the civil commitment system. And obviously it leaves behind people who are under resourced, who typically tend to be people of color and people of lesser. Lesser wealth. So it's really unfair. But even I will say that people who have a lot of money, who have tried to get longer term stays where their loved ones have not been able to simply for lack of beds I definitely see a role for everybody in this room to play in the work that we do and our clients often need help with resume writing. I would love to work with you, Anna, to refer some people over to the library where we have a person right now who's actively looking for a job and she's doing really well. We're really proud of her. She's come a long way. But she has trouble with interviews because she her affect is just not, she's not charismatic enough or not personable enough because she does have some problems and maybe to find an avenue for employers that would be willing to hire. Some of the folks that we work with who are not necessarily gonna be the ideal employee in the world of ideals but they but they can work. So I'm thinking that and then I'll leave it there, but there's also room for advocacy. There really, the two most important things that the state needs to do right now is include or is to get the waiver for federal Medicaid reimbursement for psychiatric stays up to 60 days, which they're not doing. They need to do that. And then the other thing is the supportive housing. Housing. I think there's probably not one person in this room that would disagree that we have a housing problem, but we also need to talk about more than just permanent supportive. We need the whole continuum of housing. We need permanent supportive, but we need additional modalities of housing as well, and there's just no funding for that. So we have to figure that out.

Anne Nowak: We work more on the individual level, right? We don't really work on the systemic questions because we work more with the individuals. However, we do see a lot of what the systemic issues, obviously, because they come to us with the people and from all their circumstances. We work a lot with community groups, with the community. So we're pretty active in the re-entry community. We have been to every jail in in the greater Baton Rouge area. We've done seminars there and we work with churches, we work with, yeah, pretty much any kind of community group and We also, we refer is we have no territorial feelings at all. If we feel there is another group that's much better prepared to work with a certain person, absolutely, that we will pass on that that information. So yeah, we're always happy to work with groups. As I said, we're pretty nimble. We can customize things. In terms of issues, we see a lot of the barriers to employment. Honesty is mental health. It's the, for us, the big elephant in the room. They're people that I think would like to work, but it, the barriers are just they have maybe even the education, they just can't keep a job. There are things they have that mental health wise that just impede keeping a job. And yeah, that's, we just can't help.

And I do have a stack of business cards with mental health providers in my drawer and also LSU Psychological they have, I think a service that where the students, they help Free of charges. So yes, we do have all of that as well. But yeah, that's one of the, one of the big issues. And education, obviously we see people that on paper have high school diplomas, some even have college degrees, yet they can hardly read and write and spell. Sometimes it is very eye-opening and we frequently sit here and we spell the words for people to type on their resumes and to in their online applications. So those are the two biggies. Apart, yes, housing always. And criminal background, That's the third one, right? It's very prominent in our community. But yeah, for those of you who work with that population, we have seminars, for example, interviewing, resume seminars, specifically targeting people with a criminal background. What can they do to disguise it? How can they talk about it in job interviews in a way that does not hurt them? And especially the interview, we, on our YouTube channel, we have a playlist resources for the reentry population. So you can go and you can take a look. There's certain interview questions that we play through and how to best answer it if you have a criminal background. So again, usually people say find your niche, but honestly for us, we try to be everything for everybody. So we try to cover most of what we can and what we can't. We are happy to refer to anybody that can.

Flitcher Bell: I forgot to mention, the clinics and things that we offer through the law are usually free or charge free being free for attorney fees. There's no fees associated with it. And also filing fees in some cases we're able to assist with. I want to thank also Anna and her group. I work with Lynette Lee on the different committee and she keeps us abreast of what's going on because I also do work with cap reentry and she keeps us abreast. So you guys are doing a great job. I also wanted to mention that we, at VCPI have a collaborator collaboration with Southeast Legal Service, where we serve, where we have attorneys four days a week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Fridays at the Baton City Court. We have a eviction help desk, and that's free of charge. Anybody have any eviction questions or issues which may come up? Please feel free to reach out to us and use our service.

Pepper Roussel: Y'all, I'm over here. Almost mind blown. All right, so there is a question in the chat. Are any of your programs looking at end of life care planning, pool trust, wills, estate planning, heirs, rights, et cetera?

Janet Hays: So I can answer like as far as Healing Minds, Noah we can connect people to attorneys that do that sort of work. Again, they have their own fee structure. But the attorney that I work with and honored to work with, Terrence Prout is an amazing mental health law attorney and their firm also do that sort of law. I would definitely, I'd be happy to share his information. If I had it on hand, I'd just put it in the chat. Actually, you know what I do have his phone number, so I will throw that in there. And you definitely wanna call him on his cell number. He never answered his work phone. Thanks Jen, I appreciate that. And speaking of putting things in chat, I was just distracted by going to the YouTube looking for the the library's channel and playlist. So Anna, if you can just put me out of my misery and drop that in the chat, cuz otherwise it's gonna be the next three hours of shiny things. Otherwise I see that there's already an answer that's come from Janet about the long-term commitment options that are less expensive over in Lake Charles. But did you want to share any additional information on what that process looks like? Sure. And I'm just throwing Terrence's phone number in the chat. I'm really bad at doing this guys, so I wanna get that done before I start talking. Cause I'll forget I've got a million things going on all the time. So as far as the commitment process is concerned, so there are a lot of things that have to happen, right? So we need the petition to be filed, but we also need to time it, there's timing issues. So we try to catch, we try to work with the families so that. We know when they're going to hospitalize the loved one. And then when the loved one is hospitalized, we'll file the j jc and serve the hospital where they're at. So that can be a little tricky because as if you've ever done a commitment generally a person has to be cleared medically before they're even considered for admission to a psychiatric bed. And there's all kinds of checks and balances put in place to make sure that people are not being committed unnecessarily. So sometimes the person might be admitted at the hospital where they present, or where they present in initially, like University Medical Center. I've just been. I don't know if it's public information yet, but it's looking like they're not, they don't have an agreement with the state to reimburse now for long-term beds. So they'll be in the short-term bed pool like a lot of other psych hospitals that don't have long-term beds. So the other thing is you have to know where the long-term beds are versus the acute psychiatric beds. So I know in our area of at least three hospitals that do that, now two, no three. And so you have, so it's tricky that way as far as the payment is concerned. A Terrence who I work with gives us set rate like a cut rate For the families that I work with that do to do judicial commitments? We've done three of them so far, I think, or maybe four. And he's great. Like he, he's a su, he's a super fighter. He will go to the ends of the earth to make sure that people that need to be in long-term care get there. And there's a lot of barriers, obviously, including a judge. But we've had the three that we've done so far, I think three or four, this is pretty new. Two of them have been successful. One of them was not because the family did not appear at the hearing. And so the judge had no evidence other than what the person. Said in court, which as a lot of you know, these folks are extremely intelligent. Most of them, most people with serious mental illnesses are over intelligent, which is actually one of the predispositions for a person developing a serious mental illness. Brilliance and genius is a factor a lot of the time. And so they know when they get in front of a judge or a doctor exactly what to say, exactly how the law works, exactly how the system works, and they will do and say whatever they have to do to get out. Which is fine if, except if they have a cognitive impairment that's melting their brain and if they aren't treated, then they're only going to get worse. But yes, on the judicial commitments, there are some tricks of the trade and I would be more than happy to share with anybody who wants to learn more about that. I do have, after this Zoom, I have a call with our court social worker to debrief on some clients. But after that, I should be available all day if anybody wants to call or you can call me anytime.

Pepper Roussel: Gorgeous. All right. So Dr. Bell, I got a specific question for you. Since y'all do work in policy, is there any possibility that we could be looking for or finding funding for those who don't qualify for Medicaid, but experience mental health issues? Yes. We would have to get into the economic specifics of it all as far as family size, as far as income and things of that nature.

Flitcher Bell: But there is some possibility, there is some avenues. There is some things that we may be able to assist with. Also to your prior question we at the law center also ha have an elder clinic. That's if you qualify that you're free to get assistance and services as well.

Pepper Roussel: Okay so this whole idea of income, Manny dropped a wage calculator in the chat and I don't know if anybody but me has gone to it, but this is nuts. So just for the sake of argument, if you are a sync person and you don't have any kids at all, minimum wage is 7.25. Poverty wage is 6.53, but a living wage is 16.38 that people are not getting. You start adding in kids and that multiplies exponentially. And I am starting to freak out over here because I know people are not making this kind of money. I don't know what to do about this. Like how do we get people to a place that they can afford to live? Because that feels like a part of public safety. I'm just gonna say it. I might be wrong.

Anne Nowak: Yeah. There have been studies that said if you work the job at federal minimum wage, so seven 25 which is the minimum wage here in Louisiana, you need three full-time jobs to actually be able to live and pay rent and pay for food and Yeah. Which obviously isn't possible.

Flitcher Bell: For the past two years now I've been part of the National Low Income Housing Committee and we know that 96% of the counties in parishes are un. Affordable living for people who work minimum jobs. Minimum wage jobs. So we know that there is a wage problem. As stated earlier, we know that there is a housing problem and we know that it's a afford affordability problem, but I saw where someone dropped in the chat that we need to vote and get people who care about these things. People you can talk to, people who will take these things, people who will take these things into consideration and as stated that sk we, we gotta vote in people who care.

Janet Hays: Yeah, and I'll say before I was doing what I'm doing now, I was I was actually one of the people that was in the initial or the help start fight for 15 and was out there pounding the pavement with y'all before I got into what I like. The what I do now is full-time 24 7. I have no bandwidth to do the kind of activism work that I was doing before. Also we were trying to get Citizens United overturned there was all kinds of that for those who would really benefit from a more level playing field. And more income Porsche for is absolutely, I would like to have more affordable housing. I would like to have a little extra money in my pocket. Now as far as the population we deal with, I, one thing I, but I would like that I don't have serious mental illness. And so for those who do until the folks can be stabilized, they need to get in treatment diagnosis, treatment stabilization until that happens, you can throw all the stuff you want at them and they're not gonna benefit anyway because their brains are not it is a deteriorative disease and there's, in the last 10 or 15 years, a lot of evidence that shows that without treatment, the gray matter actually deteriorates in the brain. And it doesn't come back. And so you see people getting progressively worse and worse, and they end up homeless. They e eventually get to a stage where they need very long-term, highly supervised hospitalization because we've let it go too far. But as far as the population we work with, it's a lot of people qualify for social security benefits. It's really not enough. When and then what are they gonna, what are they gonna spend their money on? We have group homes in Louisiana, but Louisiana has no licensing requirements or anybody can open a group home and they're not supervised. There's no accountability. And so a lot of them just become drug havens and drug dens, and it's not appropriate. People, person might spend their whole social security check on rent and get absolutely nothing for it in return, except for maybe a roof over their head living in really horrible conditions. As much as possible, we try to keep families together. So that the any money that they get that is going into their pocket rather than into their pocket of a slum, Lord so I just wanted to throw that in there. Mental health is so important. A hundred percent of us can have our mental health improved, but only 4% of people in America, four to 5% have serious mental illness was, which is an additional challenge that needs to be addressed before social determinants of health or health are really gonna do anything to make their lives better. And I just wanted to throw in also real quick in the chat, there was a comment about insurance. So for people without Medicaid who have psychia are in psychiatric crisis. Yes, they can go to any the nearest emergency room, call 9 1 1 or o p c. There is a law tala that requires it. It mandates that if a person shows up in a, in an emergency room that they do receive treatment. It's what happens after that. That's the insurance problem. Medicaid does pay for a full array of services for people that are able to access that. And often Medicare won't. Medicare has they all, they allow 190 reimbursement days for a person's entire life. So Medicaid, in their wisdom, federal, or sorry, Medicare, federal Medicare, decided at some point, I don't know when or why that a person only needs, if they have a serious mental illness, 190 days in their whole life of inpatient psychiatric care. So that's a problem. Usually we get our folks, if they have Medicare, on Medicare, Medicaid, so that they can access longer stays anyway. This stays are a problem. There's all kinds of reimbursement caps that are making my life really difficult, that and also the li and also hospitals they're just not able to keep people longer because they don't get reimbursed. Anyway, if you wanna get involved in our advocacy, yeah. If you wanna get involved in our advocacy about that and how to fix that, there are waivers. And the state are just not interested. And in this issue for whatever reason, we have no leadership there. It's a leadership gap. We have a leadership gap.

Pepper Roussel: I do have a question that came a little bit before this one that is just expanding this same topic. And so I'll ask this one first. How difficult is it for people to understand their eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid? Is there a and I don't, I really don't know Anna, whether there is something that the library has that can educate folks on this. Or how do we get to a place where we educate the process or expedite the process of educating folk. I don't think the library has something specifically on that, but there are, I think there are state agencies or there are some agencies that have Medicaid educators that go out, but I'm not sure where they are.

Anne Nowak: But that, that does exist. The problem with a lot of the problem with the way we are set up as the library is like we offer things. But we have no captive audience, right? So only the people that actually willingly come to our events will learn what we have to give. So I think with the Medicaid and Medicare is you have to capture an audience where you have it in some kind of setting if you wait, because it's so often the people that need it most, they are the least likely to come to an informational event. It's almost, you have to carry the information to the people. That's, to me what needs to happen now, who does that in terms of Medicare, Medicaid? Probably somebody federally funded since it's federal programs, but I don't know.

Flitcher Bell: We actually had a conversation a couple of months last month with Ty Tyra Lab, Blanco's Director of Medicaid here in Louisiana. And since the unwinding of the Medicaid, since the. Health crisis is supposedly over. There's, they actually have two advocates who are going out and seeking and trying to help people and understand it's free of charge. All your there's a one 800 number and I don't have it in front of me, but I do have it somewhere on file that you can call and get any information. As I said, they have two people who specifically are basically going community to community, trying to help unwind, understand, or you can go to their website and to sign up and someone will reach out and contact you. But all those services are free of charge. They have a strong push right now. They have massive mailouts and things going on where they're trying to make sure that while they're going through this unwinding process, people who qualify are not missing the boat and being purged unnecessarily.

Janet Hays: Yeah, I'm just putting in the chat the numbers and websites for them. My Medicaid is where you go to see if you're, if you have eligibility for Medicaid and for Medicaid questions. I'm putting that number in the chat as well. I think that you were talking about butcher and I I would love to talk with you at some point after this given your relationship with some of the state actors to see if we can't, and then I'll explain to you why beforehand, but see if we can't move the state in the direction of applying for that federal waiver for up to 60 long 60. Days of long-term psychiatric care. Now we're gonna be changing government, or we're voting, right? It's an election year. So I doubt if this administration's really gonna do anything, but we don't know which people will be carried over into the next administration, whoever that's gonna be. But I think it definitely doesn't purchase, start having that conversation now to get something get some, something in the system some documents or whatever. Maybe an application that if the next administration comes in would be able to pick up on. So anyway, but I would love to speak with you more. I love it when we have this cross pollination going on.

I'd love to speak with everybody more. Yeah. I do have a more of a broad question. Do we have, as I like to call them, our new neighbors, other people call 'em immigrants.

Pepper Roussel: Do we have programs or ways that we can help to serve our new neighbors? Those who may not have proper doc, the documentation that might be expected, those who don't qualify for who might be getting paid in cash those whose wages are being stolen. But that's a different conversation. What do we do? Do we have anything is there, are there any programs? Is there some way that they can get support? Do we know

Janet Hays: that's really difficult? And I'm glad you mentioned that because when Anna was talking about library services, there's also the language barrier. And so that's really something that we could, we can do a lot better on. But if a person doesn't have a residency here there are ways actually that you can get people on the Medicaid rules. They have to have an address or they have to be able to show that they've been living in Louisiana for, I forget what the threshold is. But I just was able to get somebody on Medicaid who's coming into our program, who's here from North Carolina basically traveling, living in a trailer. And I'm calling Medicaid saying the judge has ordered this person who follow his treatment plan and he can't do that unless we can provide services. And the services that he needs are Medicaid reimbursable can you expedite this application? And so they're working with us on that, but that's specific to the program. I think if you show that there's, I think if you show that there's something emergent or urgent happening that this person needs Medicaid for that's sometimes helpful. But I'm not an expert in this. I'm not a social worker either, by the way. But that is a social worker question. If anyone knows how to do it, usually it's a social worker and somebody that's had some experience in the field.

Flitcher Bell: It is on our radar. I wanna say our, the law center. I've been in contact with our clinical director and we've been having discussions for about the past nine months now. And there is a petition that was signed by some of the students and other personnel and Trying to get approval through the Chancellor to have a, a immigration clinic which will offer free services there at Law Center. I will keep this group abreast on, on when it's approved. Hopefully we can have it in place by this upcoming fall semester. But as I say we are just trying to it is on our radar. It is something of high concern and it is something we're looking into at, but at the point, at this moment point when we do have our neighbors to come in we do have different service organization being through the Baton Rouge Park Association, Lewis Martin Foundation Catholic charities that we do try to direct them to. Yeah we, as I said, we work with everybody that walks through our door. We currently are very lucky to have a staff member that speaks very good Spanish. And I know Marcella knows, and I know she has sent us people and he has done a wonderful job working with them. Now of course, if they're here illegally, they're they can't work period.

Anne Nowak: Will we still help them do a resume? Sure. But our hands are tight. However, we have worked with lots of asylum seekers with lots of, oh boy. Honestly for me I'm an immigrant myself, so it's one of my most favorite things to work with people who come from all over the world. And I think my last count, I've worked with people from, I don't know, 50 countries, 60 countries. So it's a lot of fun for me personally. Yeah, and sometimes you get great stories. They have the best networks among themselves. To be honest, one of my favorite stories was not too long ago where somebody from Ukraine, they were here perfectly legally spoke really no English, but had a dis had a relative in town that translated. So the Ukrainian couple was here, the relative was on the phone, and we were here in person and through their own network they had found, so they were engineers by background or the husband was, and he knew he couldn't work here as an engineer, but he said, I know the US is liking in truck drivers, like 18 wheeler drivers. And that's what I wanna do. But I cannot pass the test because I don't have the English. But I heard that they are somewhere is a Russian speaking, driving school that educates that gives, does the DL class. And sure enough, he found it. It exists. So now if you run across somebody that speaks Russian and wants a Russian speaking driving school, we now have that information. But he found it honestly through his own network of Russian speakers of newly arrived Ukrainians. So it's amazing. They do have a lot of, and I have many more stories like that, where among themselves, that's how they set themselves up initially. So yeah, we absolutely do work with them. And sometimes yes, language barriers you have to get creative.

Pepper Roussel: That story actually makes me really happy, and I'm not sure why it makes me as happy as it does. But talk to the long time ago there used to be a telephone number where you could call, and I just, and I'm gonna open this up to the group. I know, firm or deny that it still exists and you could call and get a translator on the other end of the phone whether it was Spanish or French. I don't know if they were doing anything hard like Mandarin. But I know that there were a number of different languages that you could get somebody to translate for you. Did, does anybody know whether that's still a thing? We don't know. All right,

Anne Nowak: fine. No I'm, I think it is, but I have to look. It's, the library has some kind of service where you can, but I don't know if it's a live person. I think it is a live person. Let me dig. If I find it, I'll put it in the chat, but yes, something like that exists. Yes. Mar or translation services. There was a summer that I was doing an internship and we were trying to help a woman who spoke Haitian Coil and.

Pepper Roussel: We all know that there are differences in the usage, the idioms. And we called and I wanna say that we, it took a little while, but we found somebody and this was a while ago, a few years back, in the before times for sure. But yeah, just trying to figure out if that is a thing that where people can call and get the translation services. And what makes sense to me is that we can provide additional services, right? So it makes that barrier a little bit lower. All right do we have, so we have had a lot of banter back and forth about housing in the chat. And the housing conversation is always, Absolutely always a lively one because everybody's got strong feelings about the cost of housing, the lack of housing, what affordable is and what it means. And I'm still really not sure how it is that we are in the space where we have none of what we all need. It just boggles my mind. Ooh the Louisiana Language Coalition has worked hard on translation services. Lori always makes its best efforts to provide. Thank you, Lori or Marcella, actually Do we have any other so folks who were talking about housing who are not me do y'all wanna come off mute and suggest or ask any questions or talk anymore about housing as we start to wind down?

Janet Hays: I can tell you for housing, for mental illness and serious mental illness, it's just about following the money. The federal government have there's HUD and there's c m s that are largely not so much c m s, but HUD is traditionally housing of urban development responsible for the programs that fund states and cities. For housing for the vulnerable. Some time ago they, they used to have reimbursement structure for people who needed long-term residential housing with clinical psychosocial social supports on site that kind of withered away. And they really don't have that now. So because there's no incentive, that's why we've seen these types of assisted living facilities have completely dried up. There is money for permanent supportive housing, which is great for people that do, can, that need it and can do well in permanent supportive. We also have money for rapid rehousing. We don't have enough housing stock. Obviously we can use more affordable housing and I think there's a lot of effort at the city level right now to make that happen in New Orleans, but that's not going to accommodate for those who are very sick with untreated serious mental illness and addiction who are on the street. Who simply need a higher level of care. So it'll wither down the homeless population, I assume to those who can and will do well in permanent ab, supportive, but it won't do anything for those who can't. And everyone's struggling with that. I have a friend in California who's a huge advocate. There is one of the people that got Governor Newsom to introduce this care court initiative that they're starting there and include the housing piece. Of course, California has billions of dollars to spend, whereas Louisiana doesn't, we rely heavily on federal subsidies rather than state funds. But I think there's also room for discussion in Louisiana to look at housing look at funding step down housing from hospitals and jails as a more economical and more humane way of helping folks. We know hospital psychiatric hospital beds are the most expensive. Treatment beds in the country. Some of these hospitals get reimbursed $2,000 a day per bed. Some is $500 a day but the kind of housing that we're talking about that we need secured is something like $350 a day, I believe, or something like that. Whereas unsecured is about $150 a day per person. So it's so much more economical and it also then opens up those beds for other people that move them. Cause what we see right now is just there are a lot of human log jams that are causing people to backflow, to police and backflow to families that don't have the means to care for them and backflow to homelessness. And if we can't get throughput in the system, nothing's gonna change. And what creates throughput is having the intermediate levels of step down so that people aren't constantly coming back to the hospital. I'm doing some advocacy around that. I just introduced funding requests to appropriations for two and a half million dollars for two secured residential treatment facilities. And we'll see if that goes anywhere. That, and that's only two that, that would and I'm, there are hospitals, when I explain to the hospital administrators what I'm trying to do they're grappling it. They're just jumping out there. They're like, oh, we wanna get involved in that. That's exactly what we need. But the state doesn't recognize it. The state doesn't seem to need, so it's money for our population, always.

Pepper Roussel: It's always some aspect of money. Yeah. Follow it's, follow the grant directive that money in those grants are for outpatient permanent supportive only and voluntary.

Janet Hays: There's nothing for anything else. Amen.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Good morning everybody. First of all, I want to commend our community liaison, Dr. Fletcher Bell, for excellent presentation and representation of our program this morning. And our attorney, Terrin Branson, is also on the call. Any, if you talk to any of us that work with the Vulnerable Communities and People's Initiative, the first thing that we're going to tell you is that this is a voting problem. It is a voting problem. And we know what the issues are. We know that there's inadequate housing. We know that there, that it is unaffordable, but we also know that the people who are making policy, who can adequately resource it already know these issues and they don't. Care. So what we have to do is to go out and vote for people who care. Every election we have an opportunity, but when we have an 11% turnout, it's not going to get you the people who show the political will to take care of vulnerable people. And it's not people begging, it's not pe. We don't have a problem with giving millions of dollars to huge corporations. But we have a problem with giving someone a thousand dollars a month for housing. That's a, that's basically I don't know how to talk about it except to say that it's a human right. That we the richest country in the world don't care that we have people who are living outside in the elements or who are couch surfing from day-to-day because they have housing vulnerability. The answer to this question, the answer to this problem is at the voting booth, and I think we might be done for the day.

Pepper Roussel: Thank. If I only had an emoji that would drop a mic, that would make me so happy. But I don't see one Anyhow. Thank you Dr. Bester. Yes, ma'am. All right. So thank y'all so much. I appreciate those. The Fletcher Bell, Janet Hayes, Anna Novak. I really do appreciate y'all being here this morning to share with us different ways that we can look at and think about public safety. Mainly because we are always thinking about it strictly from a position of incarceration and that's not gonna get us where it is that we need to be if we do not look at the systems that lead to incarceration. So I thank you for the work that you do and for sharing this morning. I have note in the chat that we've got Kid Fest on June the 10th. Are there any other community announcements? What's going on this weekend, y'all?

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