It has been my pleasure and a boon to live in Low Income Senior and Disable Housing for almost two years. Some of you when you read this “label” for the housing in which I live, and then hear this story, may think to yourself because it’s low income housing and it’s subsidized by the government those who live therein deserve all with which they are living. However, may I propose a different look at this situation and a new way to view such dwellings?
I would, if you please, like you to notice in the title of what kind of dwellings these are, it says “Low Income Senior”, which means there are individuals who are fifty and above, whom live in these types of dwellings because they have nowhere else they can afford. These residents have nowhere else to go, not because they’re “living off of the government”, but rather because they are on a fixed income and their income is so low they cannot afford a different dwelling. Many who live in low income housing pay full rent, they’d don’t get the sliding scale rent the predominate number of the residents do.
Having said all of this, I shall get to the point. Recently Governor proposed closing three Mental Health Institutions in Iowa: Clarinda, Mount Pleasant, and Cherokee. The only one to be left open will be the one in Independence. Though it was pointed out to him to be against the Iowa State Law, which states we must have four open in our State, to close these places, the Governor ignored this and has pressed on with his agenda. Originally he stated during a press conference that the more mentally ill patients would be placed in out-of-state institutions. Then his proposal changed, the Governor decided it was better to integrate these individuals into society and communities – more specifically, the Low Income Housing throughout the state and to give them home care aids, if the released patients wanted them, to initiate help and smooth their way into the transition and the community.
A facility such as a Mental Health Institution (MHI) is really important for a truly mentally ill patient who cannot live in society on their own. While I have no problem with closing one and integrating a patient into society, if a patient is of no harm or danger to themselves or another person, I do have a problem with this when the individual has serious mental health issues, which when pushed can lead to Felonies of physical violence, Misdemeanors of public disturbances, threats to persons, bullying of older residents who are unable to defend themselves against such, etc.
We also have an individual who has, for whatever it is that might trigger the outlandish and dangerous behavior, beat someone up as they were walking into or out of one of the stores near our dwelling. If this is not enough to convince you, perhaps you might like to know about the fellow who came outside with a fake male appendage strapped to the head carrying a bottle of bleach and propositioning the women with whom he came into contact. Laugh if you want to but in decent Middle to Upper American societies if this happened, these individuals would have been carted off to jail with no questions asked, right? Read on if you will please, I am not finished.
Then there are the times where one of my neighbors decides there are flies getting into her apartment and food through the screened window when it’s opened in the communal hallway. So she sits in the hall verbally abusing shouting cussing and calling people names if they dare come near where she sits and she thinks they might intend to open that hall window. She has also slapped someone, shoved several of the more fragile seniors out of the way because they were too slow with their walkers and oxygen tanks during the period of time where all residents go down to the common area to get the delivered bread, produce or Food Bank boxes! Oh, and don’t forget she also has a tendency to come out into the hall completely nude; and to my door half-naked three different times!
Okay, I believe I have laid the ground work, now let’s take a look at why I am writing to you and why it should be your business.
#1 Did you catch that part where Iowa Law is shutting down the MHI’s in Iowa? That’s right, nothing getting done about it because it was saving $10 million a year to do so, it’s been swept under the rug. Seems to be that stuff of this nature happens way too often anymore with our Local State and Federal Governments.
#2 The proper steps have been taken:
- Police called, reports made.
- Proper evidence obtained and provided to the authorities.
- Witnesses and signed statements obtained and provided to authorities and management.
- Management notified.
- Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) called for Dependent Adult Abuse.
- The County Mental Health Clinic Staff have been notified.
- Home Health Care Aids were notified or witnessed these incidences.
- Home Health Care Aids for the victims have also made reports accordingly.
- Area Agency on Aging has been notified.
- Attempts at mediation between residents by third parties.
With each incident, two or more of these steps were taken and nothing more has been done by the authorities. No follow through has taken place, except to pass the buck – handing off the reports to the County Attorney (by DHS), who also has never done anything about it. So all in all, it appears; because Governor decided to integrate these individuals into society it gave them a profoundly higher amount of Rights and Status than the average citizen on the street.
No one may interfere with how the former MHI resident(s) now live(s) their life until they are either witnessed directly by the authorities as breaking the law, such as hurting another person. Furthermore, if it is not directly witnessed by the authorities then there must be profound evidence of them breaking the law, as was the case when the former MHI resident ran away from the scene after beating someone bloody; or as in the case with my aforementioned neighbor, if she does happen to follow through with one of her threats to kill someone. However, believe it or not, that individual who beat up the person at the store only got a slap on the hand. They were basically told they had two options jail or mandatory medicine compliance, someone comes to that person’s home and checks to see they’re really taking it. They of course chose the latter, but the person will still verbally tell anyone who will listen they’re “feeling like a ticking time bomb all the time”. The residents here are terrified of the person!
When I first started coming here many years ago for other reasons, we had a group who came in and helped provide some much needed healthy emotional support, one would see the senior residents outside in the common areas talking laughing having a great time. They would play games together on a game night, have pot lucks, sit outside and talk for log periods of time. Now they hide in their apartments, and they only come out when or if a friend, family member, or former neighbor comes to pick them up to take them to go to the grocery or to church. The situation is extremely sad for these residents, it’s like the sunshine has been removed from their sky and a permanent cloud has been placed in its stead.
Now you have more evidence, let’s go forward a few years and think about the time that will arrive when your mother or father must live in a lower income housing situation because their retirement just doesn’t cover the mortgage or rent anymore. Maybe it’s your favorite Aunt or Uncle, or a really kind next door neighbor whom you have known for years. I’m sure you won’t mind if they come to live in such a place, I’m mean it’s okay for all of us, and as it stands it’s not going to change, so I’m sure they’ll be okay. You won’t mind, they’re so worried they’re going to get hurt or be so frightened or intimidated they won’t leave their apartment.
Of course it’s not okay, I know that, you know that, so let’s not bury our heads in the sand, let’s do something about this!
What I am asking you to do is go to this [legitimate government website], listed below, and electronically sign the following petition:
THIS PETITION IS PROPOSED IN ORDER TO STOP THE CLOSING OF THE MENTAL HEALTH INSTITUTIONS IN THE STATE OF IOWA.
Iowa is in the process of closing three Mental Health Institutions [MHI(s)]: Clarinda, Mount Pleasant, and Cherokee; even though it is breaking the Iowa State Law to do so. Speaking from experience, this has caused many problems within the low income communities in which these previous MHI residents are being placed. The residents are not screened well prior to being released and are not being properly monitored or are being given the choice to have monitoring for medication compliance. We’ve had incidences of these individuals attacking people, threatening, causing public disturbance, running naked, setting fire to their own dwellings, having lewd conduct, etc. Authorities are contacted and nothing is done. We want a reversal the Governor’s decision. Thank you.
The short url is below, thank you so much for taking the time to read this and follow through.