Whatever Happened to Community mental Health

Part 1 of the Inner City Adventures:

The 1960s was a time when we saw endless possibilities.  It was not just a time of reform but creation as well.  I was just finishing up my internship and residency when I had gained my doctorate in clinical psychology.  Then it was time to seek new possibilities outside of academia.

While my studies had been intriguing and fulfilling it was time to exit into what I called “the real world”.  The outstanding lure to me was found in the first Community Mental HealthMovement program in the City of Baltimore.  The story in great and rich detail can be found in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health available on Amazon.com.

When I exited the plane at Baltimore Washington airport i was greeted by a community organizer by the name of Carl.  He took me on an incredibly enriching tour of Baltimore and its environment.The challenge seen on the tour left me unable to do anything but apply for a job.  Carl was the first person hired, I was soon to meet the second and I was the third.

After I was hired, shortly they “dumped me” into what was to be my office.  They dropped me off as if it was fully operational but it was empty of staff.  Later that day the second person hired, a woman social worker by the name of Roz entered the offices.  With Carl, our essential trio to take command of vision for the program was complete.  Roz took me on a rich tour of our catchment area.  How could I not be completely enthralled.  It was not long until people began to be referred and they came through the doors not knowing what to expect.

The program did not serve all of Baltimore.  Its focus was on the impoverished inner city.  While it was focused in a sense, it was up to the staff to decide what was needed for each of our client families.  They were given an appointment and it was amusing to see them wander in sometime near the time.  Most agencies did not adhere to a firm schedule but we did.

One of my main jobs was to make challenging home visits.  As I said, this was an impoverished community so home visits meant we had to make careful choices.  Out making home visits were experienced social workers and a man like myself who was willing to take the risks.

With my friend and partner Roz’s help there were some useful procedures to be learned.  In approaching an address it was desirable to study the front door.  The condition of that door often gave guidance regarding what the inside was like.  The general facade often yielded little information.  For the apartments, or when I entered a house, I would go in and sniff the air.  It often  was an indicator of conditions in general and then there was the scent which might give an indication o drug usage.   When it was desirable for a couple of minutes I listened.  It was also not indicated to be too well dressed or too formal.

To Be Continued

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