Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “June, 2018”

School’s Out – It Is Time To Do Something Now


Schools are ending their 2017-2018 calendar years.

There is less than two months to address and deal with the increase of violence in our schools at all grade levels, elementary, middle, and high schools.

Our government is doing nothing on a federal level.  Some states are responding on state levels.  Ultimately, it is going to fall on local governments such as school districts to take the steps necessary to keep the children safe, with as much effort as we do at airports, courthouses, and rock concerts.

My generation was probably the last to be able to attend school without police officers and metal detectors.  My generation was probably the last to not have to worry about being killed at school.  Sadly, children today, that is all they know.  In spite of intruder drills, children still cannot feel safe that they can survive any kind of assault by someone bent on mass murder.

According to the CDC, homicides are the second leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 5 to 18.  Weapons brought to school are typically brought from home.  There are all kinds of statistics from weapons, to times of day, and other factors.  But all these statistics do, is just continue dialogue.  No one is coming up with solutions.

More guns in the hands of citizens will not solve this.

Video games are not the cause of school violence.

Fatherlessness is not causing the violence.

Armed teachers will not solve this.

Students with clear back packs will not solve this.

“See something, say something” has not solved this.

Kevlar plates inside of backpacks will not solve this.

Intruder drills do not solve this.

It is not this hard.  How often do you hear of weapons in an airport compared to school violence?  How often do you hear of weapons in a courthouse compared to school violence?  How often do you hear of weapons at a concert compared to school violence?  But while we all argue over rights and weapons of choice, we are not coming up with any solutions.  More children and teachers continue to die.

Can we all just agree, that until we come up with a solution, we need to at least prevent weapons from being carried into the schools?  Can we have a controlled number of entrances into schools?  Can we have not only an armed officer at each entrance, but also the technology or tools necessary to detect weapons like screening machines used at airports and courthouses and concerts?

Sure, there will be plenty of complaints about the costs to implement these prevention measures, but compare those costs of nearly $20 billion dollars in medical costs each year as a result of violence in our schools.  Instead of arguing about the weapon used, admitting there were warning signs but ignored them anyway, we need to at least stop the weapons from getting into the schools.

No one wants to see the schools be secured this way.  But the routine of get shot, offer thoughts and prayers, blame guns, forget, and then repeat at the next event, leaves us no other choice.  The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.  Of course, security at airports, courthouses, and concerts is not perfect, but the occurrences are much less than those at schools.

But of course, I am sure everyone is open to any suggestions that will prevent the next school shooting, and for now, we know there will be another one.  It is just a question of when and where.

We owe our children the right to a free and safe education.  Time is running out to prevent the next violent mass murder once the new school year begins.  Please do something before the start of the 2018-2019 school year.  We already know students and their families are depending on it.

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A Fatherless Father’s Day For One Family


Before I begin, for the sake of certain trolls following me…

THIS STORY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MY PERSONAL SITUATION!!!

THIS STORY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MY PERSONAL SITUATION!!!

THIS STORY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MY PERSONAL SITUATION!!!

So we are clear?  Yes?  Good.

A story was sent to me a recently.  Now by the title alone, “Erie County Prison Inmate Dies After An Asthma Attack At Work Site” from the news site “Erie News Now”, in spite of how we feel that prisoners have great health care, clearly it may not be so good.

Felix Manus was on work-release, when he suffered an asthma attack.  Needing assistance, his guards, instead of calling for an ambulance, drove Manus back to the county prison which was approximately a half an hour away.  Manus ended up on life support, and died.  Clearly, this should never have happened.  As if it were bad enough that the guards did not call for an ambulance, their drive back to the prison, it is reported that they passed two hospitals on the way.  The prisoner died because of the negligence, or ignorance of the guards in charge.

Friends and family members, rightfully so, want justice.  They are calling it murder.  People want answers and for now, the information that the county is supplying, the guards have been reprimanded already with pending further investigations.  But that is not good enough.

The reason that this story was sent to me however, is the underlying, and not discussed story about why Manus was on “work release” in the first place.

According to public records, Manus was sentenced to three months of prison, the penalty for failing to pay the purge amount (total needed to avoid prison) of $750 in child support payments.  As an advocate for parent’s rights, as I looked at the details of why he was in prison, all I could do is shake my head in disbelief, that this man paid the ultimate price, because he was unable to make a purge payment.

To understand how Manus ended up in prison, you need to understand the laws that made this situation possible.  The fact is, these laws have been around for decades.

TitleIV-Part D is a financial incentive program created decades ago, that states are able to receive funds from the federal government based on its performance on child support payments, current and arrears, enforcement, efficiency, etc.  Simply, the more a state collects child support and arrears, the more money the state gets from the federal government.

When this concept was originally created decades ago, it was because there were so many mothers who were not working.  Therefore, when parents divorced, mothers often found themselves needing to go on welfare without child support payments, and in many cases, even with.  To keep non-custodial parents current on child support, usually fathers, individual states established laws and procedures to assist or coerce them to make sure payments are made, and arrears dealt with.  Basically, TitleIV-Part D is meant to deal with “deadbeat” situations, in other words, those who intentionally refuse to pay their court ordered support.

States use any number of methods to enforce support payments including all the way up to imprisonment.  Common sense would say, “how can a person in prison make a payment?”  In fact, according to the US Constitution, article 14, a person who is too poor to pay their fine, thrown in jail, violates their constitutional right to equal protection of the 14th amendment.  And just like the term “deadbeat” is often misused and mislabeled, the description of “too poor to pay their fine” is clearly vague.  I would make the argument, that I know of no one who would be willing to go to prison, if able to pay their fine, and simply did not want to.  Which is just one thing that makes the Manus situation so difficult to understand.  Manus did not need to die as punishment, which ultimately is the price he paid for his inability to pay $750 in child support.

What is expected to happen, when a non-custodial parent is faced with a judge, and is dealing with arrears, a judge will set a “purge” amount, and it is expected that someone who has the money, will pay the purge amount to avoid prison, will do so.  In many cases, this works.  But for those who clearly do not have the money, the process fails.  Manus did not have the money, nor was he able to get the money.  So, he was sentenced to three months in prison.

Manus was not a typical inmate either.  He had asthma, a medical condition requiring treatments.  It was his inability to get the proper treatment, that cost him his life.  And the county is responsible for this.

The truth is, stories like Manus occur often.  Parents who are unable to pay, and have complicated health issues, sent to prison, unable to get proper medical help, die in prison, over child support.

States get money from the government for collecting support, that is the incentive.  The states do what they must.  But it is wrong when those actions cost a father his life, and a child their father.

Child support is very important that it gets paid.  And it is important that non-custodial parents be given opportunities to make arrangements.  But between TitleIV-Part D and aggressive vengeful custodial parents, those opportunities are often not given.  There are legitimate parents that are unable to pay, sent to prison for their debt that cannot be paid at the current time in direct violation of the 14th amendment of our US Consititution, and succumb to a medical issue that cannot be dealt with properly.

It is time for this incentive to be dealt with before anyone else dies for something less than a violent offender gets sentenced for.  But there also needs to be a way to deal with those who willfully and intentionally withhold their child support obligations and play the purge game to delay their obligations.  Innocent parents should not have to die because of real “deadbeats”.

Words Without Action Mean Nothing


And yet again, many mourn the loss of someone famous, that either inspired them, or entertained them.  And yet again, it appears it was by their own hands.  Over the weekend, it was reported that Anthony Bourdain, most recently known for his television show, “Parts Unknown”, where he travelled the world sampling food and traditions and history, committed suicide, apparently by hanging.

Of course, we are all caught off guard.  Recently, Bourdain had been doing the talk-show circuit, to promote his current season of “Parts Unknown,” and it is likely, just as in my case, we all just saw a guy, promoting his show, seemingly having a great life, a girlfriend, a daughter, successful show, and of course travelling wherever he basically wanted to go.

There is no known reason why Bourdain took his own life.  And as I stated in the beginning, to the common person or fan, we had no idea that something troubled him so badly, or triggered a decision, he took his own life.

Over the years, there are many other celebrities that I have enjoyed being entertained by, who sadly ended their own lives as well… Michael Hutchins of INXS, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, and one that definitely had an affect on me, Robin Williams.

All of the above mentioned, including Bordain, on the outside, all portrayed a life that seemed to be that of a success that only most of us could dream of.  In some instances, we would learn that their passings had nothing to do with their successes, but other feelings that they kept private.  As a cancer survivor dealing with very serious side effects, I keep the circle of people who are aware of my health issues, pretty much the only ones who can actually “see” anything wrong with me.  I do that because I either believe that the average person cannot handle to know everything that I deal with, or in some instances, preventing unsolicited advice or worse, criticism.  For those that opt for suicide, I cannot help but wonder, if they intentionally keep their hurt or torment inside for the same reasons.

I personally have never known anyone who has committed suicide.  In my early childhood, I had a young friend whose mother had committed suicide, but as it was explained to me by my mother, it was not something to be talked about with my friend.  And so, it never was.  I do have friends to this day who do have experience with a loved one who has committed suicide, and with the exception of one, they also do not discuss it, and the one that does talk about it, well… you can tell the sadness that they relive over and over as they talk about what happened, and the events that led up to the suicide.

My first indepth study into suicide occurred during school, with an essay in a particular psychology course.  I do not recall what directed me to the topic, but I chose Teenage Suicide.  I wrote about rates, successful attempts.  Oddly, as is talked about today, or rather, not discussed, unsuccessful attempts, I did not write about.  I wrote about possible causes, mostly all related to behaviors.  I still have the paper, which I earned an A+, in spite of a few grammatical errors, a perfect paper, or so it seemed.  As an adult, I can clearly see now, how much more complicated this issue really is.  More disturbing, it does not seem that society is dealing any better with the issue, than in the early 1980’s when I wrote about it.

Suicide is more than just about dealing with depression.  Within 24 hours, social media responded with cries against feeling sorry for celebrities who simply were not satisfied with everything they had, decrying the lack of attention to the 22 vets who commit suicide every day, an undeclared number of alienated parents frustrated with a system that is run more by money than the best interests of their children, and another group of suicide victims seemingly pushed aside by the onslaught of school mass shootings, victims of bullying.  The reality is this, suicide does not discriminate, just as any disease such as cancer, diabetes, or ALS.  But instead of complaining about the “who” of the story, we should be taking the opportunity to not only draw attention to the issue of suicide, but we should take the moment to express in totality, how many people per day, die by their own hand, including vets, alienated parents, victims of bullying.  I am not sure what the total number of suicides committed every day would be, but if we are going to try to draw attention to one demographic, when it comes to suicide, we should acknowledge all of the demographics, not just a particular one.

I have no idea what goes on in the mind of someone considering such a fate.  I myself have never thought of suicide.  I will not pretend to know what someone is thinking when it comes to ending their life.  What exactly can we do to help those who are in such pain, that suicide is felt to be the only option?  Since most of us are not mind readers, we cannot tell when someone is reaching that point.  Behavioral changes are the most obvious warning signs, however, in most cases they are so subtle, we do not recognize them.  But what if, we actually paid attention more to our friends and family, not just for behavioral changes, but for events in their life, that could lead to possible behavioral responses.  The death of a loved one.  A bad grade.  A painful break-up.  Losing a job.  A family tragedy.  We all respond immediately to those affected, when they are affected, and then we move on.  But all too often, those feeling the loss, do not.  And it is then, that changes begin.  But unless the sorrow or pain is shared with us, we all too often assume any changes were intentional, especially when they appear for the good.  In the case of Bourdain, he had a well known issue with addiction, but for viewers, all we saw was the guy touring location after location, partying with locals, and just having a great time.  Even those close to him, are unaware of what could have caused him to kill himself.  But I am certain, there was an event, that set him on this path.  Changes occurred, ever so subtly, and went unnoticed as a concern.

But as I mentioned, just as many illnesses and diseases, suicide carries a stigma about it.  There is a shame that is felt by those who are left behind.  There are opinions by those who should have none, such as religious zealots who feel the need to condemn the departed because it was by their own hands.

And WTF!!!!  Why are pharmaceutical companies creating drugs that cause harmful side effects, especially the potential for suicide or an increase in suicidal tendencies?  Why the Hell would anyone even consider that an option, to make someone feel worse than they already do?  As with many other problems we have, that we try to cure with a pill, unless we deal with the problem itself, the problem will never go away regardless of what pill you take.

Like many other problems that we do not investigate for answers, factors, and solutions, I feel that if  we actually considered those who survived suicide attempts for solutions and answers, perhaps we might be able to save more from such a sad end.  And again, I am relating to a similar position of cancer.  We only hear and publicize when people die from cancer.  But we hardly ever make a big deal about the successes of cures and survival.  Perhaps, if those who were in such pain, might be able to find hope in others who were not successful or changed their mind, they themselves might make a different decision.

In the meantime, sure, someone hurting can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  But we can also remember those in our life, that have gone through something painful, long after the hurt is gone for us.  Because it might just not be gone for them.  They may still need our help and support.

 

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