Onondaga Case Management, Again


So I ate lunch—homemade bean soup, cornbread crackers, a banana ice pop and iced tea—and then had a medical massage, which always is a really, really good thing, and a gift from a Christian. Lots of people like to say lots of really, really bad things about Christians, particularly how they start wars and kill a lot of people, but I know some Christians who are really, really loving and do kind things like give me free massages, so I get massages with love.

So I promised myself that I was going to spend the rest of the afternoon reading and sleeping because I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard, and have a couple of strenuous days coming up and I need to be prepared. I read for fifteen minutes, as is my wont. Once I tried to go to sleep without reading for fifteen minutes and instead of sleeping I got awaker and awaker and finally had to get up and start my whole sleep routine all over again. Let that be a lesson to you. I’ve never since gone to sleep without reading first.

Currently I’m reading Sara Paretsky’s Blacklist, featuring V.I. Warshawski, private investigator. V.I. has fallen into a nasty, dirty pond, discovered a dead man, and caught a terrible cold. I am 99 pages into the book and still haven’t decided if it is worth reading, but that’s irrelevant to this story.

I read, I went to sleep, and fifteen minutes later the phone rang. Don’t you just love it? I need to get someone to teach me how to turn the damn thing off because no phone call is ever as good as the nap it interrupts. The caller was some intake female from Onondaga Case Management.

I do not like Onondaga Case Management. I had a case manager from them several years ago. She started out great but then went off the rails. She was telling me about her 40 first dates from a dating service—39 of whom wanted to have sex with her—and her son’s trip through the ICU, and her separated husband’s suicide attempt. Also, when we went for coffee, I had to pay for hers, and her car always seemed to break down on the day of my appointment, and so on and so forth. If the client is so messed up that she needs a case manager, then she also needs not to be burdened with somebody else’s life crises. It’s called professionalism.

So I called her supervisor to beg for relief. Of course, the supervisor did not take the call. She let it go to voice mail and did not return it: she went and talked to the case manager, who said everything was fine. So I waited a couple of days and called another supervisor, who also let it go to voice mail, then talked to the case manager, who said everything was fine.

Holy crap! What are you supposed to do when your case manager has gone off the rails? I put all the problems in a letter to the agency director. Thereafter, the case manager was removed from my case. And I was not given a new case manager. They decided I didn’t need one. WTF?!

I was treated most unfairly, but the one point that I did hammer home was that somebody’s got to check up on the case managers! You can’t just let them have their way and take their word for it that everything is fine! In human services you can’t just abandon quality control! Some guy’s working the manufacturing line and putting the widgets on backwards and nobody notices? That’s what they do in human services.

What they should be doing is having the supervisor meet regularly—maybe once every six months—with the client and say “How’s it going? What do you and your case manager do together?” Since the debacle that I made them aware of, I’ve heard that Onondaga Case Management (OCM) is now doing something like that—but not with me. Me they kicked out.

Let me tell you another story of something I got fixed at OCM, nearly at the cost of my life. I applied for services there and they refused me, saying I didn’t need services. Well, it turned out that there’s a specific list of things you should have, and if you don’t have them then you should get a case manager who will help you get them—stuff like a safe, affordable home, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and so on.

Well, “they” decided I didn’t need help. But I was falling apart. Things got worse and worse, and I kept applying to OCM for help and they kept refusing me. Even when I ended up in the hospital and the social worker applied for me, I still got turned down. I was desperately in need and no longer could cope with anything, but The System, in its august wonderfulness, would not help me.

Wrought with despair, I took an overdose of drugs and spent a month in the ICU on life-support. After which, my doctor said “You do not go home without a case manager.” Then he called the head of the agency and I got a case manager. I was pretty pissed off; you shouldn’t have to die to get help, but that is the way it works in the psychiatric system in Onondaga County.

What I found out later was that OCM had one—and only one—girl doing intake. She never re-evaluated my case. She decided “no” once, and never again looked to see if my circumstances had changed.

I don’t know what OCM did with Sharon Frisbee, the intake woman, but the intake process was turned over to a committee, thereby increasing the possibility that someone will actually pay attention to the people petitioning for help.

And now years have gone by and I need help again and some bleeping dorkhead in Rochester has referred me to Onondaga Case Management when I requested a different agency.

How many lessons, and at what price, do I have to teach OCM?

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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One Response to Onondaga Case Management, Again

  1. Lara says:

    Sharon Frisbee has been working at The NYS Office of Mental Health on the Hutchings Campus. She is equally useless there, only she’s supposed to be watching the helpers for the State. Oy!

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