Oct 18, 2012

A Case Manager's Perspective

This essay, submitted by Peter Morris, offers the perspective of a case manager working "on the ground" at the San Francisco Community Justice Center (CJC). 

A short story from a CJC case manager’s perspective 

My first meeting with Ms. P did not go well. She was furious about being asked to come to court each week and then to meet with a young man she was certain would never be able to understand her. Unfortunately for Ms. P, she had been arrested in the Tenderloin after purchasing a small amount of crack. To complicate things further, Ms. P had fallen out of touch with her mental health treatment provider and had stopped taking her required medication. She was at risk for severely decompensating and possibly losing her housing.

Despite her frustrations, Ms. P began attending her weekly court dates. 
After a few weeks, she started realizing that this courtroom, which she initially perceived as punitive, was actually set up to support her. She began developing a good relationship with the judge and looked forward to the time each week when the judge would acknowledge her accomplishments. 

Ms. P reconnected with her mental health treatment provider and was referred to a substance abuse treatment group that she enjoyed attending. Her court-mandated drug testing showed that Ms. P was staying away from illegal drugs, allowing her mental health to stabilize. 

Ms. P was monitored by the court for 6 months. During that time, she was able to avoid a pending crisis in her life and return to the positive aspects of the community she had lived in for 20 years. When the judge told her that she had fulfilled her obligations and was ready to graduate from the Community Justice Center program, Ms. P refused to go. She explained to the court that she valued speaking to the judge each week and that it helped her tremendously in organizing her life. The judge accommodated Ms. P, and she continues to return every other week to update to the court on her progress. 

The importance of Ms. P's experience is how she was able to change her perception and attitude once she realized the court was not trying to punish her. The support she received through the CJC reduces the likelihood of any future arrests in the community. This makes her story a win-win for both the client and the community the CJC serves.

~ ~ ~

Peter Morris is a Senior Psychiatric Social Worker with the San Francisco Department of Public Health and has worked at the CJC since its opening day. During that time, he has helped design treatment services at the CJC in addition to working with over 300 individual clients. Peter has presented at multiple national conferences on issues related to HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and the work at the Community Justice Center. He has worked in San Francisco's Tenderloin Neighborhood for over 10 years and is committed to the improvement of the neighborhood and the lives of people most need of assistance.

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