In late April an enterprising clinician in the mental health division at one of CDCR’s prisons, noting the problems both caused and exacerbated by the shutdown of virtually all activities for prisoners during CoVid, adapted the mental health educational curriculum from group therapy sessions to in-cell study programs, designed to be pursued by inmates individually. This caring and professional individual emailed the programs to the mental health chief in each prison—where, for the most part, they promptly disappeared. It must have been something like the last scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” where the ark, and its treasures, disappeared into the nothingness of a vast bureaucratic warehouse.
But. Life Support Alliance managed to get copies of the curriculum for both the Anger Management and the Depression packets. We suggested in our newsletters that those who wanted these in-cell studies ask MH departments at their prison for the packets—and to let us know if those materials were not forthcoming. Dozens did and most got responses like: ‘never heard of it and it probably isn’t any good,’ or ‘it’s not our job [excuse me, what IS the job of mental health?], or—we’ll put you on the waiting list for group activities—when those start up again after CoVid. Mind you, the first page of these packets note they were created specifically for in-cell, individual study DURING THE COVID SHUTDOWN.
Never ones to give up, we began asking in the upper echelon of CDCR mental health to intervene and were, for the most part, met with either radio silence, expressions of ‘what are you talking about,’ or, our personal favorite, ‘how did YOU get this material?’ After exhausting all our administrative remedies and civil efforts to convince CDCR mental health to do its job and make available to all inmates the fruits of the labor of one of their own clinicians, we’re going rouge. We’re making those materials, those in-cell, individual study packets available to those who want them. Plus, we’ll include an excellent workbook on dealing with stress during CoVid, created by the Veterans Administration for individuals and families and made available to all comers.
Together, these really great resources amount to about 100 pages, so, aware that it will take some financial resources to accomplish this (about $10 per person), we set up a GoFundMe account as well as a Mental Health Project button on the website. In the last 3 days, using those 2 avenues, our caring and generous supporters have provided funds to supply these courses to 200 men and women! WOW!! We're thrilled and soooo thankful to you, our members and supporters.
Our office printer is white-hot (thank goodness we bought a new one last year!), big, fat envelopes are being stuffed and a post office run looms in the next day or two, as the first batch goes out. We're also providing a Certificate of Completion to all those who finish the studies and turn in the homework (yes, these are serious courses), reviewed and signed by some of the (real) clinicians who work with us. And we’ve alerted the Board of Parole Hearings to our intent, so that, when the commissioners see these certificates at parole hearing in the future, they can recognize the effort it took for those inside to get these classes.
Once again, when CDCR won't step up to the plate, we will. And that 'we' includes you, those of you who help and support us. We cannot do this without you and you are all part of every effort and success we have.
If you'd like to know more, or contribute, check out the Mental Health Project button on the website's first page, or post of FB about the GoFundMe drive. Please share on your social media, and let's get these resources to all our LO inside who want and need them. Providing help in dealing with Anger, Depression and Stress--a grand slam! Let's flood all the institutions with these!