Mental Health Domestic Violence, Hoarding, Learning Disabilities
November 11, 2011
PLUS STATE FUNDS LOW PLUS
STAAR: REPLACES TAKS
In This Issue
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR By Kelley Connor Managing Editor
With the school year halfway through and Thanksgiving looming closer, we thought this would be a good time to focus on the family. This issue will highlight the many ways East Texas schools, agencies and other organizations are improving family life, despite state budget cuts. We’ll explore sensitive subjects like mental illness, domestic violence and learning disabilities—how they affect communities and how community programs are making a difference. Several stories will focus on our schools, some of which have made interesting curriculum changes in response to wide-ranging student needs and changes in standardized testing. One teacher even transformed her classroom into an internet café to enhance her students’ learning experience. The material in this issue has a message beyond facts, figures and budget numbers: good things are happening in East Texas, even with the deep cuts imposed by the Legislature. We’re thankful for the resourceful people in our area who make find ways to help those among us who need it most. We hope you have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
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ART + LIFE
Take your average Tbone steak. Carve away the fat and the bone and the little that remains is meat. Take your average politician. Carve away the bluster and rhetoric and you just may find the truth…or not. In our TBone, we’ll look at political quotes that make us wonder where the meat is, closely examine their value and grade them just as a meat inspector might grade cuts of beef: Prime, Choice, Standard or Canner. Then we’ll serve it up to you for your consumption.
Athens High School English teacher Cheryl Hicks has turned her classroom into an internet in order to relax her students and open their minds to learning. The idea of creating a more relaxed and comfortable classroom atmosphere came to her during the summer.
Angelica gets out of work later than expected and hurries across the parking lot in the dark. She knows by the look on her husband’s face and the smell of his breath, that this is going to be one of those nights.
Texas ranks 50th in terms of per capita mental health spending, according to “Texas on the Brink,” an annual study published by the Texas Legislative Study Group.
CHANTEL MARTIN Contributing Writers BECK ALLMAN IRVING MARMOLEJO RACHEL PRATAS JASMINE SMITH
JESSICA SWINK WHITNEY TEAGUE WHITNEY WHATLEY JEFF WRIGHT
KELLEY CONNOR Photographers DARREN FEAGIN RACHEL PRATAS HAYLEE STORY DAVE WEINSTOCK: ADVISOR
Comments or questions can be directed to email@example.com The Pine Curtain Magazine is an online publication created by Communication students at the University of Texas at Tyler. Content may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from The Pine Curtain Magazine. ©The Pine Curtain Magazine 2011
Nov. 11, 2011 • 3
In This Issue
“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,
Take your average T-bone steak. Carve away the fat and the bone and the little that remains is meat. Take your average politician. Carve away the bluster and rhetoric and you just may find the truth…or not. In our T-Bone, we’ll look at political quotes that make us wonder where the meat is, closely examine their value and grade them just as a meat inspector might grade cuts of beef: Prime, Choice, Standard or Canner. Then we’ll serve it up to you for your consumption.
‘Prime’ Truth: Top shelf—Grade A goodness.
‘Choice’ Truth: Mostly true, depending on the bull it came from.
‘Standard’ Truth: Run of the mill bull—more gristle than fat, less meaty than most.
‘Canner’ Truth: I wouldn’t eat that.
“Our government right now (is) spending 40 percent more than what we take in.” --Michelle Bachmann Michele Bachmann doesn’t know the difference between John Wayne and John Wayne Gacy, but she does know her numbers. We checked her figures with the U.S. Census Bureau and were surprised to discover she is right. According to the Census Bureau, national revenue sits at about $2.2 trillion, while spending this year is estimated at nearly $3.8 trillion. Dividing spending from revenue gives us a total of nearly 58 percent, well over the 40 percent Bachmann mentioned. This statement is Prime.
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however improbable, must be the truth?”
—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) The Sign of Four.
“Less than one percent of our kids (in Massachusetts)…are uninsured. You have a million kids uninsured in Texas.” -– Mitt Romney
“Today, Texas has the 2nd-lowest debt per capita in the US.” --Rick Perry Perry must have checked his numbers before leaving for the debate. Either that or he got lucky. He is precisely right. We checked with the U.S. Census Bureau, as weil as the Sunshine Report, finding that although Texas debt has more than doubled in the last decade, per capita debt is still very low. This is thanks to a large increase in the state’s population over that same time period. The quote gets a Prime grade.
All of the T-Bone quotes for this issue were taken from the Republican presidential primary debate, Oct. 11, in Hanover, N.H.
Nov. 11, 2011 • 5
We did some fact checking by looking at “Texas on the Brink,” an annual state-of-the-state report from the Texas Legislative Study Group. Romney is somewhat truthful. The report stated the number of Texas uninsured children is 1.3 million, so Romney’s estimate was actually a little conservative. The Massachusetts numbers are where he back-slid. The U.S. Census Bureau’s data reveal 7.6 percent of Massachusetts children don’t have insurance, well over Romney’s 1 percent. He was mostly right, however, and receives a grade of Standard.
Federal judge stalls legislation, uphold women’s rights By Kelley Connor
Texas women are finally catching a break and all it took was for a federal judge to get involved. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks (Western District) stymied the Texas Legislature when, on August 30, he overruled parts of a bill forcing women to view sonograms of their unborn babies before abortions. Sparks had no quibble with the sonograms. The parts he eliminated were the sections he believed infringed women’s rights, according to CNN. For instance, the section stating doctors would have to give women a full description of the fetal development bothered the judge. He felt the same way about forcing women to sign statements they were victims of incest or sexual assault in order to avoid viewing the sonograms. The law was to go into effect Sept. 1, but is now tied up in the appeals process. In the mean time, the Supreme Court again slammed the legal door on the Texas Legislature when, on Sept. 29, it disallowed enforcement of the law while it’s under appeal, the Texas Tribune reported. It’s about time. A scarlet-letter mentality has prevailed in our state for too long, fueled by state officials and “good” East Texas Christians. Every January, small white crosses dot the land immediately surrounding many East Texas churches. Anti-abortion activists build these “Cemeteries of the Innocents” to give voice to the ghosts of the unborn. The so-called cemeteries create a white fence of shame, shutting out young women who might otherwise benefit from the warm welcome of 6 • The Pine Curtain
true Christian charity. Taken by themselves, the crosses reek of smug, self-righteous judgment and only serve to deepen the guilt these young women may already feel. That’s a very unsympathetic message coming from people who supposedly uphold the notion of loving the sinner, just not the sin. State officials’ role in the erosion of women’s self esteem starts in high school, where an abstinence-only form of sex education is taught. This began with former Governor George W. Bush. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, abstinence-only education failed from the beginning, placing Texas behind only two other states in terms of teen birth rates. Texans further added to young girls’ guilt and confusion by ignorantly opposing Governor Rick Perry’s surprisingly insightful decision to advocate a mandatory vaccine for the virus that causes cervical cancer. A vaccine against a disease in no way gives permission to have sex, or even has anything to do with sexual intercourse. But ultra-right, ultra-conservative, ultra-backward East Texans don’t see it that way. Christians are too busy hammering white crosses in the ground symbolizing aborted pregnancies; Legislators are too busy keeping birth control out of high schools. It’s kind of ironic, really. Now let’s make sure we’re clear—there is no protection for young women in Texas, whether against pregnancy, disease, invasion of privacy or ridicule. Thankfully Sparks and the Supreme Court saw this law for what it is—the latest step in many that have trampled women’s self esteem in Texas.
Teacher remodels classroom into internet cafe By Rachel Pratas Contributing Writer
Photo by Rachel Pratas
Athens High School English teacher Cheryl Hicks teaches in her newly renovated classroom. Hicks and her daughter sold artwork to come up with $10,000. are comfortable and it’s higher up off the ground so you can scoot closer to the desk,” said junior Chelsey Davis. The names of famous authors on white butcher paper cover the fluorescent lights to give off a softer setting. “It’s more relaxing,” said junior Aarend MacPherson. “If you go into a regular class, it’s really bright and everything’s white.” Students have received the changes to the classroom very well and feel that they are doing better in English. “It’s a little easier, it’s more relaxing and it’s just an easier place to learn than just sitting in desks all day long,” said junior Morgan Gimler. Hicks plans to keep the internet café atmosphere going and she will continue to involve her students in the progression of their learning experience in her classroom. “We already have plans to do some murals on the walls because it’s still a little institutional,” she said. “We’re going to do some silhouettes with the kids and use that as a project where they do a mind map and a body map.” Hicks understands the value of a student’s education, the impact of their classroom environment and that change can be good. Nov. 11, 2011 • 7
Athens High School English teacher Cheryl Hicks has turned her classroom into an internet in order to relax her students and open their minds to learning. Hicks, who currently teaches junior and senior level English, has been teaching multiple subjects at the high school for 20 years. The idea of creating a more relaxed and comfortable classroom atmosphere came to her during the summer. “I was at a workshop, sitting in those horrible desks, and it made me really irritable,” Hicks said. “I couldn’t help but think that my students probably felt the same way after sitting in school all day.” On the first day of class, Hicks relayed the idea to her students and with their support, began planning the transformation. “I thought it was going to be a really cool idea because it would be fun to learn in a coffee shop” said junior Demi Cumby. Although she had the support of her students and the principal, there was no money to fund the project. The English teacher decided to raise the money with the help of her daughter, Candace Hicks, who teaches art at the same school. Hicks, an artist herself, teamed up with her daughter to sell their art at reduced prices, raising $10,000 within a couple of weeks. After ordering the furniture, the students helped build and move the tables and chairs into the new classroom, which is twice the size of their old one. On Sept. 12, the same night as Open House, the internet café classroom made its debut. The classroom is filled with four-person bar tables and chairs, each with a lamp. Hicks’ artwork of past students covers the walls. “It gets boring sitting in a hardwood desk every single day and this is kind of like a break. The chairs
Cell-phone usage prohibited during school zones By Haylee Story
in the next four weeks, according to Todd Schneider, Martin’s Mill ISD superintendent. Phase one of a three-part school safety project, Phase two involves extending the school zone proposed by a local resident Oct. 10 at the Mar- beyond just the main campus to encompass a tin’s Mill Independent School District board meet- non-contiguous portion of the school located behind a nearby convenience store. ing, is nearly complete. Marvin Shaw’s initial purpose for the project was The district built a new athletic complex behind to have “cell phone use prohibited” signs installed the store and students walk there from campus. near three sets of flashing lights currently used to “We should have factored that in when we built the athletic complex down there,” said Cindy Ball, alert drivers of a nearby school. In 2009, the Texas Legislature passed a law pro- school board secretary. hibiting cell phone use while driving in school Phase three is the most complicated portion of Shaw’s proposal. To further ensure student safezones. For drivers to be held responsible for negligence, ty, he hopes to have sidewalks built so students signs informing drivers of the law must be present aren’t walking in the road. Schneider spoke with the district’s lawyer about where the school zone starts. “As of right now, if a driver hit a child while on their how putting in sidewalks would affect homeowners’ property lines. cell phone, we could not prosecute,” Shaw said. Upon inquiring with the Texas Department of “We could either purchase five to six feet for an Transportation about the new signs, Shaw found easement, or, if TxDOT allows, use imminent dothat to be an official school zone, signs reading main,” Schneider said. “school” must be posted beneath the flashing Estimates for a four-foot wide sidewalk are $4 per square foot, totaling $13,000 to $27,000 dependlights. ing on the length of the sidewalk. Currently there are no such signs. Until there is an official school zone, the cell Shaw volunteered his time to fundraising for the sidewalk project, should the board approve. phone signs cannot be posted by the district. TxDOT has sent an engineer to approve the Besides funding, the other major problem for the school zone and the new signs should be posted sidewalks is they may interfere with TxDOT drainage systems. Depending on location, the sidewalks could create some problems with the current systems, prompting TxDOT to not approve the sidewalk installation. Though there are still some logistics to work out, the school board is supportive of the effort. A motion to go forward with the project was not seconded, however, because board members feel Photo by Haylee Story more information is needed before proceeding. Martin’s Mill ISD Tennis Team walks to the athletic The project will be discussed further at the next complex during the afternoon. New school zone signs board meeting. are expected to be posted in the next few weeks.
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Schools replace TAKS test with STAAR exams By Rachel Pratas Contributing Writer
Nov. 11, 2011 • 9
Eustace ISD principals met with the school board Oct. 18 to discuss changes to the curriculum in light of new standardized testing. Effective this year, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) end of year benchmark test is being replaced by the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). Grades three through eight will be tested on the same subjects as with the TAKS, on a more rigorous scale, while high school students will take on twelve STAAR end-of-course (EOC) assessments. Eustace High School Principal Stan Sowers has been particularly proud of the students’ and teachers’ progress this year, despite the change in state standardized testing. He does, however, expect some glitches. “We know that there’s going to be some growing pains, as typical. The state has changed the game on us again,” Sowers said. Despite the painful growing process, Sowers is satisfied that his teachers and students are up for anything and capable of everything. Middle School Principal Truman Oakley, in his first year at EISD, echoes that sentiment. This year, his school implemented CSCOPE, a new hands-on curriculum focused on critical thinking and problem solving. Oakley came from a school using CSCOPE and supports the research-based curriculum despite the lack of excessive textbook reading. He conceded, “it has its downfall, not being as dependent on a book as we are used to. And there are some good things about that and some bad things about that.” Grades, expected to fall at first due to the rigor of the new curriculum and the switch to STAAR, are holding steady so far this year. Overall, Oakley sees many benefits in the future for
his students as a result of more strenuous standardized testing. “That’s the whole idea with the STAAR test, it’s supposed to be harder, we’re supposed to be teaching at a higher level for kids to be successful,” Oakley said. Principal Robert Reeve understands the long term process that Texas school districts are facing by transitioning into a harder standard test. “When you raise the expectation and the rigor, you’re not going to have just wonderful grades and it’s going to be hard. It will take a few years to get out of that,” Reeve said. Students aren’t the only ones feeling the pressures of a changing curriculum at the intermediate level. Reeve feels the change may be harder on teachers than students because children adapt to change easier than adults. “We’ve had a good start. This is going to be a year for us just to see with the new STAAR test, but things are going well,” Reeve said. Eustace Primary School is taking a different approach with CSCOPE by using various technologies such as the iTouch and iPad to further enhance students’ learning. Principal Dianne Shaffer is just as excited to lend out the new technologies as the young students are to use them. “We use it for instruction only. They are there for sounds and letters and colors and shapes,” Shaffer said. Primary level students aren’t the only ones benefiting from these changes. Shaffer said she has noticed an intense interest from her special needs students as well, adding technology helps these students to learn in an unexpected way, much to their benefit. The changes made to the school’s curriculum, Shaffer believes, will better prepare her students to face standardized testing at the intermediate level with a high success rate.
East Texans rise against novelty candies By Chantel Martin
Editor In Chief
There has been legal action taken amongst East Texans when it comes to product sales and product placement. In September, city residents tried to remove a Spencer’s novelty store from local malls and in August, El Chico’s hopes for a DD Ranch restaurant was dismantled due to content controversy. Now, Pothead, a lollipop shaped in the form of a marijuana plant, has many concerned about the effects it has on the community. It has been out for about a year in the form of ring pops and gummy sours and is making it’s way into small novelty shops. Miami Commissioners came to the unanimous decision to disallow the sales of Pothead Candy in stores. New York lawmakers are asking people to boycott stores that sell the product. “It sends the wrong message to our children,” mother of two Tammy Armstrong, Longview, said.
10 • The Pine Curtain
“This shows them that drugs are cool and are objects of interest and satisfaction.” Kalanlp is one of the wholesalers that supplies Pothead candy to retailers. President of the company Adam Kalan said his business has been around for 40 years and he has never heard of any complaints about how his products affect children. He said his company sells many items, but the ones he calls “sweetspots” are for demographics 18 to 35. “Pothead is a novelty item, it’s a gag,” he said. “It’s intended for a mature audience and we obviously don’t sell it to toy stores.” Kalan’s company allows users to purchase items online. This allows children of any age the availability to obtain the product without showing photo identification. Kalan said this is not a concern the company has. Instead, this is a “parenting issue.” “I have three children and they don’t order some-
thing online with my credit card unless I know what they’re doing,” he said. Counselor for the East Texas Adolescents Treatment Program in Longview Carl Stephenson said he also believes the candy does not influence drug usage. “Peer pressure is the number one influence that makes a child have alcohol or drug abuse,” he said. “If children hang around negative people, they are going to do negative things.” Stephenson said Pothead should not have a negative impact on the community. “That candy is just a fad and probably only used as a joke,” he said. “Most of those designer drugs do not have a lasting effect kids, nor do they last.” Kalan said everyone has a right to their opinion, and also a right to spend their money how they choose. He said if anyone does not like what’s being sold in a store, they should avoid it altogether. “If a business does not make any money, it wont stay there,” he said. “So obviously there are some members of the community that actually don’t mind having stores like Spencer’s. 25 percent of business is enough to support a store.” Kalan said he does not get complaints about human-anatomy shaped candy or sexually explicit key chains and poster items. He said that does not influence a person’s way of life. “If a child were to get one of these, it’s not necessarily going to make them want to smoke pot,” he said. “Just like sucking on a penis-shaped sucker is not going to make them turn gay.”
Photos courtesy of Kalanlp.com
The Kalan webpage is displayed along with the option to buy the pothead gummy candy, or pothead ringpops in bulk. Left: Kalan also sells other novelty and adult items to retail stores such as Spencers. The City of Tyler tried to boycott Spencers in October. Nov. 11, 2011 • 11
Crisis center offers hope, help for victims By Irving Marmalejo
Angelica gets out of work later than expected and hurries across the parking lot in the dark. After ten minutes she makes it home, to find her husband sitting on the couch strangling the remote control. Automatically he stands up and starts screaming at Angelica, wondering where his wife has been. She knows by his look and the smell of his breath, that this is going to be one of those nights. A baby girl cries in the other room while her parents argue. Angelica heads toward the cry of her daughter, turning to walk away. Then she feels her husband pulling her by the arm. As she tries to get away with her other arm, an unexpected slap crosses her face. The same lips he kissed on their wedding day have become a target for his fist. Relationship violence is a growing problem. According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, 111 women were killed by their inti-
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mate partners in 2009. That same year 12,000 adults involved in abusive relationships received shelter from crisis centers. “Since I was 17, I experienced it (family violence), before I came to the crisis center and got out of the relationship,” Angelica said. “It started with yelling, screaming, name calling and then it got physical.” Cherokee County Crisis Center receives 15 to 20 first time visits every week as a result of domestic violence. The Crisis Center offers a safe place to stay, food stamps, counseling and legal support for victims of abuse. The Crisis Center encourages victims to get professional help and will disregard their immigration status, their financial situation or if there are kids involved. “Three out of four Texans know someone who is in an unsafe relationship, or they are in the violent relationship themselves,” said Cherokee County Crisis Center spokesman Brandon Greene. Texas Council on Family Violence statistics
In some cases victims tolerate the pain and suffering because of the abuser’s threat to the children. “I did not want to…lose custody, and probably it was the biggest reason why I tolerated it for so long,” Angelica said. Children in violent homes have a 65 percent chance of being injured, Pharr said. Many times this stems from the child trying to break up a fight. These children are also more susceptible to being abused or become abusers later in life. Since abuse and violence affects the nucleus of society which is the family, it in turn affects everyone in the community. While violence may begin inside the home, it can extend outward to dating violence, work violence or criminal violence. Cherokee County Crisis Center offers programs in elementary school focusing on prevention of bullying, which is where Pharr said domestic violence gets its start. Bullying is using physical, verbal, emotional or sexual harassment to exert power over someone else. “Some kid finds out that bullying works. They grow up and start dating and find out that if you push a little you get what you want. They get married and become more violent. It starts at an early age by controlling others through fear and manipulation,” Pharr said. Greene added, “If we can prevent bullying ultimately we can prevent domestic violence.” Cherokee County has increased its efforts in the last couple years to support community programs which educate and liberate victims. Cont. pg 19
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show that if there is no intervention the situation will never get better. Statistics also show victims of relationship violence aren’t always women. “It is going both ways. Now, we have young men in high school and in college that are being abused by their girlfriends,” said Roger Pharr, Cherokee County Crisis Center program director. Whether the abused is a man or woman, the scenarios are similar. Psychological abuse in a relationship, such as emotional blackmail, is a sign that often precedes physical or sexual abuse. Punishment for contradicting the abuser’s demands is also used as a way to manipulate. Pharr said physical abuse may start with “pushing, a hit in the arm or a violent grab to the arm. They test the victim to know how far they can go to control.” Controlling the victim is an abuser’s ultimate goal, according to Greene, but they want to look good to the rest of the community. For that reason, some abusers don’t hit anywhere others can see. “There will be a lot of damage to the chest, to the stomach, bruises to the back—places where in public will be hidden by clothes,” said Pharr. “It is a psychological vent of the abuser trying to traumatize by saying: I can hurt you and no one is ever going to know.” Retaliation with secondary victims such as children is another threat to keep victims under submission.
Learning Programs help By Jessica Swink Contributing Writer
School can be incredibly intimidating for students with learning disabilities. Bullying, heavy workloads and peer pressure—typical school stressors—are only a fraction of the issues these students face. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed there are nearly 300,000 learning-disabled students in Texas. The number of children requiring special education is rising along with their time spent in public classrooms, according to the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities. Therefore, local organizations and school districts are working on alternative education methods that help integrate these students into the mainstream learning environment. Austen-Coley Academy is a school in Longview that works with dyslexic students through sixth grade, preparing them for entrance into bigger school systems. Dyslexia occurs when the brain doesn’t recognize or process certain symbols correctly. It affects the way a person reads, thus ultimately affecting the way that person learns. 14 • The Pine Curtain
students cope with learning disabilities To their credit, Texas public schools are making progress on behalf of students with learning disabilities. Bullard Independent School District, for example, has measures in place that deal with specific disorders such as autism, which affects development of social and communication skills. A growth rate of 1,148 percent (The Autism Society) makes this the fastest-growing developmental disability, with only 56 percent of autistic students finishing high school. Jennyfer Keohane, a Bullard resident, has two teenage boys who are autistic. Her youngest, Isaiah Parkes, goes to Bullard Junior High School and her oldest, Charles Parkes IV, goes to Bullard High School. They both have Asperger’s Syndrome, which Keohane described as “a high-functioning form of autism where the biggest issues are with social norms, coping mechanisms and over-stimulation.” She said the schools’ accommodations, which focus on stress management and parental involvement, have made a big difference in her sons’ education. Those accommodations include
a “cool down room” in each school where autistic students can go when they get over-stimulated or stressed. The rooms have soft lighting, scented candles and a licensed instructor who is trained with de-escalation techniques. Along with these rooms, Keohane said the schools’ heavy emphasis on communication has played a major role in her sons’ success. “This has been the most important tool for us. The constant conversation between us and the educators helps stop a problem before it can become an issue,” Keohane said. Area Review and Dismissal meetings also help make sure parents and teachers are on the same page. At the meetings, teachers, administrators, parents and doctors gather to discuss student progress and set up an individual education plan tailored to the student’s needs. Charles Parkes said the only drawback to “cool down rooms” is they label students, often targeting them for ridicule from peers who are ignorant of autism. For that reason, he plans to become an educator in the future, to teach people about the disorder. Cont. pg 19 Nov. 11, 2011 • 15
Laurie Radigk and Carla Matthews, two mothers of dyslexic students, formed the academy in January 2011after watching their sons struggle in public schools. The academy—named for each of their sons—now has a staff of seven teachers that manage six to eight students in each class. “We teach our students based on the Slingerland approach,” said Pam Bosworth, a Core 3 teacher for Austen-Coley. The multisensory approach starts with teaching students the smallest units of sight and sound, then builds up to writing and reading. Bosworth, who moved to Texas from California four years ago, said the academy puts students in smaller classes so teachers can focus more independently on each student. “Skills are sometimes two-anda-half grades lower,” she said, “so we work with the skills they need, rather than where they should be academically.” She believes some Texas educators only look at the visual side of dyslexia, disregarding problems with written language, whereas “we look at all sides. One impacts the other, and I would like to see the public schools acknowledge both.”
Treatment facilities: Institutions provide help, mental health patients By Beck Alleman
Imagine finding your daughter lying motionless on the bathroom floor, the victim of a suicidal impulse brought about by excessive bullying. You frantically race to the hospital, but by the time you arrive, it is too late, and your daughter is gone forever. These kinds of issues are all too real for those who work at any sort of mental health facility. Mental health is a very slippery slope, and if the many differing issues that compose it are not dealt with properly, all manner of things could happen, none of them good. For this reason, mental health patients must be kept under close supervision for the duration of their treatment. One of these facilities, the Behavioral Hospital of Longview, deals with many of the mental health patients in the area. Located on 22 Bermuda Lane in Longview, about forty miles to the northeast of Tyler, the Behavioral Hospital of Longview houses about forty mental health patients, with plans to increase the number of beds to bring the total to 76. Indeed, compared to most hospitals this is a meager number, but having fewer people means more individualized service and care is possible, something most of the patients need. “I do observation rounds on patients, assist patients and nurses, help redirect any aggressive behavior, take vital signs of patients, pass out meals, and try to make sure the patient’s stay is as therapeutic as possible,” said Cath16 • The Pine Curtain
erine Barton, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “I’m kind of a jack of all trades.” Barton’s job as a therapist is to help patients recover with methods that are strictly psychological, such as regular Q and A’s with the patients to help relieve pressure and tension for those living in the facility. “One of the hardest and most important jobs I have is to help bridge the gap between the patient and his or her family,” Barton said. “Sometimes these treatments take a toll on everybody and it’s important to secure what matters most to people.” Therapists only perform a portion of the work, however, the rest is performed by the more specialized members of the hospital. “I’m not a doctor,” Barton said. “They’re the ones who do the actual diagnosis and assign medication and things like that.”
Some of the more common issues include addiction to drugs, alcohol, grief, paranoia and reactions to pain.
Most patients at the facility stay for about two weeks, and are usually plenty relieved to get out. “They’re usually quite relieved to be leaving,” Barton said. “After they leave, we try to find somewhere else for them to go, like counseling, to make sure the treatment is complete.” There are a multitude of mental health is-
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN NEED OF MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE CONTACT: NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL HEALTH AT 1.800.950.NAMI some are anxious about getting in the same situation again. It really depends on the individual and how their coping mechanisms are.” The most important part of any mental health facility is its patients. The top priority for those working at the facility is to treat the patients through therapy and medication. The next priority is to make doing so as comfortable and simple as possible. One patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, was admitted because of alcohol addiction, but was treated and released. “I definitely had, or rather, have, a problem,” they said. “I was at my worst when I was admitted to the hospital, but medication primarily helped me get back on the right track.” They still have a ways to go, however. “Obviously I can’t drink alcohol for the immediate future and I have to take supplementary medication to make sure I don’t ‘relapse,’” they said. “but I’m glad the way things turned out.” That is not to say, however, that recovery was easy. “It was hard. I definitely had a problem going into it, and I knew it would be a challenge for me to overcome,” they said. “I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and family.” Although rehabilitating those with mental health issues, large or small, is no small feat, Barton, at least, believes in her job and finds satisfaction in seeing patients simply get better. “The most satisfying part of my job is seeing people’s lives change for the better,” Barton said. “It makes me feel like I’m really making a difference in this world.” Nov. 11, 2011 • 17
sues that come into the hospital every day, and the staff, including Barton herself, must be prepared to deal with anything. “In terms of what kinds of patients we get, we get all kinds,” Barton said. “The most common are those suffering from depression or bipolar disorder, but we get lots of different things.” Some of the more common issues include addiction to drugs or alcohol, excessive grief, paranoia, mental reactions to pain, and issues related to drug use (such as the lack of ability to recognize reality). Others are responsible for more front-line work with the patients, people like Wilson Lu, who works as an orderly. “I do observation rounds on patients, assist patients and nurses, help redirect any aggressive behavior, take vital signs of patients, pass out meals, and try to make sure the patient’s stay is as therapeutic as possible” Lu said. “If they’re going to be stuck here, we might as well try to make it as pleasant as possible.” The facility is equipped with all of the basics, such as a small gym. As an orderly, Lu’s experience with patients is more hands-on, and, consequently, more practical. By doing more menial tasks among the facility, he is able to see a little bit of every patient just a little bit, and has gotten a feel for emotions common among all patients. “From what I have seen, the patients, depending on severity of situation, can be ready to go in a few days to however long is necessary to get them stabilized,” Lu said. “Many are grateful,
Hoarding, buried alive: By Darren Feagin
situation from the outside. “What separates them?” Brown said, “That’s hard to say, I’ve been in [houses] Clothes cover the carpet, the trash can overflowing where it’s just strictly garbage and I’ve been in [houses] onto the kitchen floor, the stench of animal feces fills the where its collectible items, and both people to me are nostrils. This may sound like a scene from A&E’s Hoard- hoarders.” ers, but this is the environment that thousands of peo- Hoarding is a very serious illness that requires outside intervention by friends or family members for the ple have to live in every day of their lives. Compulsive hoarding is a serious problem for thou- hoarder to get help and correct their behavior. “Well, it’s sands of people who may not even think they have a There is a great chance of a rodent, problem. Hoarding is the excessive collection of things pest infestation, tripping and human without the ability to throw them out. People with or animal waste. hoarding behavior typically don’t realize that the things they do are unhealthy so they usually continue with the going to have to be a family member most of the time to behavior until someone intervenes. “Normally friends and family try to help them because get them help,” Brown said, “And instead just saying “you neighbors or whoever ends up calling the city or the need to do this, do that” you need to explain to them state,” Kenneth Brown of KRI Crime Scene Cleanup said. what they’re doing and let them see it through another KRI Crime Scene Cleanup cleans up the homes of com- set of eyes that this is wrong and they need help for it” pulsive hoarders throughout Texas, helping 1-3 homes What causes compulsive hoarding behavior is another question altogether. With no information about hoardeach week. Compulsive hoarding is a very dangerous disorder. ing in the current Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) Hoarder’s homes have increased risk of fire because they treatment varies. According to a Mayo Clinic article the are typically filled with stuff, along with the fire danger, best way to treat compulsive hoarding is with a combithere’s a greater chance of a rodent or pest infestation, nation of psychotherapy and selective serotonin reupfall or tripping hazards, or in some cases there are bio- take inhibitors (SSRIs) a type of anti-depressant. logical hazards from human or animal waste which cre- In several cases the hoarding behavior is linked back ates an incredibly dangerous living environment. “Most to a person’s childhood. Having to go without luxuries of the time they end up falling or something along those as a child can cause overcompensation as an adult. “I lines and get hurt before somebody steps in,” Brown said. cleaned one [house] up the other day,” Brown said, “it “Growing up, my mother was a really messy person,” one was an elderly gentleman, and he had a ton of toys, beUT Tyler student who wished to remain anonymous said, cause growing up he didn’t have any toys. So he started “I’m sure if she would be classified as a compulsive hoard- buying toys and collecting toys and he just had a U-Haul er, but there were some of those behaviors […] and one truck full of toys.” day I just got so frustrated with it that I just started throw- Compulsive hoarding can be a very dangerous pattern of behavior that affects thousands of people daily. If you ing things out.” There’s a fairly thin line between just being a really suspect that someone you know is being affected by messy person that doesn’t clean and someone who is this type of behavior you should seek help from trained a compulsive hoarder especially when looking into the professionals. Contributing Writer
18 • The Pine Curtain
learning continued Suzanne Brians, a licensed professional counselor in Tyler, works with children who have attention deficit disorder, learning disorders and emotional disorders. She maintains no matter the learning disorder, support and persistence are two of the best things that can be used to help children cope with their disorders and even succeed despite them. “There are also two avenues that are really important for kids with disabilities,” Brians said, “Helping the kids to believe in themselves, and (helping them) realize that having a learning disorder doesn’t mean a lack of intelligence. It’s basically just a disorder in one specific area of learning, such as math, spelling, writing, or language.” Keohane offered some essential advice for parents of students with learning disorders. “My best suggestion is educate yourself. Get to know other parents (whose children) have similar issues as your child’s. Never limit your child, always give them a chance to succeed and a chance to fail. Failure isn’t a bad thing either—it should be a learning experience,” she said.
Ride Against Child Abuse is one of the activities organized every year to for that purpose. Donated proceeds, money and volunteer time go directly to helping victims of abuse. Those involved with the ride try to educate people about relationship violence and how it affects the community. Angelica is now 20 years old. Three years have passed since she first experienced violence in her marriage. After a couple of weeks at the Crisis Center, she now looks forward to getting a divorce and starting a new life with her 3-yearold daughter. (Angelica’s real name has been changed for security reasons)
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN NEED OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ASSISTANCE, PLEASE CONTACT THE: NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE AT 1.800.799.SAFE OR
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“(People with disabilities) have ways to help and benefit society if you let…us. We think differently but that can be a good thing,” Parkes said. Jackie Zigtema, special education director for the Henderson Independent School District, believes that catching disabilities early makes all the difference in the world. “The goal is early identification, getting kids when they’re young,” Zigtema said. “We have a wide range of services, (including) special education teachers and resource classrooms for students diagnosed with learning disorders.” She added the state sets classroom standards, such as extra time, based on student needs. While HISD tries to get every child in its special education department to succeed, Zigtema said it’s not always possible. “Every student makes some growth,” she said. “Do we get every student passing state assessments? No. Different students have different home lives, life experiences, as well as teacher expectations, so (we) really have to work together to educate students, parents, even the teachers.”
State funding low for mental health assistance By Jeff Wright
Texas ranks 50th in terms of per capita mental health spending, according to “Texas on the Brink,” an annual study published by the Texas Legislative Study Group. A $140 million cut in the state’s mental health budget earlier this year sent a grim message to over 1.5 million Texas residents who depend on mental health assistance: they could be in trouble. The effect of this cut can be seen in mental health facilities, where psychiatrists and psychologists have had to adapt to meet the underwhelming amount of support from the state. “We do well (at adapting), but right now we are not reaching as many people as we need to because of state and government cuts,” said Jacqueline Daves, licensed psychology associate and chemical dependency counselor for the Grant Moore Center for Behavioral Health in Gregg County. Daves’ work at Grant Moore covers a broad range of mental health services, which include testing for learning disabilities. “We do testing for DARS (Department for Assis20 • The Pine Curtain
tive and Rehabilitative Services), mostly for learning disability for kids in special education classes,” Daves said, adding she has been unable to provide as much testing since her program was cut in half by the state. Counseling for Child Protective Service cases has also been dwindling, Daves said, due to cutbacks and subsequent lack of funding. Randy Powell, a licensed professional counselor in Anderson County, also treats a wide variety of patients. He uses a jack-of-all-trades approach: “Whatever the client’s problem is, we try to improve their problem areas and improve quality of life.” Powell works primarily with adults, the majority of whom are coping with anxiety issues. It’s not uncommon to see 40 patients each week. Community Healthcore, one of East Texas’ largest mental health providers, offers one-on-one counseling and skills training to between 30 and 40 patients each week. Healthcore patients are usually treated for one of three most serious mental health issues: major depression, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia.
symptoms, and then we’ll see them back,” Post said. “Or clients who think they are doing well and get off their meds, and can’t function anymore.” Daves said the center also sees a majority of DWI offenders come back. “CPS cases, too,” she said, “especially involving drugs and physical violence.” But for some, the second chance given to them is not wasted. “If we do see relapses, it’s not often,” Powell said. “Generally if you attend a program more specifically suited for relapse, your chances are greater of staying clean.” Fortunately for those suffering from these illnesses, groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer many helpful services, and continue to fight for improved quality of life for all affected. NAMI holds conventions to bolster support not only for Texas, but all states, by bringing attention to these healthcare problems. The future of mental healthcare in the state does not look promising. As more mentally ill people are taken to jail—either off medication or never given proper treatment in the first place—the time it takes to process them continues to pile up. With no solution to the dwindling mental health budget, this pattern will likely grow.
Next Issue: The Pine Curtain visits the Four Winds Reinassance Festival.
Nov. 11, 2011 • 21
“Our objective is to see (patients) regularly and give them the necessary resources and medications to stay stable emotionally and live a normal life,” said Gary Post, a level two qualified mental health professional in Rusk County. Post works for Community Healthcore, operating the medical clinic and interacting with clients to check their progress. “We keep a record of how they deal with treatment over time,” Post said. Information is logged and eventually translated into much larger reports which are given to program administrators. Annual reports from DWI group counseling sessions are also sent to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The reports give several details, including how many people finish treatment. Unfortunately, effective treatment is not synonymous with a cure. “We do have our regulars,” Post said, explaining that some patients who leave relapse back into their old ways. This happens for many reasons. Many find it hard returning to a “normal” society, where they feel like an outcast. Others, under the impression that their medication is no longer needed, stop taking it—only to wind up returning to the clinic. “We do have some that typically relapse into
Art + Life
Locals Provide No-Kill & New Homes
Above: Tyler plays with his new puppy Tobi at the Petapalooza in Ben Wheeler. Above Right-Bottom Right: Ginger; Lace; Casey; Dakota at the Habitat For Hummanity in East Texas
22 • The Pine Curtain
Special Thanks To: SPCA HSOET Petapalooza Vendors
Nov. 11, 2011 • 23
Art + Life
Above Left: Monica holds puppy Boomer at the Petapalooza. Above Right: Pamela Boyd, Publisher of Natural Awakenings & Pet Magazines attaches an ‘adopt me’ banner around a dog’s neck. Above: Kitten Cali curiously poses for the frame. Left: Jake gives a heartwarming smile and waits to be adopt-