Massachusetts DMH Human Rights issues

Bruce D. Burleson (anvil@quik.com)
Sun, 3 May 1998 02:28:46 -0400


To Whom It May Concern,

I don't ordinarily send out excerpts of
correspondence between myself and family
members over the Internet, but this on-the-job
matter could use whatever advice people
could give.  For me that includes loved ones,
friends, etc etc.

The below is a letter I sent to my dad tonight,
concerning what is going on with me on my job
lately.  Below I add more thoughts to the 
analysis. 

I am gritting my teeth and being tough.  Maybe
against my own will, maybe not.....  No more
Mr. Bruce-The-Happy-Smiley-Activities-
Coordinator.  No more "I'm really an Activities
Coordinator, and I only do the Human Rights 
Officer thing IN ADDITION to regular duties."

That's all bullshit, and an error.

That used to be my understanding of things,
until I found out that some DMH-funded 
programs actually have a FULL-TIME Human
Rights Officer.  So here I am, being the
Human Rights Officer on top of my regular
40-hour duties as Activities Coordinator,
and for that reason struggling to keep up
with my usual duties, without any extra
compensation.

AH but I have heard, though, that such extra
compensation is supposed to occur.  But,
alas, months go by, and it has yet to show up
in my paycheck.  Within six months of the date
of this letter, if such compensation isn't made,
I will have to forfeit my role as Human Rights
Officer.

I am tired of feeling that I have to listen to clients'
complaints and then respond to the feeling
that I have to smooth everything over, or "work
things out" (without any real solution having
been reached);  and also that the pressure is
upon ME to make sure that the "first priority"--
that the PROGRAM keeps going as mandated
by DMH--is ensured. 

The time has come for me to look at that portrait of
Che Guevara on my bedroom wall and realize, life
isn't all rosy.  It's easy to fall into a rut where
everything is rosy for a few years.  But after the calm
comes the storm.  I'm at that point now, where it's
"shit or get off the pot"--no more bullshit.  No more
tolerance for the "minor" complaints; no more
writing off any complaint as "minor" when in the
mind of the complainant it certainly isn't minor.
There is really no such thing as a "minor" complaint.

One of my heroes, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, died a
miserable death--an indescribable sacrifice,
trying to improve the lives of millions of poor people
in South America.   And here I am, quite trivially in
comparison, still alive, but facing a challenge: to do what
is right, and risk unpleasantness--or to NOT do what
is right, and live "pleasantly"--with a guilty conscience.

Unapologetically I opt for the former, not the latter, road.
According to DMH regulations, I can't lose my job for
filing a complaint.  But anyone with street smarts
knows that the powers that be can try to make life 
miserable for me, or to even try to oust me, even using
falsified information.  They can pick away at this
mistake or that; this flaw or that.

But the scholar of the Bible will know that for tit,
comes tat.  What people sow, later they reap.

I work hard for the tenants at Paul Sullivan Housing.
Therefore, if someone tries to force me out,  I say:
"Over my dead body.  I love our tenants too much
for that."  And the rest follows. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - 

Let me preface this by explaining briefly my role as 
Human Rights Officer on the job:

The Human Rights Officer serves as a liason between
consumers and the Department of Mental Health where
Human Rights matters are concerned; trains consumers and
staff in Human Rights regulations; facilitates Human Rights
Committee meetings; and maintains program compliance
with Department of Mental Health Human Rights regulations.
Contact me if you wish to see the specifics on what the Human
Rights are, etc.  Soon all such information will be placed on
the Internet, along with local HRC minutes from various programs.

(The program I work in is a permanent residential program for formerly
homeless, mentally-ill adults, privately operated but publicly
funded through the Massachusetts Department of Mental
Health.)


The excerpt:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------

> ......I usually write "nothing new".. but not true this time.  I've got a
> Human Rights situation on my hands at work.  Might have to expose 
> another staff member for at least one incident of physical and/or
> emotional abuse on a tenant.  Annette R. arguably can be unpleasant,
> and the tenants and some staff know it, but she's the darling of certain
> administrators, even though they know she was a prison guard before
> taking the job of Weekend Supervisor....   So needless to say, I'm going
> to piss some people off by filing this "Above-The-Line" (Serious offense)
> Human Rights Complaint with the Department of Mental Health.
> 
> But you know, tonight, Candae and I took some tenants to see the
> movie "L.A. Confidential" in one of those $1 theaters.  The movie is
> about a cop who refused to be corrupt -- a Serpico type of film, in which
> a certain phrase struck me:  "It's all about integrity" or something like
> that.
> 
> And earlier today, another tenant confronted me, telling me if I didn't
> report the Annette incident, she would.

> It was a wake-up call to me.  Something is wrong.
> I told her, half-heartedly, that I
> would look into the matter again.  Tonight when I saw the movie, I 
> realized that the cop in the movie was right -- it really IS all about
> integrity.  I can choose to simply play the game, along with certain
other
> staff, and bury the incident in excuses and call that "investigation",
> or, I can risk my ass and have INTEGRITY.     
> 
> Everyone in life faces moral and ethic decisions.  For me, it is
> amazing, the impact a movie, and certain words from select individuals,
> can have on a person, isn't it?
> 
> It's a tough thing, the role of Human Rights Officer.  But I suppose it's
> like being any other kind of "officer"...  once you agree to do it,
there's
> no turning back.  
> 
> I've been living in Boston's inner city for more than two years now,
> have been mugged twice and fought off one street gang.  I guess if I
> can be tough with all of that, I can be tough with this.  (???)
> 
> And it's hard for me because in my own ideal little world I want 
> everything to be friendly and rosy and okay between myself and
> everyone at work, and between everyone there and the tenants, but I
> suppose that (finally?) in my late 20's, I'm finding that that isn't how
> the real world works.  I've always wanted to be liked by everyone and
> for that to reflect on my resume', and thus far to a good extent it has.
> But the cop in "L.A. Confidential" risked being unpopular with
> virtually the entire police force, for the sake of integrity.  <gulp.>  I
> guess I have to do the same thing, at the same kind of risk.
>
> Well I guess that's it for tonight.  Any fatherly advice???  Or maybe
> I've already sorted it all out by writing this email.  I don't know.  I
> will keep you posted.
> 
> Take care.
> 
> Love,
> Bruce