Category Archives: Social Services

‘People Collectors’ Use Disabled People Like ATMs

Content note: this piece discusses graphic details of caregiver abuse for the purpose of examining the scope and nature of abuse inflicted by people entrusted with the lives of disabled people who need assistance to complete tasks of daily living. Some of it may be disturbing. Be advised that linked stories contain explicit details. 

Impairments can be highly variable in nature. Some allow people to live more or less completely independently, while others necessitate more interdependent relationships, and others require regular supportive care. Disabled people with with impairments that require some level of support are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and, thanks to social attitudes, they’re devalued by the people around them — including the representatives of the very government agencies that are supposed to protect them.

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of caregiver abuse, a problem that extends to the elderly community in addition to the disabled community, and it’s a problem that’s not just limited to US shores. One of the most sinister forms this abuse takes is that of the so-called ‘people collector,’ the people who take caregiver abuse to an entirely new and horrific level. In 2011, for instance, the Tacony dungeon case attracted international headlines, but the most disturbing thing about that case may not have been the suffering endured by four captives trapped in a basement for almost a decade — rather, the true horror lay in how many cases just like it haven’t been discovered yet.

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What Would True Mental Health Reform Look Like for the US?

Mental health reform in the US typically comes up in one context only: in the wake of incidents of rampage violence. Such incidents are tragic and horrific, and almost as soon as they hit the news, observers decide the person responsible must have been ‘crazy,’ absolving themselves of further exploration of the incident — crazy people ‘just do that,’ and that’s how it is.

Despite the fact that this is a rampant misconception, it’s a commonly held and supported belief, bolstered by media coverage of rampage violence and mental illness. Typically, the longtail aftermath of such incidents is to demand two things: better gun control (usually from the point of view that guns need to be kept out of the hands of mentally ill people) and better regulation of crazy people — for, surely, if mentally ill people were compelled to take medication, register with government agencies, and undergo similar indignities, they wouldn’t be prone to randomly shooting scores of innocent people. (Something the vast majority of mentally ill people actually aren’t prone to doing in the first place — to the contrary, mental illness is a very serious risk factor for being exposed to violence, and mentally ill people are usually victims, not perpetrators, of violence.)

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Outsourcing Care in the New Economy: Averting KanCare

In a nation as obsessed with saving money and pinching pennies as the United States, it is not surprising to see a growing turn toward privatisation. This country is privatising its prisons, turning an already extensive prison-industrial complex into a for-profit empire for firms like the Corrections Corporation of America, it’s created an entirely separate incarceration industry for ‘processing’ undocumented immigrants in detention facilities, it’s privatised schools and police forces, and even fire departments.

In that context, it’s hardly startling to see that the nation clings to notions that privatised health care is the best option (despite appalling health outcomes when compared to other Western countries), and it was perhaps inevitable that states would start to lick their chops at the thought of privatising disability services, as well.

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