by William Skink
Before leaving my job at the homeless shelter last month I gave Ed Kemmick a call to pitch a guest article for publication at Last Best News. Last Friday my “in-the-trenches look at homelessness” went up, which you can read here. I’d like to thank Ed for giving me a more credible platform from which to share my experiences.
I’ve learned a lot these last 7 years as Missoula has struggled to deal with the shelter-resistent population. I have listened to the frustrations from first responders and watched well-meaning politicians pass misguided ordinances. I have watched the crisis at the jail develop and directly experienced the resurgence of meth when I was assaulted last September.
My frustrations stem from lived experiences, not just from things I read online. I have earned my cynicism. Until now, though, I haven’t been able to write as directly as I would have liked to about the local issues I have been directly involved in. That’s going to change.
When I was given the boot last June from 4&20 Blackbirds, I explained my reluctance to take on local issues more directly in the comments when I said that I would like to write more about local stuff, but the actions of people who don’t like my opinions have made that much more difficult. A few days after making that statement, my former boss and current state representative decided to add her two cents on Jay’s move to “re-boot”:
Jay, sorry for the delay in reading this post. I was told last night about the reboot… because like most people, I stopped reading 4&20 long ago.
In the beginning this was a useful forum for progressive voices.
In the last few years, it has been toxic and angry and ugly.
As I wrote in a comment minutes ago to J-girl, in politics if you hate EVERYONE in the room, there is nobody left. At 4&20, the room was empty except a bunch of guys holding rocks.
I welcome the change and reboot. Brave and overdue.
And for what it is worth, I would block Mark Tokarski. I don’t know the guy and he is welcome to cast that venom in a forum that he hosts– or do it in the Missoulian comment section– but I don’t need that kind of rhetoric when I read from thoughtful contributors to 4&20.
Good luck and let me know how I can support your work here. Best, Ellie
I didn’t respond to this comment at the time, but I’m going to now.
I’m not “in politics” so I have to take Rep. Hill’s word that if you hate everyone, there is no one left. For the record, I don’t “hate everyone”, but I do get frustrated and angry from time to time. Up until now I couldn’t really say that part of my frustration was the failed leadership of a non-profit director who jumped into politics while leaving the non-profit in a less than stable place, but there it is.
Instead of being in politics, for the past 7 years I’ve been in the real world where the practical trumps the political. And because I’ve been more focused on practical needs, the relationships I’ve been able to establish will continue in my absence, and those relationships are more important than I can describe.
As I try to recover from my burnout, I’m very worried about those on the front lines. Last Best News followed up the Indy’s feature on meth with a great piece worth reading, echoing the criticism of the Montana Meth Project. But meth is just one of many issues that are emerging simultaneously to the forefront.
There is an aging crisis coming (some would say already here) and a lack of skilled nursing infrastructure to deal with it, there is the jail overcrowding issue that has made my job and the jobs of police and other first responders more dangerous (the guy who assaulted me didn’t even go to jail, just appeared before the judge, pled no contest, and was back on the streets in hours).
Adult Projective Services is overwhelmed, Child Protective Services is overwhelmed, access to treatment for addiction is abysmal and Warm Springs is busting at the seams. Meanwhile, a person who used to be in a position of influence was recently busted on drug charges:
A former state doctor who is facing an indefinite suspension of his medical license for alleged illegal drug use was arrested in Butte Friday night on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and possession of dangerous drugs.
Mark Jay Catalanello was a staff physician at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs and served as the medical director at the Montana Chemical Dependency Center in Butte until October, when the Montana Board of Medical Examiners temporarily suspended his medical license amid accusations that he was using illegal drugs.
I hope this provides a little context regarding my cynical disposition. I also hope that people will respect the fact I’m going to continue writing under a pseudonym here. I don’t want to give any of the unstable people I’ve had interactions with in my day job more insight into my personal opinions than necessary.