By Janice Catley
As a BCFS Health and Human Services’ Emergency Management Division (EMD) Case Manager, I work closely with people to help them through some of the most trying, emotional, and dire events they have likely ever faced. In the wake of natural disasters and the catastrophes that men unleash on our communities, EMD case managers offer survivors wraparound support for their recovery, from basic needs to long-term counseling. In our jobs, EMD case managers bear witness to individuals and families working through these traumatic, tragic events, and the service we provide to these survivors is not only critical to helping them regain some stability, but also, in some way, I hope, helps strengthen their resolve to overcome the new set of obstacles that has brought us together. The following is just one example of the strength of the human spirit that EMD case managers often see in those we serve who have had their lives upended and are in the midst of a long road to recovery.
I met this specific survivor, “Daniel,” at one of the hospitals in San Antonio, Texas, where he had been evacuated to from the Texas Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Daniel is an elderly gentleman living with several medical issues for which he takes a slew of medications. During the storm, Daniel evacuated quickly, unorganized, and unwillingly. His wife would abandon him one week after the hurricane, but his daughter and her three children came to his aid in his time of need. After a two-hour intake session where I assessed his needs and listened to him tell me everything he wanted to, Daniel was in good spirits. I reassured him that his daughter and I would put together a long-term recovery plan and start working on it immediately.
The next week, Daniel was released from the hospital and returned to the hotel where he could recuperate comfortably. The first assignment on his recovery plan was for his daughter to talk with the building contractors at his Houston home to get an estimated time of completion for his home repairs. Next, we had to see if Daniel qualified for an extension of his Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA); then complete a CAN (Coordinated Assistance Network) Conditions, Actions, Needs) Intake Assessment for financial assistance. With his daughter’s help, we accomplished each task successfully.
His ‘get up and go again’ spirit not only helped his recovery, but also really motivated me as his case manager.
Through interactions with Daniel and his daughter, I could see that their time together was strengthening their bond, and their bonds with the children. I helped the family acquire some of the critical resources they needed, and helped them stay focused and faithful. Despite the odds against him, Daniel demonstrated a warrior’s mentality, a terrific sense of humor, a positive attitude about life, and the patience of Job. His “get up and go again” spirit not only helped his recovery, but also really motivated me as his case manager.
Daniel, his daughter, and I worked together to set measurable, attainable goals for each family member.Knowing they were important to the family’s success, the children agreed to keep their grades up with no less than a “B” average. Daniel agreed to follow the doctor’s orders to work toward getting healthy again, and his daughter set a goal to find suitable employment to help her family with their finances.
After several of weeks of dedicated case management, listening sessions, and learning about the mountain of federal rules and regulations, good things began to happen. Daniel’s medical disabilities qualified him for a rental assistance program, and all three of his grandchildren earned scholarships to attend summer camp. With Daniel’s dedication to his health, exercise had become part of his daily routine, with daily walks around the hotel where he lived while his house was repaired. As a result, his doctors decreased his medications from eighteen meds to twelve meds a day. And on the job front, when the hotel manager learned of Daniel’s daughter’s job hunt, he hired her to work in the hotel’s front office. Important milestones were being met and Daniel and his family were truly working together to emerge on the other side of this tragedy as better individuals, closer family members, and once again self-sufficient.
Daniel’s family’s story, ultimately, is a success story. Along the way, however, there were times when it was hard, times when it seemed like good things were never going to happen. But we didn’t give up…they didn’t give up. I hope their story can inspire others who might be going through their own hard times to not give up. As a case manager, I notice that survivors focus not on what they are going through, but instead focus on the decision and the determination that they are going to be stronger for having overcome all the obstacles they have faced.
We give survivors trusted guidance and encourage them to walk by faith, not by sight.
The EMD team and the entire BCFS System are committed to the work that must be done on behalf of those we serve who are in need of a helping hand. Case managers assemble the necessary resources, get our survivors actively involved in their case plans, and pay close attention to the answers they give and work to build on their strengths. We give survivors trusted guidance and encourage them to walk by faith, not by sight. We are determined to do a good job, to do right by those we serve, and remain at the ready to face new challenges with our survivors on their roads to recovery, believing fully that we are all connected, and that we’re all In this together!
Janice Catley is an EMD Disaster Case Manager on Texas-Houston-Team 9. Her service to the survivors of Hurricane Harvey resulted in several grants from the American Red Cross. She excels in the BakerRipley Disaster Case Management Process and the CAN Platform.