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Bluffton’s “Vigilante for Kids!”

…it was an absolute nightmare scenario!

It was an absolute nightmare scenario… A number of years ago, police were called to a room in a motel in a hardscrabble part of Lima.  When they arrived, a known area prostitute was there and high on cocaine.  She was also the mother of three young children, ages 2, 4 and 6.  They were in the room that night.  In fact, they had been living with their mother there for a while.

The children were dirty, malnourished, and frightened.  The hotel manager had called the police, explaining, among other things, that the mother would regularly “go out,” leaving these children by themselves.  It was not only the police who were called that night, but a caseworker from Allen County Children’s Services, Bluffton’s Kathleen Steiner.

Quickly assessing the situation, Ms. Steiner recommended the children immediately be removed and placed in foster care.  This, in turn, sparked the mother, again high on cocaine, to angrily start screaming, almost uncontrollably, at Ms. Steiner. 

Undaunted in the line of fire, if you will, Ms. Steiner stood firm.  The children being, as they always are for her, the main priority.   

“You could call me a ‘vigilante for kids,”’ she said.  “I’ve always been that way.”

Ms. Steiner, who has a Masters in Social Work from Ohio State University, has worked in several area social work/counseling settings.  She worked for Children’s Services for three long years, with a good number of cases being heart wrenching.

Besides the acute incidences, like the one at the motel, Ms. Steiner worked, long-term, with many troubled/dysfunctional families, maintaining a consistent caseload of 15 to 20 families.

Whether counseling/coaching families at her office, or through “home visits (including into some quite rough neighborhoods),” Ms. Steiner said she would often see degrees of success, over time.  She taught healthy parenting skills, counseled in regard to substance abuse, couples’ relationship skills… But Ms. Steiner said it was, indeed, an uphill battle.

What was also an uphill battle, was Ms. Steiner’s work with mental health patients at Blanchard Valley Hospital’s Psychiatric Unit in Findlay.  She worked there for 15 years.

She said that, more often than not, the number one, acute problem the psychiatric unit would deal with was patients coming in with chronic depressive disorder that had often led to suicide ideation, and sometimes even suicide attempts.  These patients were on continual watch in the unit, as work was done to help stabilize the person through counseling, appropriate medication, and so on.

And while the latter was the number one issue, there were no shortage of patients with bi-polar disorder, chronic high anxiety, schizophrenia…  And often, dual diagnosis was involved, said Ms. Steiner.  That is, besides the mental disorder, a number of these patients had drug and/or alcohol addiction problems as well.  Ms. Steiner said the substance abuse tremendously “exacerbated” the situation.

Substance abuse counseling (in-patient and out-patient), 12-Step groups, and the like, would be prescribed for long-term sobriety.  And in tandem, said Ms. Steiner, often appropriate medication for the mental disorder, often in combination with counseling, would be prescribed for the mental disorder.

The psychiatric unit, in regard to stabilization, short term counseling, and long-term recovery planning, was often quite successful.

Ms. Steiner added that it was, indeed, heartening to watch the “stigma” around substance abuse and mental health issues incrementally diminish in recent years in our society at large.  However, she added, the social work field, as an example, could definitely use more counselors, and more resources.

Not to mention, but I will: a lot more just plain “Vigilantes for Kids,” of the Ms. Steiner ilk.