Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Organizational values matter

In the last issue of Resources, Vol. 9, No. 1 issue on Addiction Treatment and The Criminal Justice System, an article which is a transcript with Martin Horn the Retired Commissioner of Corrections and Probation for New York City had some interesting things to say which are worthy of broader circulation.

Mr. Horn points out that criminal justice staff often are ambivalent about alcohol and drug addiction themselves. These staff have difficulty modeling the behavior that they want inmates to follow. Here is part of what Mr. Horn says:

Click on image to enlarge for easier reading.

GCASA does not hire employees who are dependent on any substance including tobacco. GCASA was a pioneer in the field having this policy since 1999. Unfortunately, many addiction professionals still smoke which has created problems for GCASA when OASAS sends program analysts, and people providing technical assistance, to the agency to review addiction programs. When these reviewers are addicted themselves and reviewing programs in which they would not be eligible to be employed due to their addiction, it seems very dysfucntional.

OASAS adopted tobacco free regulations which were to be implemented in July of 2008 in all OASAS licensed facilities. GCASA applauds this step forward. However,OASAS seems to have the same problem which Mr. Horn describes when he describes staff ambivalence toward drugs and alcohol themselves and they model behaviors which other staff are working to help clients change.

It makes one wonder about State and County government hiring people to work in jobs where their behaviors are a trigger for the very inmates, clients, patients they are attempting to help. It is incumbent upon human resource management, supervisors, and administration to deal with these contradictions in an honest and constructive way. GCASA did it 11 years ago and we continue to address it as it poses an impediment to a safe and healthy environment for communal living and working.

As Mr. Horn says a little further, organizational values matter.

"There are many things in this business that we don't talk about. We don't talk about sobriety and drug use, alcohol use; we don't talk about issues of gender and gender boundaries. We don't talk about issues of race. In my experience, if the leaders of the organization don't talk about it, then nobody will talk about it, So it is incumbent upon leaders to make this part of everything. Whenever they speak, they have to speak about the values of the organization, and the organization has to have a value orientation."

I appreciate Mr. Horn's candidness. When GCASA asked OASAS not to send addicted staff to review its programs, the Executive Director was told he has "balls as big as an elephant" to make this request. Being the Executive Director I can assure the reader that I do not have "balls the size of an elephant" but I am charged to exemplify GCASA's values and to teach, model, and hold accountable GCASA's collaborative partners to respect them if possible. I appreciate OASAS respecting GCASA's request so far.

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