Going through my old clinical supervision bin, I came across a balled-up piece of paper. I read it and the words still break my heart. I share it with you in its entirety as it is a glimpse into the world of life of a front line social worker working in Community Mental Health.
The incident below has been reported in detail in the log, but I felt it best to bring it to your immediate attention as well, since it deals with staff and client safety. Today _ and I had a client that verbally assaulted another client. We followed protocol and tried to diffuse the situation, to no avail. In return ___ . tossed a scalding cup of coffee in _ face (client refused medical attention).We made a joint decision to call the police for the safety of staff and clients, due to quick escalation of behaviors and the high risk of further violence. Hearing this news,___ . came around to our side of the desk, knocked everything off of the shelf, and physically assaulted _ . Due to the lack of phone service we were unable to use the panic button (I find it alarming that the on-call supervisor did not send us an email or call us to alert us of this, as this is surely a liability and a glaring safety issue). I called the police on my cell phone and tried to contact you and ___. I left ____ a message at 7:32am and did not hear back until 11:39am. I find this to be a disturbing delay for an on-call supervisor’s call back. By the time I received this call, ___and I had long ago made an executive decision to clean up and close the clinic, as ___ was hurt after being assaulted we were both shaken up (___also refused medical treatment). Our time sheets read out at 5:00pm. We do ask to be paid for the day, as this issue as beyond our control and we did the best we could with no guidance from the on-call supervisor. I provided _ with a ride home, as it did not seem fair for her to take the bus back home after such an ordeal, filed both a police and company incident report.
I simply cannot help but see this as another blow to staff and company morale, as today was Christmas and a lot of clients were counting on us. It leaves me to ask the following question: How much time does staff give the on-call supervisor to respond before making an executive decision? How long is a client barred for physical assaulting a staff and client? Should staff file charges against client when assaulted (I encouraged __ to do so)? What safety precautions does the clinic have in place (the panic button is useless when the phones are down). Is staff allowed to care Mace and/or pepper spray? It would also be helpful if we were alerted before hand of things like no phone service, non working intercom etc.