While on my way to a dentist’s appointment early in April, I took a short cut, tripped over the curb and banged up a leg.
A small and very helpful crowd gathered, we had a short meeting and someone called an ambulance.
When it arrived, two, really burly armed guys, dressed in black with flak jackets, got out, gently lifted me into the back of the ambulance on a stretcher, and off we went to Baptist Hospital’s emergency room.
The last time I saw the inside of an ambulance, decades ago, I could swear the staff wore white and carried adhesive tape and bandages. I don’t recall any guns.
Times have changed. Turns out things have gotten more dangerous on city streets than I had realized what with the resurgence of drugs and gangs.
While enroute, my hosts tended my wounds, gave me a shot, chatted amiably and were professional in every way.
I asked them about the jackets and the guns, and they said that life on the streets these days was really dangerous. As many as half their calls, they said, could be drug related, opiodes mostly. Ambulances, they noted, now carry Narcan, a life saving drug, used for Fentanyl overdoses. Fentanyl is powerful–as much as 100 times more potent than street heroin, and it can be deadly.
The thugs of M-13
Coinciding roughly with my experience and recovery from my fall was a television broadcast discussing the growing threat of “M-13,” the name of a brutal gang of thugs, which has attracted the attention of President Trump who led a discussion of this barbaric threat in a recent broadcast.
Referring to crimes committed by the “MS-13” gang members, Nassau County district Attorney Madeline Singas stated: “The crimes that we’re talking about are brutal. Their weapon of choice is a machete. We end up seeing people with injuries that I’ve never seen before. You know, limbs hacked off. And that’s what the bodies look like that we’re recovering. So they’re brutal. They’re ruthless, and we’re gonna be relentless in our attacks against them.”
So how are we doing in Little Rock during these dangerous times? In recent weeks, two of Little Rock’s most competent scribes—Rex Nelson and Mike Masterson—have suggested in their columns in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that Little Rock civic leaders should step up their game.
Here are some quotes from Rex Nelson’s column with the headline, “A City Awakens.”
“My focus is on what the private sector can do to move Little Rock forward.” Nelson said in part. “People expect too much from government in Little Rock. Its time for the private sector to step up just as the Walton and Tyson Families have stepped up for Northwest Arkansas and the Murphy family [along with Richard Mason] has stepped up for Eldorado.
“How can we do better? What do we want to be when we grow up? Where do we need to put our energy and focus in order to reach the next level?
“I hadn’t been in Little Rock very long before it hit me, Civic leaders here looked around and said, ‘this looks pretty good. We’re OK.’ And that is what the city is, in my opinion, just OK. The difficult and necessary part is harnessing the private sector and getting those people enthusiastic and pointed in one direction.
“Years ago, Little Rock was led by a benevolent but paternalistic cadre of business and civic leaders who looked out for the best interests of the community. Those days are gone.
“When we see what’s being accomplished in places like Bentonville and El Dorado, there’s no doubt the private sector is leading the way. We don’t have that here in Little Rock. Instead we have lukewarm support for the private sector and too much back-biting.
“I’m proud to be a resident of Little Rock and an advocate for our city. If our leaders could get together for the common good we would be well on our way to being the next great city.”
Mike Masterson in his column, “Beastly wrath” reminds us that almost a fifth of adult Americans experience some form of mental illness in any given year and that the damage is widespread and acute.
“Once identified, whether the affliction be schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder or any number of 265 diagnosable psychological impairments, the beast seriously affects quality of life.
“The beast often strikes early,” he continues. The archives of General Psychiatry reports half of all chronic mental illnesses begin by age 4 and three-fourths by age 24.
“As for the combined affects of mind altering substances such as alcohol and drugs, 8.9 million persons have so-called co-occurring disorders. They have both mental and substance abuse disorder.
The Workforce Investment Network
Over three years ago, Joseph Hooley, Chief Executive officer of Boston’s State Street Corporation launched Boston Workforce Investment Network (Boston WINs) to strengthen the city’s workforce by teaching disadvantaged young men and women the ways of business.
Through his work with local philanthropy, particularly as an active supporter and a board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, Hooley became convinced that if he could help fix just one problem in the world, it would be urban education.
By fixing education and promoting activities which require maximum effort, more inner city youths will be persuaded to avoid alcohol and other drugs which are job killers
“I’ve visited a lot of schools over the years,” he says, “and I’ve seen some excellent ones, but the solutions to providing good urban education tend to be spotty.”
Hooley, who joined State Street in 1986, launched WINs in June 2015 and committed to investing $20 million and hiring 1,000 graduates of urban schools over the next four years.
“So far, the results are promising,” he said. “We’ve hired more than 200 graduates, and they are proving to be an excellent fit with our culture.
The unemployment rate for high school graduates in Massachusetts is 9.5%, but for those with college degrees that number drops to 4.5%. And the six year college completion rate for Boston high school student is 4.9%
The State Street Foundation has been focused on workforce development and education over the past several years and the WIN’s program, Hooley says, “is a natural extension of what we do every day.”
The WINs program has three fundamental goals:
- Help increase college enrollment rates for Boston Public high school students
- Ensure that once a Boston Public High School student gets into college they stay there
- Enhance career pathways leading to stable employment and economic mobility
Ultimately, what Hooley has in mind is a joint venture.
“We wanted to bring together a handful of nonprofits with a proven record of getting and keeping students on the path from the education system to employment, give those nonprofits funding to scale up, coordinate their efforts so that they were no longer working in isolation, and then commit to hiring a large number of those students after graduation.”
As alarms over the opioid crisis sound ever louder a larger and more expensive substance problem in the U.S. is quietly growing much worse. One in eight Americans abuses alcohol, a new study finds, a fifty percent increase since the start of the century.