Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Necessary Response...

Jim Gregory asked us if we would post his responses to "Bill White's hall of fame" article today.

I have known Bill White since he began beating me up in his columns years ago. I have mostly taken the columns in stride. In fact, when you meet him, he’s a hard guy not to like. His latest hall of fame article portrays me as a whacky character who despite good intentions always seems to lose his cool and then, of course, loses his point with it.  However,  he and many others at the April 18th meeting of Northampton County Council, seemed to lose the forest for the trees. In other words, they missed my main point. However, after the meeting ended, even though I had calmed down at the time, no one other than a 69 news reporter even bothered to ask me or my client why we were there.  So let me explain why.  The County of Northampton has been paying providers of mental health services millions of taxpayer dollars to house a handful of clients. That alone is outrageous. However, while doing so, They are cutting core transportation services for the  elderly clients I serve, which is not necessary and also ridiculous considering the millions they waste on provider housing. To make my point, I spoke with one of my clients who had survived the Nazi concentration camps at Dachau and asked if she would come along to tell her story. I explained to her, and she readily agreed, that presenting her case to council might help us save the services that the county intended to cut.  I had climbed the county chain of command to explain the idiocy of their present policy. They rebuked my efforts and went as far as having our computer firm pull my internet  records to see if they could slime my character and prevent me from challenging them on this issue.  It didn’t work. I decided to approach council on the matter. That is when things begun to unravel.

I began my discussion in a lighthearted manner to address council on the new human services building they are building and my reasons for opposing it. Then when I began to speak on the policy matter that I was there to address, President Cusick challenged my right to speak further and tried his best to prevent me from speaking out. I tried to rush and get in my point but President Cusick attempted to silence me at every turn. After that, it turned into a charade and I was essentually rushed from the podium. I was stunned. In my years as a Bethlehem City councilman we never, ever, refused the right of a taxpayer to speak.

That is what democracy is about.

  My client was heartbroken and began to cry. She was crying because she was there to be heard but she was so outraged by my treatment that she decided that she didn’t want to chance the same treatment.  She did not speak. She was helped from the room by my friend because she was in tears and incredibly upset.  She sat outside in the hall with my friend and no one even bothered to ask why she was there. They assumed wrongly that I brought her as some kind of prop. They were so wrong.

    My client, we’ll just call her E.W. for the sake of privacy, was about five years old when her family was taken to a German concentration camp at Dachau. You see, her aunt, who was of Polish decent  had the incredibly amazing courage to attempt to hide some of her Jewish friends from the Nazi’s, knowing that by doing so she could be executed at any time or carted away to a Nazi death camp. The Nazi’s discovered her secret and hauled her and young E. W. away to Dachau. I never really discussed with her what happened to her at the camp because once she explained  just a smidgen of the story to me, I couldn’t stop myself from uncontrollably crying. Eventually, after two years at the camp, E. W. was freed by the Americans. However, just prior to their arrival, the Nazi’s began to burn the bodies to hide the crimes. EW, of course, witnessed these horrors and never forgot them. When she eventually married and came to America, landing in new Jersey, she was suffering from serious depression. She then received 31 shock treatments to help her to forget the horrors.  These weren’t garden variety shock treatments. We are talking One flew over the cuckoo nest” type treatments. Just one more horror following her past horrors.

  Amazingly she eventually settled into the Lehigh Valley with her husband and raised an incredibly wonderful and successful family. She has many grandkids and great grandkids whom she proudly speaks of whenever we meet. She worked hard at a local nursing home for twenty years and retired a few years after her husband past away.  However, still suffering anxiety and depression after all these years of trauma and the loss of her beloved husband, she turned to Northampton County’s Human Service program for help.  She asked us for very little, mainly a ride to doctor’s appointments and a few errands here and there. She is one of around 15 clients whom I serve on a daily basis.  She has been served by our county for about 8 years. 

However, as of late, my county administrator of the Mental health program decided that her model of care did not include transportation for my elderly clients to their medical appointments.  They said I should train them to be independent and assist them in taking the Lanta Van.  My response was one of disbelief. Are we seriously going to ask elderly clients, including EW, who are in their 70’s and 80’s and whom have depended on our services for years to essentially take the bus?  Are we seriously going to ask clients suffering from anxiety and depression and

 other disorders to give up their socialization with their caseworker who in some cases is essentially the only friend they have?  I refused to let this happen and fought them at every turn and still am. Remembering the compelling life story of EW (who could not) I ask that she attend the meeting of County council with me to plead her case. She readily agreed, believing as I did  that her incredible life story might not only help her retain her meager services but also help others who desperately needed their services.  Well to say the least, I foolishly thought that considering her story, juxtaposed with the story of wasted millions of taxpayers dollars for provider services to a handful of clients,  Council would listen, and be in fact mesmerized, by her story.

I never got a chance. I was cut of right from the start. The  heartbreaking ending here, sadly,  was that EW’s heart was broken again because her story was never told. And no one there even bothered to ask her about her story, thinking wrongly that I brought her there against her will or to be used as a prop.  In my defense I said, “For God’s sake, just ask her”  No one did. No one bothered. Now I am slammed in local blogs  and mocked  by Mr. White in his latest column for merely trying to help EW tell her story.  That’s sad. Not for me. I’ve been through this before.

The disturbing thing here is that EW’s story wasn’t heard and still isn’t being heard. 

Jim Gregory, Northampton County MH caseworker.


  1. You were given the "Full Stoffa" by the county council. Don't expect help form them, they all drink the Stoffa koolade.

  2. Thank You guys so much for bringing out Eugenia's story. It's almost like the life of Pi. It so incredible, it's hard to fathom. Many will scoff and say it's not true. However, all they have to do is talk to Eugenia. Although many of her memories of the Holocaust have been pushed deeply back into the recesses of her memory, many are still at the surface. I personally look at how well she has done despite her treatment and I am absolutely amazed.

  3. Actually 12 36, many on Council now are good folks. It was actually Cusick, the school teacher who makes tons of money in his district but for whatever reason seems to despise unions, who took over the show and did Stoffa's bidding. I doubt that the rest of Council will let that happen again once the discover the truth of the matter. All they probably had to do was ask for a vote that Council rules be suspended. With 5 votes I could have been allowed to speak. Stoffa and Cusick spoke between meeting and I certainly wouldn't be surprised to hear that Stoffa ask Cusick to cut me off.
    Tat has always been a problem with this county. If it's something the President of Council wants to hear, they let you speak forever. If not, they cut you off immediately. The rest of Council needs to remind the President that he is not a dictator in this regard. My guess is that they will. When I was President of Bethlehem City Council, we had no time limits. I, myself would get frustrated. However my old friend Jimmy Delgrosso always reminded me that is was really the people's meeting, not ours. I was young and stupid. What did I know , lol. He was right. I was lucky to be surrounded by giants, while on Council, who have now since passed like Jim Delgrosso, Paul Calvo, and Mike Loupos. Their integrity was without question. They knew we were there to serve, not to be served. I was blessed to be mentored by them and to be able to call them friends.

  4. Jim I think it's a bit late to use disguise your clients identity with initials, why does BOH go after you so hard? Is he jealous of your hot girlfriend, good looks, pension?

  5. O'hairey is jealous of Gregory, his GF, and that he got caught taking a birdie bath in the bathroom at the courthouse.

  6. She signed a note saying that I can speak for her anytime on any subject. It is notorized. however, until I speak with her again, I am not going to use her name in print. As far as B. O. goes, hot girlfriend maybe, my looks left me years ago lol, and my pension is rather pathetic..