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A Family Affair
Bravo! "Deadbeat Heaven" (June 12) finally brings light to the frustrations of dealing with the Family Support Bureau. My experience is no different. I find that everyone there is labeled "investigator" but not one is held accountable for a particular case, and indeed every time I check on the progress of my case I get a new voice that is reluctant to identify his/herself and almost always contradicts the previous progress report.

Also thanks for focusing on a deadbeat mom; most people assume deadbeats are dads. Our deadbeat mom is now $15,000 in arrearages while enjoying a position on Willie Brown's staff. Although our mayor says he "doesn't stiff kids," he sure knows how to look the other way when a staff member does. In this case, our public officials' indifference makes for a wake of suffering families.

Darren Campeau

Check Point
Lisa Davis' article on mail thieves ("Unappointed Rounds," Bay View, June 12) hits far too close to home. In the last four months, my girlfriend and I have both been the victims of these remarkably sophisticated crooks. Fourteen of my checks were stolen from a local mailbox in April. Creating new laser-printed blanks, they drained almost $2,000 from my account, mostly while I was in New York on business. The scary part is that they changed the billing address on my account (using my stolen Social Security number) so my monthly statements would be sent to their PO box. I'm still waiting to see if they've opened up credit card or other accounts using my pilfered information.

Beware: Even if you request a stop-payment on your missing checks (as I did) the bank may still cash those checks if the amounts are different from what you had originally written. Banks use the amount of the check only as a filter -- not the check number or listed payee -- for either paying/denying any specific check. In my case the crooks simply forged new checks and wrote them for larger amounts than the originals. Even with a stop-payment on specific numbered checks firmly in place, the phony documents sailed right through.

Name Withheld by Request
Alamo Square

Talking Turkey
Regarding "Cold Turkey" (Bay View, June 12) and the impending SSI/SSDI discontinuance for persons disabled due to substance abuse issues: An active substance abuser in a payee program in San Francisco typically pays $25 to $40 monthly for this service. A buck a day, more or less. Roughly the same amount the client in a payee program has remaining after the payee secures rent, utilities, and food. A thousand people presenting substance abuse issues seek treatment daily in this city, and the substance abuser who genuinely wants immediate treatment typically begins the road to recovery as the thousandth person waiting in line for a treatment slot.

Everyone has problems -- some learn dysfunctional ways of dealing with them. Theses dubious coping mechanisms can range from a Rocky Road ice cream binge when you get dumped by your lover to smoking rock after another long day spent at risk and unwanted on the streets. Chronic addiction is a life-or-death struggle. Addicts seldom "hit bottom" until the pain of addiction exceeds whatever pain they tried to avoid. Recovery demands actively opting for life over death on a daily basis.

Addicts successful in recovery commonly share a rediscovered sense of self-worth -- but few seek treatment as an expression of virtue. In many instances, an addict relearns the most fundamental kind of self-respect through respect shown him or her by peers and helpers.

Helpers like Victor Palma offer poor value for the proportion of monthly income clients of the payee services at St. Vincent de Paul pay. The cynicism he voices reveals a level of burnout that leaves me questioning his appropriateness as a payee, let alone coordinator of a payee program. Clients with substance abuse issues are faced with enough challenges without a career bureaucrat undermining the last remaining traces of self-determination they can salvage.

Chance Martin

Security System
It is great to finally see some press on the public law eliminating Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for people disabled by drug or alcohol dependencies ("Cold Turkey," Bay View). We do HIV testing and social epidemiological research with injection drug users at the Urban Health Study of UCSF. Our research shows that injection drug users who are on SSI are less likely to be homeless, use less drugs, commit less crimes, spend less time in jail, and are more likely to be in drug treatment than injection drug users not receiving SSI. We'll end up spending the estimated savings of $161 million per year at the social welfare offices, hospitals, jails, and funeral homes. President Clinton's swift pen is messing with people's lives.

Alex Kral, Jennifer Lorvick, Ricky Bluthenthal
Urban Health Studies
San Francisco


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