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Maeta Burns

Milwaukee High School of the Arts

Year-round, first responders’ brave challenges so the rest of us may stay safe. In honor of their hard work and dedication, MPS Alumni would like to honor and celebrate these heroes for selflessly protecting and serving our communities. We honor the courage, commitment, and sacrifices of those in the fire service, law enforcement, and emergency medical services (EMS) communities, as well as our nation’s public servants. Join us in celebrating the Alumni “heroes among us” during these crucial times in our lives.

Maeta Burns

Job title: Vocational Program Manager - Division of Mental Health

Minnesota

So, it’s so goofy- I always find it difficult to share personal experiences from ‘work’ because my ‘work’ is largely about others and their perspective/experience, and frankly, I’m okay with that. I am a program manager for mental health vocational programming for individuals seeking to obtain or maintain employment, while stabilizing their mental health symptoms. Although our company is one of the largest non-profits in the state and also serves others with barriers to employment and community access (MN), we, as well as other agencies with similar composition, have found these months taxing ( to say the least) on the individuals we support, and the staff we support. We were established in 1971 and operate approximately 36 sitter locations (including remote sites). We are blessed with a fiscally conservative CFO, that coached managing positive margins for years, but even with that, we laid off approximately 170 people (some were positions we chose not to fill). With a sector of our service being on site, for vulnerable persons in licensed programs, they had to shut those sites down while the state tried to manage the spread. With many of those individuals residing in group homes and with the licensing restrictions, it was deemed unsafe to reopen those sites. Within this timeframe, the daily losses of onsite programming, to staff ratios and hourly billing, the situation was critical. For my part, I manage a team that spans across 9 counties, 8 of which are significantly rural. Programming is separate from what is described above-different division. Those individuals must have a verified mental health diagnosis before we can even serve them, and in 4 of the counties, a recent criminal background in 4 counties, where they are in the process of ‘re-entering’ ( re-entry program) the community. The barriers have been challenging to say the least, and yet, we persevere- our individuals persevere. The adaptation to platforms to facilitate working from home, the ‘virtual support’ for the first 5 months, trying to make decisions regarding how to allow staff accustomed to face to face meeting, engage safely or help an individual manage their symptoms or access remote forms of therapeutic supports and even working with employers, has been so challenging. Every time I make a decision on behalf of my staff, I hold my breath. The level of stress among the individuals we support and our staff, has been untenable at times. HOWEVER, just when I become saddened or overwhelmed by an obstacle we are trying to overcome regarding a person we support, a staff will say ‘... hey, John started a new job today...’ ‘... Susan decided to stay at her job and met with X ( psychiatrist she hasn’t seen in months) to get her meds adjusted...’ or I get to actually schedule smaller group meetings with my team and buy them lunch and just listen, I’m encouraged. We are bigger than ALL of this- we truly are. Although it is stressful and has forced changes that moved us from our comfort zone, I think, love, thoughtfulness, compassion, and tenacity will win in the end. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to do the work I do and for one more day on the planet.   

Join us in celebrating alumni Heroes Among Us during these challenging times in our lives. Would you like to share a story of a Hero Among Us? Contact valdesd@milwaukee.k12.wi.us .

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