The Overlook with Matt Peiken

The Front Lines of Violence and Abuse | Jackie Latek of the SPARC Foundation

March 20, 2024 Matt Peiken Episode 142
The Front Lines of Violence and Abuse | Jackie Latek of the SPARC Foundation
The Overlook with Matt Peiken
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The Overlook with Matt Peiken
The Front Lines of Violence and Abuse | Jackie Latek of the SPARC Foundation
Mar 20, 2024 Episode 142
Matt Peiken

If the nonprofit world awarded medals for bravery on the battlefront, the counselors and volunteers for the SPARC Foundation could be the most decorated in Asheville. SPARC works with people who’ve committed child abuse, domestic abuse and street violence to find other paths of behavior.

My guest today is Jackie Latek, the founding executive director of the SPARC Foundation. We get granular about how she and her team work to change behaviors that can span generations. 

Latek talks about racial and economic inequities and other circumstances that often fuel violence in the home, and the societal perceptions that make solutions more challenging. We also talk get into the role of law enforcement and more holistic community interventions, along with how anybody listening to his episode can make conversation can make a difference.

SPONSOR: Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance returns for one weekend only with the premiere of "Before the Scream." Performances are July 25-27 at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Show Notes Transcript

If the nonprofit world awarded medals for bravery on the battlefront, the counselors and volunteers for the SPARC Foundation could be the most decorated in Asheville. SPARC works with people who’ve committed child abuse, domestic abuse and street violence to find other paths of behavior.

My guest today is Jackie Latek, the founding executive director of the SPARC Foundation. We get granular about how she and her team work to change behaviors that can span generations. 

Latek talks about racial and economic inequities and other circumstances that often fuel violence in the home, and the societal perceptions that make solutions more challenging. We also talk get into the role of law enforcement and more holistic community interventions, along with how anybody listening to his episode can make conversation can make a difference.

SPONSOR: Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance returns for one weekend only with the premiere of "Before the Scream." Performances are July 25-27 at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Matt Peiken: The work you're doing today seems so much front lines on the ground, real intensive work. Before SPARC, who was handling the work that you're doing now? 

Jackie Latek: That's a great question. There are a lot of agencies in town that are working with the same families that social services works with. And in my entire time of being in this field of human services, going back to 25 years old What I've perceived as a healthy social services organization what it requires to have those folks, social workers who have the toughest job on the planet.

They are burdened with deciding whether families get to stay together or not, whether children are going to be safe or not. It is a tough job, but in order for them to do that effectively and appropriately, they need to have lined up with them organizations that are providing the services we provide or a strong mental health system surrounding them.

Social workers, while some of them are master's level and have some treatment type experience behind them, that's not the job they're hired to do. They're hired to determine safety. They're not there to go into the homes and show families how to be safe. In the intensive way that a lot of our families need.

So SPARC along with other mental health organizations, we are attempting to fill some of those gaps and services. And really the purpose is to keep families in those homes together. Children are best served living with their parents. And we spend a lot of money in this country and here locally as well on the foster care system. We pay people to become foster parents and they are the safe place for children to go to temporarily when they can't be at home with their families. And those are very important systems. In my entire time here in Asheville, 18 years, that foster care system has lacked capacity.

There are not enough families. So children are sent really far away from their home schools, their friends, everything that they know because the foster family that's available to take them is hours away. So there's always been this real capacity issue in foster care. Years ago, my partner and I became foster parents as a way to get into that system and support.

But what I have seen in my time is all those resources we put into the foster care system, what if we instead put the energy and those resources into parents and families who need just as much support as anybody else? And maybe if we can keep kids in their own homes or return them back home successfully, those children and families have the best chance at moving forward together instead of disruption, And additional trauma that typically occurs.

Matt Peiken: Yeah, if you were to draw an umbrella over your programming, it seems like there are three program areas that you do, and they're all connected in some way. One is domestic violence services, the other is violence interrupters, it's a street team that you have, and the other is family visitation and parent coaching through DSS.

And all of these things from what you're talking about, it all has an educational foundation to this work. The question that permeates all of that is, How do you know how to coach these things? What is your curriculum, through all of these? How did you develop it? 

Jackie Latek: Yeah, that's a great question, Matt. There is a unifying thread of the experience of the people that we serve. And experiences that you've had, I've had, the staff within our agency, and it comes down to understanding that human experience, that we all go through processes of making mistakes.

Maybe we learn from them and maybe we change our behavior. And we all have been through a process of where we've made a mistake, and then I've made it again, and I've made it again, and I'm not learning from it. And now the people around me are beginning to see that pattern. Maybe they're beginning to label me or what I'm doing.

Maybe I take that label and that badge and I go ahead and I stab myself with it. Yep. I am that, I'm doing that thing and I can get stuck in that. We can all get really stuck in that, and I think some of the differences, for anybody that's listening yeah, sure, I've done that, but I haven't needed, that service that you have and I do think there can be a difference of the impacts of our mistakes.

A lot of the people that are coming into our services, the impacts of their mistakes, they have impacted their children or their partners, or their community, in a way that people are really stepping up and taking notice. 

Matt Peiken: Let's back up a second. The people who are coming into your programs, this isn't necessarily voluntary, right?

Are these almost entirely court ordered? Or, that if you don't do these things, you won't see your children again? Or, you are facing a domestic violence charge here that if you don't do this, then these are the repercussions. Am I correct in reading it that way? 

Jackie Latek: There are some folks who are referred to us by external systems.

So how do you get to behavior change when you're in that rut of these are the behaviors I'm doing and they're negative and I don't even see yet how it's not serving me. I'm just living and making these mistakes and I don't even really know what's happening. How did any of us get to the point that says, I've got to change that?

Oftentimes, what it takes is an external force saying what you've got going on here, It's not so good. You need to do something about that. And that external force, it could be somebody in our family saying it. It could be a doctor saying it. It could be a judge saying it, or a social worker. So that external piece can be really important to begin a process.

And that's where our process begins of redemption. 

Matt Peiken: I would think that one of your initial challenges, and perhaps maybe even your greatest challenge, and correct me if I'm wrong in this, is a willingness from the people you work with to have some humility and say Yes, I need help. I would think that would be a huge hurdle, a cultural hurdle, pride, there's a natural inclination from people across a cross boundary spectrum of race ethnicity income level of People don't want to admit they've done wrong and that they are responsible. Am I wrong in reading it that way that would be your chief challenge is breaking through that?

Jackie Latek: Absolutely Nobody wants to be labeled those pieces. Oh, I'm a parent who's hurt my child. I'm a spouse who's hurt my partner. I'm somebody who's committed a crime in my community. Nobody wants to be labeled as that. What we have to offer when people walk in our door is a very different experience than they're used to having in the world.

They're used to the judgment. And that's part of the formula that keeps them in the places that they are in. It is that judgment that says you're no good and you don't deserve any better. And so why on earth would I try to do any better if that's what my society is telling me? So when you walk in our doors, that's not what we're saying.

We're going to look at you in the face and go, we understand. I'm not here to say what you've done is okay. You're human just like the rest of us. So we're going to hold you accountable, but we're also going to offer you something different than you've never offered. We're going to be completely transparent with you.

We're not going to talk about you behind your back, which is the experience a lot of our families go through and a lot of individuals go through. We are going to offer you education, which you brought up earlier. There are pieces of this. We have to assume that. People often make the choices they make, not because they're inherently a bad person, but because perhaps, maybe, nobody ever taught them to do it differently.

Matt Peiken: You point out on the website for SPARC a number of contributing factors that lead to, whether it's domestic violence, street violence. How do you change behaviors? It's one thing, okay, I've done wrong. How do I do and operate differently day to day? I would think that's also a huge challenge. And I want to go through each of your program areas.

So with domestic violence, you've served more than 400 individuals, identified unemployment and trauma as contributing factors. You can't eliminate the trauma, you can't necessarily get them the job that they haven't had before, maybe you can.

But talk about how do you work with people who've committed domestic violence and have a pattern of it? How do you change that behavior? 

Jackie Latek: So we come from this position that our role in reducing domestic violence in our community is by addressing the people who are committing that behavior.

One way our society deals with these kinds of crimes could be putting people in prison, but we know that there's no recovery from that, right? There's no learned skills that has somebody coming out and having any kind of behavior change. So I genuinely believe that our best chance of keeping partners and wives and children safe from this particular crime is that we have to create the behavior change within the people that are using it.

So let's understand what leads somebody to that kind of behavior. Again, I will tell you it is not because somebody is inherently born With that is something they're going to do later in life There are experiences that they've gone through. 

Matt Peiken: And experiences they've seen. Correct. Households they grew up in, patterns that have Existed for generations and that they are part of that chain. Am I seeing that correctly? 

Jackie Latek: Absolutely, a piece of that puzzle for individuals. And in the lack of recovery You The lack of potentially for a lot of people any way to address those previous experiences in life, any way to recover from those traumas, access to the mental health care they maybe would have supported them, access to substance abuse treatment.

And so you have folks that have gone through some tough experiences and have had no way to resolve them and then become adults who begin dating and This is a behavior that they end up using for whatever reason, right? And when any of us go through any kind of trauma and we don't resolve it, there's lots of ways we lash out.

We might lash out against the others near us. We might lash out against our communities. Oftentimes we lash out against ourselves. 

Matt Peiken: Don't you think it's also, to some degree, when you said people start dating and they fall into that pattern, I would think it's your very outlook of what it means to be in partnership and what it means to have a domestic partner.

That entire framework can be different for some people from what they've witnessed before, and you have to redefine that.

Jackie Latek: I think they enter into that relationship just like you and I do. They meet somebody, they like them enough and they spend time together and they like each other more.

Those relationships don't begin with domestic violence. They begin with care and with love. Then what happens? So, with the past experiences that are not resolved, what I have seen happen over and over is, I would describe somebody who uses power and control. And that is I'm going to control everything in your life because it's It satisfies me in the way because I have a hole that I am filling.

And instead of the appropriate ways to address the holes that I have from my previous experiences, I'm going to take you, person, that I like enough, and I'm going to use you to fill my hole. But in order to do that effectively and make sure you fill it entirely, I have to control your entire life.

Because otherwise, if you make your own decisions, you might not fill the hole that I need you to fill. And if you at some point begin to become uncomfortable with that, and you begin to pull away, that now becomes life and death for me. Oh, I've had my hole filled a little bit. I know what that feels like.

I can't lose that. I cannot go back to the situation I was in when I was younger. I am feeling scared for myself. So now I am clinging even tighter to you and the tighter I cling, the more you pull, the more dangerous this particular situation becomes. So how do we treat that particular individual? So throughout our program, whether somebody's court ordered, whether a social worker says you need to go to this program or whether somebody calls us and says I want to come in and do this, they can come to us in any kind of way. They will go through 26 weeks, that's half the year of meeting with us in a group of typically men, we do have a women's group.

We also have a Spanish speaking men's group. But a group of men who will come together every week. And there is a blend of, Let's talk about power and control and what that looks like. Because you're right, everybody comes into our program and says, that's not me. I didn't do it and blame everybody else.

Nobody wants to take accountability for that. So our program is about education and then holding people accountable, talking about their own experiences, looking at their patterns of relationships, because when you begin to look at those patterns, you will begin to see with these individuals, this is something that's come up for them over and over.

Matt Peiken: On one hand, 26 weeks doesn't seem like a lot. It's half a year to bust through and dismantle a lifetime of witnessing and behavioral history. And so do you see an arc, a typical path by the time, 26 weeks, do you see a different person coming out or is it really a crapshoot?

Some people come out really well and have made a move through this tunnel and some really are still struggling. 

Jackie Latek: I think like any program, we have our successes and then we have those who were not ready for the service. Absolutely is true. In North Carolina, we have a commission that sets the length of time for these programs.

So if we want to be a certified domestic violence intervention program, we have to provide 26 weeks of group. That is all we have to do. We only have to do 26 weeks of group. If you're in California, you're going to do a year. If you're in some of our other Southern neighbor States, you're going to do maybe 12 weeks of groups.

It is different all across the country, but whichever the state decides, it's a one size fits all for every person that's using power and control within that state. And we don't have any other system that works that way. If you go to the doctor, they're going to assess Your risks and give you a treatment plan based on How many times has this come up for you in the past what your risks are?

Matt Peiken: I want to be clear. So when you're saying it's different state by state, Is this what the state will pay for. No, the state doesn't pay us. They don't that is it insurance, county, city? Who pays you? 

Jackie Latek: This is a very problematic issue in our industry. Domestic violence programs need to innovate, such as, in our program now, we have a licensed therapist who provides brief, short term therapy to participants, and that is an optional add on that they can do.

We have that paid for through ARPA funds through the city of Asheville. That is a pilot program we're doing because our state doesn't require any kind of that level of treatment. But again, we know if the core is unresolved trauma, then part of the solution is behavior change tactics that we can offer in our 26 weeks of group.

And then let's dig a little deeper. Let's get into resolving that trauma so that you can use those behavior change tactics moving forward sustainably. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah, but you're saying funding is an issue around this. Why is funding such an issue? 

Jackie Latek: That is a great question. I think it is because people look at domestic violence.

We are still in this old school mentality as a society that's a private issue. It doesn't belong in the public, in the courts, or for anybody to fund. That's just for couples to figure out. Or, you get a lot of, Those people are so horrible that do that, let's not put any money towards them. Let's just lock them away. However, we're not locking them away. They are out on the streets with their partners who often reunite after some short time away. In order to keep people safe, we have to serve them. We are a provider who is fortunate enough to have some backing from our county. So every year the county does fund us.

It does not cover all of the things that we do by any means. But it gives us a base from which to work from. And then from there we go after grants. The grant is difficult. Most grant funders, if they're going to fund domestic violence, they're going to fund the victim services agencies. And we should never change any funding to those agencies.

But we have to understand if we want to stop people from using this behavior, then we have got to show them the way to do it differently. And so they need to be funded. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah. Does the same Challenge and problem face your work with family visitation and parent coaching is that, it's a private issue, they should do better, and if this is a problem, take the kids away, and put them someplace safe.

I would imagine that is the easy Recipe that a lot of people might put on this situation. 

Jackie Latek: I think it's historically what we have done. Now in Buncombe County, I would say it's different. That program, we are providing specifically for referrals for families who are involved with social services in Buncombe County.

So those families have had their Children removed from the home. And they are court ordered to spend time together every week. And Buncombe County is ahead of the curve on a lot of things, and they are on this issue. In most places, traditionally, and in our more rural communities, if you're that family that's been separated, and the parents are working on some kind of case plan in order for kids to come home, that court order typically is one hour a week for that family to be together.

Matt Peiken: Gosh, that's nothing. 

Jackie Latek: It's a disruption. How do you keep family bonds? How do your children know who you are anymore? 

Matt Peiken: Let's say you are that parent or that child time box one hour go? I haven't seen you for a week. How do you even know how to behave with each other? You're separated for a reason. Everybody unless the kids are very young know what is going on here. So that one hour is Disruptive anyway, you know that they can't just settle in.

I understand that you and your colleagues are teaching people how to parent after they've become parents. So we already talked about your work on the ground with domestic violence. Describe your work in working with parents who need Intervention who need help. 

Jackie Latek: So with most services, we have to start from a place of building some kind of rapport with those parents. We can't come in hot and say, Oh, you're doing that wrong, right? Have are you a parent? No, 

Matt Peiken: I'm not a dog. I'm a dog parent. 

Jackie Latek: You have family members who are parents. Don't just my mom and dad. All right. Okay. Don't ever tell them what they're doing wrong.

It is. It is the most. Private and precious of skills that we as parents have. 

Matt Peiken: Yes, but at the same time, they're in this situation because the court has said you have done something wrong. That is on the table, whether you speak it or not, and you are there, your organization has tasked itself with teaching people better, right?

So whether you're saying the words or not, you're doing something wrong, you're showing them something different, right? So how do you massage 

Jackie Latek: that? 

So typically when we're working with parents that are in this kind of situation we will begin any of those kinds of conversations with, tell me about the moments in parenting where you feel really good.

Let's start with what you're good at. That exists. Even though families are involved with the department for something that they haven't done right, there are lots of things that they have done right. It's too often we quickly go to, this is what you've done wrong. So let's shift that focus. Let's talk about what you've done right.

And let's build on that. Okay. So we can start there. Let parents talk about the things that they do well, the moments of parenting that go well for them. And in all my time doing this work, whenever I have asked a parent, what's the hardest time for you as a parent, regardless of how resistant a parent is to being involved in my services, having to talk to me, every single parent comes up with a time where I really struggle when XYZ happens with my kid. Great. Would you like to work on that? Yeah. Okay, great. Let's set that up then. I'm gonna offer you some things and some of the things I offer may or may not work for you. You tell me. What works for you, and if that one tool doesn't work for you, I got a bag full of more, and I will offer you those.

Matt Peiken: Do you find A common thread through a lot of the situations that you and your counselors find yourselves in with parents who are brought to this point? What are some common things that you have to overcome beyond just telling them, you're not a bad parent. Let's work on some things. Are there deficiencies that you see as commonplace? 

Jackie Latek: Absolutely. Generational poverty, lack of access to health care, education, quality jobs. People are living pretty rough lives out there and COVID has only made things worse. So recognizing that people are coming to us at a time where they are probably the most chaotic in their lives. Their children have been removed from their home. But let's not forget everything that's led up to that has been pretty intense and chaotic as well just because of Their situation in the context of the lives that they have grown up in. So we have to understand from that standpoint, how can we help them fulfill some of those other gaps that really come down to structurally They didn't have access when they were growing up. They didn't have the kind of parenting that you and I would want. And so let's offer that and fill in some of those gaps for them.

Matt Peiken: Both the domestic violence services and the family visitation, those are all private in the home elements. The third component of the work you do is very public in some sense. It's violence interrupters. You have a street team.

When I read that you do this work, I thought of the Guardian Angels and Curtis Sliwa in New York way back, 30 years ago that were doing this. Is this akin to Guardian Angels or what is different about the work you do?

Because you're talking about people on the street who are trying to stop gun violence primarily, right? Gun violence from happening, in real time. How do you do that? Talk about who is on this street team. Talk about the people who are on the street team and the work they do. 

Jackie Latek: Asheville has had increasing gun violence for my entire time that I have been here, and it goes back before I have been here, and that is not an uncommon scenario that happens when you have communities that lack access to quality jobs, education, transportation.

People living in poverty. Those are the formulas that end us up in this place where, oh there's a lot of gun violence, right? So this is happening all over the country. Typically in this country the way that we have historically handled gun violence is through law enforcement initiatives. Some of them having some success, Operation Ceasefire, things like that.

But not ongoing success, right? So what are we willing to try differently? And so this program is in coordination with Buncombe County in trying something different. So several years ago they came out with an RFP process. So they were requesting agencies to make proposals on how they would address gun violence.

So they were putting money on the table for local community based organizations to address gun violence that did not have a heavy law enforcement participation in it. And that was unheard of in this community. It's the first time we were going to address that kind of crime with law enforcement. 

Matt Peiken: How long ago was that, that you were asked to do that? That was about three and a half years ago. So this was post Black Lives Matter movement. 

Jackie Latek: Right as COVID was starting, we were starting that program. 

Matt Peiken: And you hadn't done that at that point, you were already working in domestic violence and family visitation. You had not done street teamwork around street violence, right? 

Jackie Latek: We had done just a little. So years before, we were part of a law enforcement initiative with the county and APD addressing violent crime. But again, it was very focused on the law enforcement side of it. And as happens in a community leadership in the community says, okay, we don't want to fund that program anymore. And that program went away. We maintained a couple of the staff to continue to just do some outreach because within that program, what I had learned from the individuals doing that work is that they were helping felons who are coming out of prison and really they were violent felons those kinds of convictions and they were Tasked with finding them employment as an access point away from going back to crime. Not an easy thing when there were a lot of blocks for individuals coming out of prison.

So we learned a lot about that work through the individuals who were running that program for us back then. When the County came out with this initiative, it was okay, we've got some boots on the ground, but this is really going to help us collaborate more with some other partner agencies, who are My Daddy Taught Me That and YTL, who have become very close and great partners in this work. So we have a team now of about 10 individuals and they are community health workers in violence prevention. So that goes back actually for hundreds of years, people in the community who are trusted already by their community, bringing health information.

This has happened all over the world in different ways. So we're kind of using an old strategy and fine tuning it to our world today. These individuals that our three agencies have hired, they have lived experiences similar to those of the people they're serving in those communities. They have shared experiences.

So maybe they've grown up in public housing themselves. They've grown up around violence. Maybe they've been a part of causing harm to their communities. Maybe they've done some prison time and they're coming out and they have started their redemption tour with us by being a part of our staff. So that is one of the key aspects that you talk about.

How do you work with people in any of our programs? A lot of the times it is saying, we are just like you. 

Matt Peiken: You said how you've noticed in your time violent street crime, gun crime has gone up in your time here. All these elements that you tackle, it seems like they've all gone up in recent years., You point out on your website, how a lot of equity issues come into play here, a lot of disparities in employment for black and brown people, economic disparities.

How much of that is at play here and maybe this isn't the role of SPARC, but does SPARC start to dissect some of that to try to balance out in your own small way, some of the inequities that you can attribute to racial inequities? How does that come into play in the work you do? 

Jackie Latek: So through this work and what I have learned from those that have become mentors to me is that a lot of the challenges we see today really begin, the violence that we see today begins with structural violence in this country. And that structural violence means how we have allocated our resources.

There are some who get a lot of resources, and there are others who get none. And that is really the core issue, the resource allocation in this country. We still struggle with it. We've got decades and decades of policies that have harmed the black community.

And we have stories locally here in Asheville and people alive today who tell those stories of how their family has lost their wealth in this very community, and then they ended up having to live in public housing. So if we understand all of that, how much of that can we take on?

Yeah. I'd love to take it all on, but I'm not sure that I'm capable of that. And I don't think that anyone is. It's why we have partnerships, but I do think while we are doing the on the ground work with our partners, which is incredibly important because the individuals that we are impacting, the communities we're impacting that is important work, because otherwise the same thing is just going to be happening for the future generations to come. On the other hand, what we still need to see happen at the same time is more focus in addressing the continued structural violence that happens, those allocations of resources. And we have problems with the availability of guns in our community.

It is easier for kids to get guns than it is for them To get books. Yeah. Isn't that sad? That's not how it needs to be.

Matt Peiken: Yeah, we're banning books. We don't ban guns. You mentioned a little bit ago that your start in this work, particularly on the street team, the violence interrupters, was from a law enforcement vantage.

I know in the quote, defund the police movement, Black Lives Matter movement, there was a lot of talk of bringing in Non profits who work in mental health, drug addiction. The work SPARC does is in on that too. What success have you had in having law enforcement take a step back from being a let's take them down first mentality to being more holistic?

I know the new APD chief, I had him sitting right where you are not too long ago, Mike Lamb, and he seems Very sympathetic and open to these kinds of things. Talk about your conversations with Quentin Miller, the Buncombe County Sheriff, Mike Lamb, his predecessor. 

What success have you had in working with law enforcement to say, you're right? Let's be more holistic and not go in with our guns drawn, so to speak, on some of these situations. 

Jackie Latek: We're very fortunate right now to have Chief Lamb in the position as well as Sheriff Miller. They are both individuals who I see consistently in the community who have an understanding of what our communities are going through and are showing up day in and day out to try to adjust to shift the typical law enforcement approach.

I know they go through certain trainings to understand how to work with, whether it's domestic violence survivors or whatever situation they're dealing with. They take on a lot. Let's admit, what we put on the police department in terms of what they have to handle out there in the world, not knowing what the situation is that they're walking into, is an incredible amount.

Are we putting too much on them? I see that perspective as well and I do think the mental health crisis we have in this country does require some professional skills, and so who's responding when it's The mental health crisis is incredibly important.

We can't expect our police officers to know how to do everything. We do the same thing with teachers. We expect them to raise our children and educate them and do all those things too. We're very used to honing in on a particular profession and then say you do it all. So I'm a big supporter of the police department.

I think we all need to figure out how to support it and be complimentary in the work together and not fight against each other. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah. Are you seeing success in that realm in 2024? Are you seeing day to day on the ground, are we doing better as a community in that than we were say in 2020, 2021? 

Jackie Latek: Let's give Chief Lamb some time. He's brand new into that position. I think we're going to see some of those improvements and more willingness from him to partner with agencies like ours and the work we're doing. Sheriff Miller is working with some of our community health workers right now. We've got several of our community health workers running groups in the detention center.

We have a program that's in development, working with sheriff's department staff building a program, working with children who have incarcerated parents. And so working with both the parents and those children. So there's new programming that is coming out of these conversations because they are connected and they see what families need. 

Matt Peiken: Is there anything we haven't talked about regarding your work, what SPARC is doing or the road ahead that you think is important for people to understand?

Jackie Latek: I often get asked from people what can we do? Appreciate your work. I'm probably not going to go out with your violence prevention folks, but what can I do to support? And I think every one of us has an ability to create more equity in our communities around us. And so that might be just thinking about what your place is in your community.

If you're employed somewhere and you are not a decision maker, are you asking what are their policies and procedures in terms of equity? Are they looking at lived experience as the same as you might look at professional experience? Are we starting to crack that open a little bit more?

Or if you are a decision maker, what do you have listed as your reasons for why you wouldn't hire somebody that has some kind of conviction? Are you willing to have a conversation about that? Because people coming out of prison who are trying to access their second chance they need a second chance, and they need a job.

Are you willing to do those kinds of things? Are you a landlord? Are you willing to offer your space at a reasonable rate to people in the community or somebody That maybe has Section 8 vouchers. Those kinds of pieces. If you're a privileged person, if you're white, if you're in a majority, are you doing some just personal enhancement around understanding those issues? Because as you begin to understand those issues, then you will see your opportunities all around you.

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