Dr. Jack Araza: Decision-making skills bolstered by local services

In a complicated and sometimes unforgiving world, people can make bad decisions or simply fall into misfortune. They may lose touch with loved ones and their community when times are toughest.

Without help, their situation may worsen dramatically.

In Carson City, there are several services available to help people reconnect to their friends, family and the community. Ultimately, the goal is to help them make better decisions when they feel like they've lost direction.

Their difficulties may range from transitioning to adulthood to loss of a job. There might be a family crisis or an economic sledgehammer, such as in 2008, that led to massive unemployment and economic uncertainty.

These challenging circumstances are made more complicated because of poor judgment, not knowing how to manage adversity, poverty, or personal/family chaos.

Carson City's Justice Court and Sheriff's Office have been innovative through the development of Mental Health and Drug Court and a broader range of services in the jail. They deal with people who ordinarily would not be committing crimes, but might be driven by substance abuse and/or mental health problems.

One way to help is to look at several often-overlooked factors known as their functional assets and deficits - also known as FAD.

Some examples of FAD:

• Task persistence: Ability to persist with a task, whether the person does or does not give up easily.

• Interpersonal skills: Ability to understand social nuances, relate appropriately versus poor social judgment.

• Likability: Demeanor encourages assistance versus alienates people.

• Receptive to help: Appreciates assistance from others versus difficulty accepting help from others.

• Asks for help: Ability to request assistance versus unable to ask for help.

• Adaptability: Change is viewed as opportunity versus change causing loss with no future in sight.

• Decision-making under stress: Positive decision-making can improve the situation, versus poor or lack of decision leading to self-defeating behavior.

The conditions change depending on the individual's personality and circumstances. If an individual does not give up easily but has poor interpersonal skills and is not likable, it will be difficult for the person to get a job opportunity. Once the job is attained, however, they should do well.

On the other hand, if the person has good interpersonal skills and is likable, jobs may come easily. Unless they can continue to learn, though, the job might be lost.

Community workers see people in practical day-to-day circumstances and observe and appreciate the power of their functional assets and deficiencies.

Richard Whitley, administrator of the Nevada Health Division and the Mental Health and Disability Services Division, understands the need to add the FAD assessment component, which looks at the whole person, to the Mental Health and Substance Abuse model as demonstrated by his active support of the Forensic Assessment System Triage Team piloting in the Carson City Jail, and facilitated in part by Partnership Carson City.

Once the individual achieves mental health and substance abuse stability, their FADs can be improved upon recognition and training. This creates the success and self-esteem that become the energy to drive the reconnections with friends, family and community.

• Dr. Jack Araza is a Carson City psychologist and president of the Partnership Carson City board.


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