Social exclusion simulation brings new perspective

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The Cloud Gate in Chicago offers a different view of the city. The Social Exclusion Simulation will likewise offer a new perspective on health equity and our Tribal people.

March 29 two members of Klamath County Public Health and two members of Klamath Tribal Health & Family services experienced a social exclusion simulation at Adler University in Chicago.

There were about 25 of us total given variations of four character profiles of women who were on parole. We were given specific tasks to accomplish, such as, for my character, getting an asthma inhaler first thing during the first 12-minute week, checking in with the parole officer, getting food, getting a job, going to 12-step programs, getting clothing, and getting housing.

I felt like I rocked the first week and all I did was get the inhaler and visit the parole officer. However, I did not obtain food, shelter or clothing. The second and third weeks, represented with 12-minute intervals, I didn’t accomplish anything. I was supposed to go to the clinic for panic attacks, and I couldn’t see anyone for four weeks.

I couldn’t get food before attending 12-step, but I was arrested at the program because the monitor allegedly saw me make a drug buy outside. I spent most of those two weeks in the representative jail, as I lost interest in trying to accomplish my tasks and tried to protect some of the others from injustices that I saw. It was very eye-opening.

We debriefed afterward and it is easy to see how demoralizing life can be when you are a member of a marginalized population and don’t know how to navigate specific systems or have an advocate.

Participants experienced bias:

  • In trying to attend a 12-step meeting and being accused of immediate drug use.
  • Without going to the meeting, food would not be given at a pantry.
  • Without obtaining food and and attending a meeting, the parole officer wouldn’t acknowledge forward progress on parole
  • Job applications need a housing address, but housing is only possible in working well with the parole officer.
  • Lack of health care providers leads to long waits to be seen for urgent needs, such as panic attacks.
  • None of the simulation participants felt the systems were inclusive.

A woman who had been incarcerated, Queen Brown, spoke to us about her experience being on parole and getting clean. Given the backgrounds of the composite characters, and Queen’s personal testimony, I wonder how many incarcerated women suffered some sort of abuse in childhood, which led to lifelong issues and some poor choices.

Then we met with Adler staff about researching our local simulation using the Klamath Tribal population.

Adler personnel will be in Klamath May 4-7 to collect more information.

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