Monday, December 24, 2007

Annual Door Decorating Contest

One of our holiday traditions at BCI is our staff decorating their office doors. At the Lancaster Center, this always gets the staff and clients into the spirit of the season. I was asked to be a judge this year to pick the winner of the contest. Most of the entries came from the Bridge-Perinatal unit. There was lots of creativity this year, but in the end we went with the most original and the most fun.

The winner: Valerie Brown
Besides incorporating lights, Val’s Santas sing “Jingle Bells” in a motorized, yet cheerful voice to the patient waiting room. Scary? Perhaps. But it brought a smile to our faces, and isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Honorable Mention: Dawn Mason and Robin Stewart
Dawn and Robin also get points for including lights in their display. We could tell they put a lot of time into the attractive flowers as well.

The rest:

Teresa Evans
Only a month on the job, and she shows she can decorate like a veteran!

Kathy Kelley
She wins the cultural competency award for incorporating several major religions.

Darniese Banks
Darniese conveys the theme of love, peace, and joy with a two-sided display.

Jenn Kutney
Check out the great ribbon. Duct tape – is there anything it can’t do?

Thanks to all who participated this year. From the BCI family to yours, have a wonderful holiday!

Friday, December 21, 2007

5 Questions for Steve Burns, Housing Coordinator

5 Questions is our ongoing feature where we introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Steve Burns
Job: Housing Coordinator, Project Return Transition House
Time with BCI: 13 years

1. Tell us about your job at BCI and the clients you work with.
I’m the House Coordinator for the transitional residential program, where we have six individual Brandywine clients for housing. We help them get jobs, we help them save money, we help them get different skills, we help them go to school. Whatever they want to do, we try to help them better themselves, so when they leave, they’ll be in better shape than they were before they came.

We try to get clients that are already clean and already have some kind of positive outlook or some kind of direction. But sometimes, when a person’s in a homeless situation, none of that’s possible. So first, we try to stabilize the client with their methadone dose. Whatever street drugs they’re using, we get them to stop doing that. Then, in the first 30 days, we try to find out which direction they want to go in. Do they want to go to school, do they want to get a job? But this is not a shelter, it’s not emergency housing, this is a transition house, and we’re trying to help you do something more positive in your life.

2. What advice do you have for someone who would like to do the job you do?
You have to have patience, and you have to have knowledge of what it’s like to be homeless. You don’t have to be homeless, but at least have some knowledge, some background, some schooling, some conversation. Just being able to understand and identify with a homeless person. Because a lot of times, people are homeless for a reason, they’re not just homeless because they don’t have a job and money. 75% of people who are homeless have either alcohol or drug addiction problems. 80% of them have mental health issues. A lot of them come from broken homes, no parent in the home, abuse of some kind. It’s just a lot of things that factor into a person being homeless. So on any given day, you may find out something about one of your residents that you never knew, but now you see why they act the way they act.

3. Tell us about your favorite client success story.
We had a female client at the transition house who was there when I came. We didn’t get along. Being in recovery and doing this as long as I’ve been doing it, I can kind of see different behaviors. And so I always addressed her on her behaviors, because I thought that that would be one of her downfalls, as far as her staying clean or relapsing, and she could never understand.
But in the end, she graduated from the program. She has a job, she has an apartment, she has a bank account, and she’s still doing good. And we’re great now, because through it all, now when she sees me, she says, “Thank you for staying on me. You know, I couldn’t see it then, but I had never saved money, never had my own place, I’ve never had my own job. Now I have all those things. I have recovery, I have a sponsor.”

4. Your involvement with the recovering community goes beyond your job at Brandywine. You’re also the President of the 1212 Club. What does it mean to you to be involved in that work?
Being the President of the 1212 Corporation is very rewarding, because it’s a place where people can come. It’s a safe haven. You can just come, relax, look at TV, play cards, have meetings, get yourself something to eat. I have some other people that are in recovery that are on the board with me. We work together because we want the 1212 to be a place where it’s safe to come. We want people from Brandywine to come. We’re doing something right now [with Advancing Recovery and clients from the Alpha Program], where we’re going to do some recovery coaching stuff, to see how it works.

The majority of our people don’t have skills, they don’t have education, so they need housing, they need education, they need jobs. We have a job training program. It’s not just 12 Step meetings -- that’s the most important part -- but a lot of times people say, “What’s the purpose of me staying clean if I don’t have a job, if I don’t have affordable decent housing. If I have to go back to the projects where I came from, I’m doomed.” So at the 1212, we try to help people to get to that next level in their recovery.

5. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI, what would you do with it?
I probably would put it into transitional housing and the great work that we do with HIV and AIDS. I think those are two important parts right now.

The transition house used to just be open to Hope clients, Assertive Treatment Team clients. Now, since it’s open to anybody who qualifies, it has broadened the scale, and I would like to see us get more houses, get more space. Because I’m filled now, but every day there’s another counselor asking me, “Steve, do you have a bed? Steve do you have a bed?” People leave me messages, “Steve, do you have a bed?” So I think would be another great feat for Brandywine if we could expand that program.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Lighthouse Program Opens Its Doors

Delaware's first Women and Children's Residential Addiction Treatment Program, dubbed The Lighthouse Program, opened December 10 in time for the holidays. Two guests are prepared to move in by the end of the week, and referrals are now being accepted.

Women interested in receiving treatment can get an assessment at any of the Substance Use Treatment centers in Delaware. An assessment appointment can be set up over the telephone.

For more information on the program and how to apply, click here.

Project Hope: 5 Years of Serving the Triply Diagnosed

Brandywine Counseling, Inc. (BCI) recently wrapped up Project Hope, a 5 year CSAT-funded project that provided integrated substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and medical care to substance abusers with or at risk for HIV/AIDS in Wilmington, Delaware. Project Hope was successful on many levels.

Project Hope continued BCI’s partnership with Christiana Care Health Services to provide integrated nested services. Also known as a “one stop shop,” this approach proved very effective for a chronically ill population with multiple needs. Nesting services in a single clinical home within our on-site infectious disease clinic increased communication among clinicians, increased the comfort and safety of patients, and strengthened confidentiality. We first used this model in 1999 as part of the Aegis program for minority women. In 2002, Project Hope expanded the approach to serve both men and women.

Most Project Hope clients were between 35 and 45 years old with no employment history, little education, and multiple treatment failures. Half of the client population was triply diagnosed with substance abuse, mental health and HIV diagnoses. With this in mind, Project Hope’s achievements are impressive.

  • We treated 151 clients, our target capacity.
  • 75% of clients remained in treatment for six months or longer. The average length of treatment, regardless of discharge status, was 10 months.
  • While in the project, 36% achieved and maintained sobriety.
  • Clients complied with mental health and HIV medications. Many (44%) improved their income and many (40%) reduced their risk of HIV by participating in the program.

These achievements may seem modest for many substance abuse programs, but they are remarkable for a program treating the triply diagnosed. In sum, Project Hope demonstrated the effectiveness of integrated nested services for the dually and triply diagnosed.

Though Project Hope has now ended, all clients continue to receive appropriate treatment from other BCI programs. In 2007, BCI received a new CSAT grant to provide treatment and pre-treatment services. Safety Net Services will continue the engagement, linkage activities, and case management found effective with Project Hope.

On a personal note, Project Hope was one of the first federal grant proposals I wrote for BCI. I remember working with Shay Lipshitz to put it together, and trying to translate her vision for the program into a coherent written plan. We knew that if we were successful, we could make a difference for people who really needed these services. As a grant writer, it’s especially gratifying to see a project through from conception to reality. So to the staff who provided these services, I say thanks for a job well done.

Friday, December 7, 2007

5 Questions for Karen Barker, Account Manager

5 Questions is our ongoing feature where we introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Karen Barker
Job: Account Manager, Lancaster Center
Time with BCI: 13 years

1. What is your job at BCI and what do you enjoy about it?
The job that I do is like information central. I take the money from the clients, but also, I try to keep everybody informed of what’s going on, including clients, staff, anybody that needs anything. [When a client comes to the window,] first they have to pay. Then they may need to see their counselor, so I page the counselors. They may have a doctor’s appointment, or they have lab work, or they need to go up front for some other reason. I try to just be in a million different directions, while standing in one spot.

As nasty and argumentative as it is, it’s still one of the most enjoyable things in my life.

2. What advice do you have for someone who would like to do the job you do?
Be patient, and understand that every person that steps up to your window is not the same person who was there thirty seconds before, and everybody deserves to be treated on their own basis, not in the space of someone else.

3. You give out a “thought of the day” to the clients on slips of paper. How did you get that idea and where do the thoughts come from?
I’ve done that for the past 15 years. I got the idea because one of my very favorite clients, when he first came on, said, “Miss Karen, I need to be told what to do every day.” And I just laughed at him, and so that actually became the first daily reading the next day. The very first reading said, “Sometimes I need direction, though I don’t like being told what to do.”

From that point on, I tried to do one every day, and they get very upset if there’s not one every day! “Yo, Miss Karen! Where’s my reading?” And the readings come from either my mind -- I think of something in the middle of the day, write it on a slip of paper, tape it on the wall – or someone says something to me that I know they need to hear again, come back at them, and I’ll just make that one of the readings.

4. What has been the most rewarding moment for you at BCI?
One specific client, and him finding the sobriety that he looked for, is always something that I carry around. When it gets tough and you think no one can do it, I just think back to that first person whose urine was clean.

He came directly from the hospital, and he was in the kind of state that, both mentally and physically, he was a beaten man. But he knew that it was up to him to pull himself up on his feet -- we’d stand behind him if he fell backwards -- but he had to pull himself up. And when I saw the kind of strength from how far down he was, I knew that, just being there for when they get straight, but also when they fall -- because he fell many times -- but every time he came up, he was ready to do it again, wholeheartedly. And it’s very emotional to watch, you get very attached.

5. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI, what would you do with it?
I would start out with $10,000 straight off to the Bridge Perinatal division. I would take another $20,000 to start an outreach that is equal to the methadone piece, because I find that when people first come on the clinic, that’s the hardest time. They’ve already hit bottom. They are so done that their own mother is done with them. They have no one to borrow 4 dollars from, they have nowhere to find 4 dollars. But the clients willingly help the clients. And so I would start that to be available for clients during their first 30 days of treatment, and make it easier for them to stay in treatment.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Lighting The Path Home: Help Us Build a Children’s Playground

Dear Friends,

Season’s Greetings from Brandywine Counseling!

On behalf of the Board of Directors, the staff and those we serve, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best this Holiday Season and say thank you for your support!

In the spirit of giving that permeates the holiday season, won’t you consider a gift of a donation to Brandywine Counseling?

This year, we have a very special project you can help with. Soon we will celebrate the opening of a first-of-its-kind program for Delaware, The Lighthouse residential program for women with children. We hope to be able to build a first class playground for the children, but the price tag is over $10,000. We need your help.

For the first time, parenting women in need of long term residential treatment will have a place to go, and their children can come with them. The Lighthouse Program will help families entrenched in a drug using lifestyle learn a healthy way of life. The mothers will get help for their addiction, trauma, and mental illness, while taking classes in life skills, computers, and parenting. The children will have a safe space where they can learn, grow and heal, including on-site licensed day care, therapeutic interventions, education, and recreation. For these families, Brandywine will truly be lighting the path home.

As 2007 winds to a close, The Lighthouse Program is under construction in Ellendale. Families will soon move in and begin their new life. Imagine a child seeing their new home, with a bright, colorful playground. Your gift will make their eyes light up!

Your gift will help the mothers and children in so many ways. And, you could solve the dilemma of those “hard to buy for” people in your life with a monetary gift in their honor. The moral and financial support of friends like you has made a difference in our patients’ lives. Today, your year-end gift can help ensure these important services continue. You may use a printable form or donate online on our web site. All donations are tax-deductible.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, the staff and especially those we serve, I wish you all the joys of the holiday season, and thank you in advance for your generosity.


David A. Oppold, President
Board of Directors

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Winter Coat Drive

The Outreach Department is holding a winter coat drive from December 3-21. Please donate your new or used winter coats to help BCI clients in need. Coats may be dropped off at 2814 Lancaster Avenue.

For more information, contact Rochelle Booker-Stewart at 655-9880, ext. 23. Thank you.

Friday, November 30, 2007

World AIDS Day: Stop AIDS. Keep The Promise.

Delaware will observe World AIDS Day tomorrow, December 1.

Currently, there are 3,320 Delawareans living with HIV/AIDS. Since 1981, when the HIV/AIDS case tracking began, 1,853 HIV/AIDS deaths have been reported through 2006.

The Delaware Division of Public Health invites you to get involved by volunteering for a local HIV organization, confronting discrimination, getting tested for HIV, and protecting yourself and your partners.

For more information, including a list of local events, click here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

5 Questions for Dana Foster, Counselor

5 Questions is our ongoing feature where we introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Dana Foster
Job: Counselor,
Newark Center
Time with BCI: 5 years

1. What is your job at BCI and what do you enjoy about it?
I basically educate clients on the disease concept of addiction, and then I help them identify their goals, what they want to work on. I help them identify their triggers for relapse, help them develop a relapse prevention plan, and address any issues that might be hindering them from progressing in their recovery.

Every day you learn something new about a person. You learn another person’s perspective about life and their experiences. I enjoy just seeing anyone who really feels happy with themselves - that, to me, just puts a smile on my face and makes me feel like I was a part of something.

2. What led you to a career in addiction treatment and to your present job?
I always knew that I wanted to be counselor. I come from a family of addiction, and I’ve seen how recovery changes a person. I’ve seen people in addiction, and then I’ve seen them progress in their recovery. I know that it changes them completely, and I wanted to be a part of that transformation.

I started at BCI as an intern through DelTech on the Bridge-Perinatal unit. Then I was hired on as the VIP counselor - they’re known as the Medical Maintenance 1 clients now - but I had all the clients with four and five bottles [of take-home medication, which they earned after 1-2 years clean.] That’s where I started, at Riverfront. Then when Riverfront closed, I went to Lancaster Avenue, and then I came here to Newark. Now I’m a Core counselor, plus I still have some of my old Methadone Maintenance 1 clients.

3. What would people be surprised to know about your work?
That the clients aren’t just methadone addicts. They didn’t switch their addiction from heroin to methadone. That’s the stereotype that I hear a lot, and that the clients experience on a regular basis. They’re constantly being judged about, “Oh, you’re not clean, you’re on methadone.” But that’s really not true. For the clients that are clean, they’ve really worked on some things. There’s plenty of clients that are on methadone but switch [from heroin] to alcohol, or switch to cocaine. So the ones that are actually abstinent of all drugs or alcohol really have worked hard to get where they are. And it does take work, it’s not just about switching the physical addiction.

4. Tell us about your favorite client success story.
There was a client that had been here for probably 15 years. She had the type of reputation that no one wanted to deal with her, she was a very difficult client. When she was transferred to me, she had already been clean for about a year and had come a long way. She was on a low dose of of methadone, but was very dependent on the support she received from BCI. It was no longer a physical withdrawal, but she was scared to death to detox.

I worked with her for about three years on a lot of personal issues, and she finally detoxed off of methadone, and she’s doing beautifully. She still calls once in awhile and says how well she’s doing. She has a mortgage on a house, she got married, she found an inner peace and developed positive coping skills. She’s just doing really well. It’s just a total turnaround from what she was.

5. What advice do you have for someone who would like to do the job you do?
Education is important, knowledge about addiction is important, but really, the most important thing is the ability to have empathy for others. Clients don’t care where you went to school. They don’t care how far you got, they really don’t. What they care about is that you’re understanding, you’re not judging them, and that you’re able to connect with them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving at BCI

Thanksgiving is always a special time at Brandywine Counseling.

On Tuesday we gave out around 150 Thanksgiving baskets to clients in need. Baskets were supplied by the Basket Brigade of Delaware, a volunteer organization that delivers food to families most in need, in time for Thanksgiving. The baskets contain turkey and other holiday staples such as stuffing, green beans, and cranberry sauce.

Today was the Lancaster Center’s annual Thanksgiving meal for our clients. James Harrison has said to me for years that if the weather would cooperate, he wanted to have an outdoor cafĂ©. Well, we finally got our wish! It was sunny and 60o so picnic tables were set up outside the Outreach Center as well as inside.

BCI staff prepared and served dishes including turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, greens, ham, potatoes, macaroni and cheese, yams, corn, pies, and cakes. An estimated 60 clients enjoyed the feast.

Finally, BCI will be closed this Friday as we staff enjoy a vacation day we earned for over 90% participation in our United Way campaign. 130 of us contributed a total of $9,708 this year – great job as always.

Everyone have a safe and happy holiday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Needle Exchange Van Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Today Delaware dedicated a new needle exchange van fully equipped to serve injection drug users at risk in the City of Wilmington.

Since February, Brandywine Counseling, the contracted vendor for the Division of Public Health, has been using two small vans, including an ambulance donated from Wilmington’s Public Safety Department. Now, with the new 2007 Ford E450 van with a "Utilimaster" body, we'll be able to carry more supplies, and offer people more privacy and more services.

A client who wants to exchange needles will come to the door of the van. Inside the door is a container where they can drop their used needles. Staff will sit inside the door to dispense syringes and first aid kits. If the client wants to get tested or wants counseling, they will step into the back of the van, where there is seating and a table. Supply cabinets give us ample space to store first aid kits, personal sharps containers for clients, safe sex kits, and HIV testing materials. There are also restroom facilities. We expect that with this better privacy and safety, we will now see even more participants, and greater willingness to access more services like HIV testing.

At today’s dedication ceremony at Delaware Health and Social Services’ Herman Holloway Campus, several key figures spoke about the program. Director of Public Health Dr. Jaime Rivera called the program “incredibly successful. It’s the result of ten years of planning and pushing to make this happen, and we finally got it done.” Senator Margaret Rose Henry, who was primarily responsible for getting the bill passed, thanked everyone who helped convince the community it needed to happen. “Our goal is to have the best five years ever so that we can show the rest of the state this is a good thing, we need to do it statewide,” she said.

BCI Director of HIV Prevention Basha Closic recognized her Needle Exchange team: Rochelle Booker, Sharon Brown, Claudette Bell, Dianna Dorsey, Morris Gardner, and Lolisa Gibson. “Day in and day out they sit with people and they counsel them about the importance of taking a HIV test and knowing their status, and if they are positive, not infecting another person and taking responsibility. Those conversations are really hard to have, especially with strangers. These people have really, really amazing personalities and spirits. This who you hired to carry out the job.”

Delaware HIV Consortium Executive Director Peter Houle reminded us of how AIDS has left an indelible mark on Delaware and on the world over the past 25 years. He described how Delaware has become a model for other states in HIV service delivery, and now this pilot program has enhanced our already nationally acclaimed continuum of care.

The van was dedicated to the late Dr. Robert Jackson of the Division of Public Health, who was recognized at the ceremony for his strong support of needle exchange and advocacy for HIV prevention. The ribbon was cut by Senator Henry. Participants then had the chance to tour the van.

The van makes weekly stops to four sites in Wilmington, with more soon to be added. Since startup, we've enrolled over 140 clients, and they have exchanged over 1,800 needles. We've referred 31 clients to alcohol, mental health, or drug treatment centers for further treatment. Our goal is to enroll 200 clients by February 2008.

To view more pictures of the van and the dedication ceremony, click here.

BCI is truly grateful to have this van. We will continue to provide high quality, safe services for this five year pilot program and beyond. What a long way we've come in ten years!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Delaware Adopts New Rapid HIV Test

Delaware's Division of Public Health has announced they are adopting a new finger prick HIV test. The Unigold test will replace the OraQuick oral swab due to its quicker results, longer shelf life, and cost savings.

Click here to read the full press release.

Friday, November 9, 2007

5 Questions for Kay Malone, Medical Reviewer

5 Questions is our ongoing feature where we introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Kay Malone
Job: A former Nurse, Supervisor, and Director of the Medical Department. Now a retired consultant who conducts internal audits of client charts.
Time with BCI: 32 years

1. You’ve been with Brandywine Counseling for over 30 years. How have the agency and our clients changed in that time?
When I came, we had 12 employees and 55-70 clients. Right now we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 145 employees and 2000 clients. The clients are much younger [today] than they were when we first started. They’re a great deal sicker than they were then.

When I first came I was part time. I was just a Staff Nurse. At that time we were in the annex across the street from [Wilmington] Hospital. We had a wonderful time. We went through nurses really quickly. When we hired them, they didn’t last very long.

In 1984 we became a private nonprofit and moved to 12th Street. At that time, I was the Nursing Supervisor. We really had a strange arrangement there. Very small areas, we opened out into an alley, it was very strange. Then, we left there and went to 4th Street - much bigger place. We had more nurses and we had a larger area. Each time we have moved it’s always been to a nicer place, a better place.

It’s been quite a ride! We’ve had a lot of fun with it, and a lot of growth. Lots of different programs started, the Outreach and Perinatal. It’s really been something else. I’m very proud that I was involved in it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

2. What has been the most rewarding moment for you since you’ve been at BCI?
One time, my husband and I want to a wedding of a [former] client who [later] worked here, and in his receiving line was a man who was a client at one time. And as were going through the receiving line, he stopped me, and he grabbed my husband Bob, and said to him, “This lady saved my life! She threw me out of Brandywine! I hated her!” It was so funny! Bob didn’t know what to do or say. And he said, “And thank God for her, because if she hadn’t done that, I’d have been dead by now for using drugs.”

That’s very rewarding. That makes me feel really good about the fact that I was able, with the help of God and all of the staff here, to have some measure of influence on people. I know there were so many people that often thought I was so mean, but a lot of them have come back and said, well, you did the right thing at the right time. I loved them. I did not want them to kill themselves, so if that means tough love, then that’s what you use.

3. What advice do you have for someone who would like to work in this field?
You have to have a feel for people, and you have to be extremely nonjudgmental, but you also have to have a sense of that tough love. I think sometimes, when people first come [to work] here, it might scare them. This isn’t easy, but if you have in your heart what you really want for the clients, [you can do a lot of good]. There has been a lot of recovery over the 30-some years I’ve been here. It’s not routine nursing, and if a nurse comes here to get a job, and thinks it’s going to be like a doctor’s office or a hospital, they are very quickly shown how wrong that is. You couldn’t work here if you weren’t a people person, but I think most nurses are.

4. Many longtime BCI staff who are in recovery were first interviewed and hired by you. Why was it important to you to hire people in recovery, and what qualities did you look for in an employee?
It was important to give them a second chance if they could convince me that they really wanted another chance to get their stuff together. I hired them because they knew the other side of the counter. They could put their feet in the clients’ moccasins. They’ve been there, they’ve done that. I hadn’t been there, I never did that. And so when they look at me and say, “This lady’s from the suburbs, what does she know?” I don’t know as much as you know, but I’m certainly going to learn from you. And I knew that if we could get them to the point where they were really proud of what they were doing, and believed in themselves as much as I believed in them, I knew that it would be one of our biggest assets.

And look, it has proven to be! Look how many of our employees are in supervisory positions, and are working here for a long time. I think they’re wonderful, wonderful employees. You just had to get them to the point where they believed in themselves, and that they could do it. Because most of the time, they had been treated like crap, and they felt like they were, and it didn’t have to be that way. Somebody just had to believe and give them a chance to do it.

5. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI, what would you do with it?
It would go to the Perinatal program. I started the Perinatal program because of my interest in moms and babies, and children, toddlers. I would want very much to have a house just for the Perinatal program, for the moms and the babies, and to have for them a better life and really nice surroundings.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Motivational Incentives: Counselors Have the Final Say

If you’ve been following our Advancing Recovery experiment to reward attendance in treatment with motivational incentives, you know it’s been a challenge. While it hasn't yet proven successful at retaining clients in treatment longer, I can say we’ve learned a lot from this project. The number one lesson may be that there must be counselor buy-in for there to even be a chance for this strategy to work. All the focus groups you can offer, or all the detail you put in your training manual, may not make a difference.

To give out a prize at the end of a counseling session seemed so simple, but it turned out to be much more complex. Our counselors are great at what they do because of their own personal philosophy that guides their sessions and their interactions with clients. To implement motivational incentives, they had to alter their preferred way of doing things in a way we might think was insignificant, but to them was not. What if you had five minutes left in your session to do a prize drawing and you were in a middle of a meaningful discussion with a client? What if a client won a “Good Job” certificate but really needed a bus pass?

I believe everyone tried their best to make the project work, but ultimately, counselors will do what they think is in the client’s best interest. This is why our counselors overruled a decision to change the group drawings. We proposed a new random drawing process in which three clients would win a prize at every group, because an immediate reward is the best reinforcer of attendance. But the counselors recognized that not everyone would win. They preferred that every client who attended their required groups get a reward, even if they had to wait days or weeks later to get that reward.

To be fair, many of our counselors do support the incentives and report that their clients enjoy the program. But if we had one suggestion for treatment providers planning to implement motivational incentives, it would be to pilot test with a few counselors rather than all.

There is some good news to report. For the first time, we surpassed our target 5% improvement in retention at one milestone. 90% of clients admitted in the month of July completed their first individual session. We will continue the project at least another two months and see if this improvement can be sustained, and extended to other milestones; namely, the second and third individual sessions.

Friday, October 26, 2007

5 Questions for Edna Maldonado, Case Manager

5 Questions is our ongoing feature where we introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Edna Maldonado
Job: Case Manager, NSAFE
Time with BCI: 1 year

1. Tell us about your job at BCI.
I’m a case manager. I help clients that are HIV/AIDS positive remain healthy and live productive lives. Clients may come to our office very depressed after learning they are HIV positive or diagnosed with AIDS. The diagnosis alone can devastate a client. Some think they have received a “death sentence;” for others it may lead to feelings of suicide. I have to reassure them this is not the case because of today’s advances in medicine. So part of my job is to educate the clients about their disease.

In order to have a successful relationship with my clients, I must first develop a trusting relationship. I allow them to know they are in a safe environment where all conversations are confidential. Once the clients are stable, I develop an individualized care plan to prioritize their needs. I will then provide advocacy and linkages to a wide array of community services like food, shelter, and clothing.

I am also bilingual. My caseload consists of Hispanic HIV infected clients and the general population as well. Frequently, I have to accompany my clients to their medical, dental, or social security appointments to assist them with the language barrier. On many instances, they bring me letters to translate into Spanish from other agencies, including from immigration services. It does take much physical and mental energy switching from one language to another, but I love what I do. I enjoy helping my clients and providing these culturally competent services.

2. What drew you to a career in social services?
In my heart I always wanted to be a social worker, even though my degree is in Education. When residing in Connecticut, ten years ago, I was given the opportunity to work with the homeless population. This was an experience of a lifetime. To be able to help the most unfortunate people you can find and making a difference in their lives, that is what drew me to continue working in social services, so here I am.

3. What advice do you have for someone who would like to do the job you do?
I believe a case manager’s most important characteristic is to be compassionate and caring for others. Many people are afraid to work with the problem of HIV. I believe that we have to face the problem and be willing to help it, and be compassionate.

4. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI, what would you do with it?
I would like to have a job training center for our clients who have difficulty getting jobs because of their histories. To give these people an opportunity to get some training, learn something, and at the same time, in that place, being able to employ them. I believe that would be a great empowerment tool for our clients.

5. What is rewarding about your work?
Since I have been here, the most rewarding thing for me is to be able to reach these clients that otherwise have no one else to help them. The fact that I can help these clients to become very productive, and empower them to live a successful life, that’s a big satisfaction for me.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Lighthouse Wish List

Do you want to help out with the startup of The Lighthouse residential program for women and children? The Program Director passed along to me a list of items they need.

If you have items to donate, please contact Matt Friedman at (302) 472-0381 or email me at contact[at]brandywinecounseling[dot]org.

Plus, watch for an announcement in the coming months about how you can help with a special project for the children at the program.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Supervised Shooting Gallery?

This interesting article was passed along to me yesterday. It's about supervised drug injection centers, where users bring their drugs, shoot up in a sterile booth, and leave without fear of arrest. The goal is to prevent overdose and infectious disease. Such a facility already exists in Vancouver, and some benefits have been seen. San Francisco is now looking at establishing the first facility in the U.S.

What do you think about this approach? Is it a logical progression of the harm reduction philosophy, or is it going too far? Would you like to see a supervised shooting gallery in our area someday?

Friday, October 12, 2007

5 Questions for Evelyn Handley, Receptionist

Welcome to a new feature on the BCI Blog called 5 Questions. Here, we’ll introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Evelyn Handley
Job: Receptionist, Alpha program
Time at BCI: 12 years

1. What is something people would be surprised to know about your job?
How much I do! From the time I open the door at 7:00, it’s on. There’s work to be done. People are sometimes lined up outside to come in. Anyone that walks in to the front door, I’m the first person they see. So I more or less help them out, getting their name, their information, showing them how to fill out their packet. A lot of people aren’t capable of reading or writing. I help them with that. I get the packet to the assessor, I chart, I discharge, run the machines, whatever needs to be done, I take care of it.

I hear as much about a person’s problem coming in the door as the counselor they sit down with. I talk to people every day about rape issues, divorces, DFS, people coming into their home, taking their children, the drug and alcohol, a little bit of everything. When they’re done talking to me and they end up coming back, “The information you gave me was wonderful, it was so helpful, I enjoyed talking to you,” I know what I do at the front desk makes a big difference.

2. What advice do you have for someone who would like to do the job you do?
You have to be a people person, for real. You really do. Everyone’s not capable of sitting at that front desk. It can become overwhelming, because your clients come in the door. Some people have good days and bad days. If they’re having a good day, you know it, if they’re having a bad day, you definitely know it because they give you all their stuff. You have to be able to swallow that, keep smiling, and be able to help them at the same time. Also, you have some people that are very aggressive. You need to know how to back them down professionally and with a caring heart, and if that doesn’t work you need to know what next step to take.

3. What has been the most rewarding moment for you since you’ve been at BCI?
When you see a person come in the door crying, and their children have been taken from them, and they admit that they’re on drugs and alcohol, and they stay here for 9 months to a year, and within that time, DFS and Family Court have given their children back to them, you know that our work is really important, that we’ve done all we could to help them build up their self esteem and put them on the right road to recovery. When you see a person that doesn’t have a job, they’re homeless, 9 months from now, they have it all or they’re on their way to getting it, that’s rewarding.

4. If you had $30,000 to donate to Brandywine Counseling, what would you do with it?
It would have to go to two different places, I would split it. Our Bridge Perinatal, and our HIV [Outreach]. I started out with the HIV department. Street outreach is important - that was said to me maybe my second year by [Executive Director] Sara Allshouse. I didn’t know just how important it was. I knew the job I was doing, I went out on the street, I talked to people about HIV, about BCI and what we do here, we wore the T-shirt. But once that was said to me, I went a little further.

There were people that didn’t have rides, they lived in very harsh places in the city of Wilmington. We would get out of our bed at 5:00 in the morning, and go to these people’s homes and pick them up, just to get them in, because these people were either HIV positive or AIDS defined. And once getting them through the front door, we were able to have the assessment done to get the type of treatment they really needed.

5. Many of our staff decorate their office with personal items – tell us about what you have at your desk.
First of all, I’m lucky to have this job. I’m a recovering addict, and I had said, “There’s no way in the world these people would hire me because of my background.” The question was asked of me, being a recovering addict, what did I want out of life? I said I wanted an opportunity to build a life for myself and my son. And [Medical Director] Kay Malone, and Sally Allshouse, God bless her soul, said, we’re going to give you the opportunity to do so, and they did. I have actually built a life here. I’ve bought a home here. I have my son in my life, cars, a mortgage. I’ve built a life here.

The only thing that means more to me than anything else in this world is my son. His name flows across my computer [on the screensaver]. That’s all I need. That reminds me why I changed my life. It reminds me why I’m still here, raising him and making a better life for him than I had for myself. That’s important to me, and whenever I turn around to that computer, I see his name come across, it makes all the difference in the world. I don’t need a picture of him, he’s in my mind all the time.

Monday, October 8, 2007

1212 Corporation Marks 41 Years As Delaware's Recovery Clubhouse

Yesterday I attended the 1212 Corporation’s first annual banquet and fundraiser at Cranston Fire Hall in Wilmington. About 100 people including many Brandywine staff enjoyed food, fellowship, and guest speakers.

For me, this was my first chance to learn what this organization is all about and why it means so much to Delaware’s recovering community. For 41 years, the 1212 Club has provided a safe haven for those seeking recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. It is literally a recovery clubhouse, run by recovering persons for recovering persons, and is the only facility of its kind in Delaware. Support and a “recovery atmosphere” is available seven days a week, year-round. Services include AA, NA, and special meetings; therapeutic support; transportation to and from drug rehab; educational/recreational activities; and transitional housing for men and women.

Many speakers last night credited 1212 with helping them through the earliest stages of their recovery and beyond. It is easy to understand why. A treatment program like BCI can only take one so far in recovery. A social support system is vital because it’s there for you in your everyday life, whenever the urge strikes to return to your old behaviors. So many people found this support at 1212 when they had nowhere else to turn. Some, now successful professionals in the addiction treatment field, started their first job in recovery as a counter assistant at 1212.

BCI congratulates the 1212 Corporation on 41 years of service, and looks forward to watching them expand their services. And if you are in need of a safe haven, stop by the Clubhouse at 27th and Washington. You might find the support you need and much more.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Join BCI's Board of Directors

Do you want to make a difference in the lives of addicted persons and persons with HIV/AIDS? Do you want to work alongside BCI's leadership to support our mission of helping people achieve meaningful, long-term recovery?

Brandywine Counseling seeks talented and dependable individuals to serve on our Board of Directors. Put your talents to use in a place where your voice will be heard. We ask that members attend regular quarterly meetings in addition to active involvement in one of our committees.

Our most important area of need is development/fundraising. Desired skills include:
  • Experience with non-profit fundraising activities, including: campaigns, strategic planning, donor relations.
  • Ability to work as a member of a team.
  • Ability to build consensus and garner support of other members for board initiatives.
Please send a copy of your resume, and anything you would like to tell us about your interests and what you hope to bring to the Board, to:

Matt Friedman, Executive Assistant
Email: contactbci[at]brandywinecounseling[dot]org
Fax: (302) 472-0392
Or apply online

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sober Softball Tournament

About 75 people from BCI, Thresholds, Fellowship Health, the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Aquila, Hudson Health, and Ellendale Detox attended the second annual Sober Softball Tournament September 20.

There were hot dogs and cracker jacks and fun for all. Elimination games were played and the final teams were Fellowship Health and BCI. BCI was leading 9-1 till the last inning. Fellowship had a strong comeback, scoring 6 runs in the 9th. But thanks to two Thresholds players joining the BCI team, we held them off to secure the win! Final score: BCI 9, Fellowship 7. BCI brings home the trophy for the second year.

The 2nd annual games have sparked interest by the Fellowship Health team and their coach in starting a recovery league.

Missing from the crowd was Jack Kemp of DSAMH who was unable to play this year - we missed you Jack!

Thanks to the Outreach crew and to Krystal Cooper from the Georgetown office for a great job putting it all together this year.

Friday, September 28, 2007

United Way Kicks Off 2007 Campaign

United Way of Delaware kicked off its 2007 campaign September 19. This year's fundraising goal is $22 million. The charitable donations collected are distributed to over 100 member agencies including BCI.

Here, these funds support our HIV Prevention and Outreach Services. This truly makes a difference for BCI and the community we serve. Your contribution helps keep our outreach team on the streets doing what they do best. It means we can continue to be there to give high risk drug users whatever they need - an HIV test, a clean needle, or a ride to treatment.

So make your donation today, and support effective programs that improve lives. Thanks in advance!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Extreme Makeover, Shelter Home Edition

Renovations are now underway at the site of our new residential program. BCI is leasing a shelter home in Ellendale from our partners Delmarva Clergy United In Social Action (DCUSA). There is much work to be done but we expect it to be complete by November.

Residents will live here at the shelter. Their daily activities will take place across the street at the DCUSA main building, which includes classroom space, dining hall, computers, and daycare. The shelter has five studios capable of housing two adults each, as well as two bedroom apartments.

Here you can see the shelter as it was:

Turnstone Builders of Milton is doing the work for us. Here, they are replacing the roof.

Shay Lipshitz, Director of Sussex County Services, shows where a wall will be removed to create a sitting area.

Bishop Major Foster, President/CEO of DCUSA, on a tractor helping with the renovations.

Shay takes her turn on the tractor.

Shay, the Bishop, and foreman Matt Cleary review the plans for the renovations.

This is only the beginning – stay tuned for more pictures as we transform this shelter into a welcoming home environment for women and their children.

We have also decided to name the program The Lighthouse – what do you think?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Recovery Month Picnic

Our Recovery Month Picnic yesterday was a great success. An estimated 75 clients, staff, and family members came out to the Mack Park in Wilmington to enjoy food and fellowship and celebrate recovery. The weather was perfect!

Many of the clients, as well as our staff, put a lot of work into this event getting donations of food and raffle prizes. They really did a great job. The food was provided at a discount through one client’s family catering business. The meatballs were fantastic!

After the meal everyone stayed around for the raffle drawing. There were so many prizes, it looked like this thing was never going to end - candy, gift certificates to local vendors, stuffed animals, picture frames, plants, a scarecrow decoration – all donated.

We’d like to thank the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health for funding this event and providing the Recovery Month T-shirts.

All in all, a nice afternoon of socialization outside of the usual treatment environment. Click here for more pictures.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Volunteer Truck Driver Needed to Help With Picnic

BCI is looking for someone with a truck to help with our client picnic Wednesday September 19.

We need to transport tables and chairs between locations in Wilmington a few miles apart. There are 8-10 tables 6-8 feet long, and 80-100 folding chairs. We need to bring them to the Mack Park (6th Street and North Cleveland Avenue) between 9:30-10:30 in the morning, and return them in the afternoon between 3:00-4:00.

Volunteers are welcome to stay and enjoy the picnic to celebrate recovery with food, fellowship, speakers, and open mike.

If interested, please respond to contact[at]brandywinecounseling[dot]org. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Introducing "Safety Net Services": Your Connection to HIV Services, With Drug Treatment When You’re Ready

Brandywine Counseling has been awarded a five-year grant from SAMHSA/CSAT to enhance and expand substance abuse treatment, pre-treatment, and HIV/AIDS services in Wilmington, Delaware, with a multifaceted program we call Safety Net Services.

The two target populations are women, and ex-offenders returning to the community in the past two years. Each year we propose to engage 2500 outreach contacts in pre-treatment to reduce their risk. 600 will be tested for HIV, 300 will enroll in Safety Counts, and 75 will go on to enter treatment.

Delaware is currently 7th in the nation in per capita HIV/AIDS cases. Cases are concentrated in the city of Wilmington. The AIDS rate of women in Delaware is three times the national average, and the proportion of AIDS cases in Delaware that are women has doubled since 1999. Up to 80% of those incarcerated in the state have a substance abuse problem accompanied by high HIV risk.

Our goal is to provide a safety net for any person at high risk for HIV, regardless of where they are in the continuum of readiness for substance abuse treatment. Some individuals are accessing expensive crisis-oriented services when they could be serviced at a lower level of care. Others simply need additional support to increase their readiness for treatment or ease their wait for admission. Our program will provide the services and stability they need. We will connect the client to the services they are willing to access now, while helping increase their willingness to access more services later.

Safety Net Services is a combination of several Evidence-Based Practices and Effective Behavioral Interventions. Safety Counts will enhance our pre-treatment services as a risk reduction intervention that follows a person from first contact to referral. Our on-site HIV clinic will be expanded, allowing access to HIV and/or mental health Medication Management that is not contingent on readiness to enter substance abuse treatment. Participation in Safety Counts will be a condition for access to these services. For those clients who progress to treatment, we will expand Integrated Dual Disorders Treatment by two additional clinicians qualified to treat HIV and mental health disorders. Rapid HIV testing will be provided at all points of entry. Anticipated outcomes focus on engaging and retaining individuals in pre-treatment so they increase their readiness to reduce HIV risk and to enter substance abuse treatment. The program will be assessed through a comprehensive process and outcome evaluation.

Brandywine Counseling has a proven record of reaching into minority communities to serve chronic drug users and their sex/needle-sharing partner(s), facilitating their entry into substance abuse treatment, and successfully referring, engaging, and retaining them beyond substance abuse treatment. We will partner with Christiana Care Health Services to provide medical care, as well as several other local community-based organizations. These collaborations will result in a program capable of meeting the complex needs of the target population.

For more information, contact James Harrison at (302) 656-2348.

BCI Celebrates Recovery Month

BCI has some fun events coming up in celebration of Recovery Month. Visit our calendar to see what we've got planned.

I know I will make it to the Alpha picnic next week and I will also be a member of our AIDS Walk team on the 30th. Hope to see many of you there!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Congratulations Robin Stewart, Bridge-Perinatal staff member of the month

Typically during Bridge Perinatal monthly community meetings, our staff pick a client of the month to celebrate. The clients decided that they would like to pick a staff member of the month.

They chose case manager Robin Stewart for her outstanding support, commitment, and dedication to assisting them in improving their quality of life. They presented her with a handmade certificate.

It reads: “Not only are you a supportive role model and mentor, you're also a friend. We are all truly inspired by your courageous endless efforts by being all you can be and forever giving us support!”

Congratulations Robin!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Needle Exchange Reaches 100th Participant

Today the Delaware Needle Exchange Program signed up its 100th participant. Over 700 syringes have been exchanged since startup back in February.

Congrats to Basha, Rochelle, and the staff on this milestone.

Friday, August 17, 2007

BCI To Open Women’s Residential Program

Brandywine Counseling will be opening Delaware’s first Women and Children’s Residential Treatment Program. The program will be located in Ellendale and will serve up to 15 women and 20 children per year from throughout the state. Funding for the program was awarded by the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

This residential program will fill a critical treatment gap in the state by improving substance abuse treatment outcomes for mothers with co-occurring disorders. Women who were not able to engage in treatment because of their parenting responsibilities will now be able to bring their children with them to treatment.

The BCI Residential Program will provide a safe, therapeutic environment where women and their children will learn skills for healthy lifestyles. Integrated services will include substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, medical care, trauma services, GED services, employment readiness, parenting education, child care, and social activities. Children will receive assessments, developmental and therapeutic counseling, health care, health education, and prevention services.

The variable length of stay residential program is designed as a 9-12 month program. It will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offer therapeutic activities daily. We expect to begin accepting clients in November.

BCI is collaborating with a multidisciplinary provider network including Delmarva Clergy United in Social Action (DCUSA), and La Red Health Center. Together we have a strong presence in the community that will ensure community acceptance and support.

Brandywine Counseling is a non-profit addiction treatment provider with more than twenty years’ history of engaging chronic drug users, retaining them for successful outcomes in treatment, and referring them to aftercare. BCI is licensed by the State of Delaware and accredited by the Joint Commission. Our past experience serving women and their children, those with co-occurring disorders, and other challenging populations prepares us to meet the goals of this project and produce meaningful results. This program promises to have far reaching positive effects on Delaware’s women, infants, children, and families as well as on the child welfare system and health care system.

For more information, please contact Shay Lipshitz at 302-856-4700.

Live and Work At the Beach - BCI is now hiring for all positions in this new program. Visit our jobs page to learn more.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mosaic Mural Is Finished!

Now when you walk in the door to Brandywine Counseling, you’ll literally see addiction growing into recovery.

A tree made up of tiles and glass with treatment-related words and phrases written on them covers the wall in the entrance hall of the Lancaster Center. The mosaic mural is an attractive and inspirational addition, one that our staff, clients, and visitors will appreciate for years to come. We’d like to send a big thanks out to the artist, Emma Glencross, who volunteered her time to do this mural for us.

Emma truly went above and beyond our expectations for this project. She spent several hours a day over two weeks to single-handedly create this original artwork. This is in addition to meeting with staff to plan the concept, collecting all the materials she used, and firing the tiles in her pottery kiln. It was a pleasure to work with Emma. She not only has great artistic talent, but great dedication to serving others.

Our volunteers really do make a difference here at Brandywine. They have lots of fun too. We’ve got lots more projects available, so if you’re looking to give back to your community, check out our list here.

Click the photos to view full size.

Friday, August 3, 2007

How to Overcome Incentives’ Bad Rap?

Jason Schwartz at Addiction and Recovery News posed some interesting questions about the use of incentives in treatment. He asks: If incentives help people stay in treatment, but the public is against it, is it the right thing to do?

It’s easy to dismiss incentives as a bribe or a quick fix. With our new program here at Brandywine, it’s been a challenge for even our own counselors to grasp the concept. The point is that we want clients to stick with treatment, regardless of the reason. Whether someone is self-motivated or they just want to win a gift certificate, we want them to stay, because the longer they stay, the more likely they will succeed. There is no wrong reason.

We came up with a slogan, “Participation = Celebration,” that really encapsulates the meaning of our incentives and will hopefully stay with our clients (and staff) after they hear it a number of times. I would also rely on this phrase to explain our program to the public. A little education can go a long way. Having said that, the best way to turn skeptics into supporters is with data showing improved outcomes. In our case, we’re still waiting to see this.

Jason goes on to ask, “Why are we not talking about this kind of intervention with non-compliant patients in cardiac care units, diabetes clinics, weight loss programs, etc.? Is it because we respect them too much to offer gift certificates for following their treatment plan?”

I have yet to hear that any of our clients have felt insulted at being offered a reward. I’ve been told that incentives programs have been proven to improve treatment outcomes even when the clients say the incentives didn’t make a difference. The same might just be true in other settings.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mosaic Mural Under Construction

All of us here at BCI are excited to watch our new mosaic mural going up in the entrance hall at the Lancaster Center. The mural is a tree symbolizing how addiction, through treatment, grows into recovery. In keeping with this theme, the words written on the tiles transition from negative at the bottom to positive at the top. The artist is generously volunteering her time to create this unique piece.

Here are some photos of the work in progress!

Drug Dealing Prevention Group

Are you involved with drug dealing or street addiction and want to change your lifestyle for the better? BCI has started a Drug Dealing Prevention Group.

The group takes place Tuesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 PM at the Alpha Center at 2814 West 2nd Street. Participants will learn strategies for making a prosocial life change. You must be a BCI Alpha client to attend.

This is the first group of its kind at BCI and one of the most-requested group topics by our clients.

For more information, please call 472-0381.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Confound It! Outside Forces Interfere with Incentives Experiment

The question: Will clients stay longer in addiction treatment if we reward them for attendance? The answer: Well, we don’t know. And I’m not being smart, that is an actual scientific explanation. Let me explain.

Our attendance is still below normal since we changed how we give incentives. We could say the new incentives caused attendance to drop – if that was the only thing that changed. But it wasn’t. Over the same time period, record-high numbers of people came in for an intake, and our census increased by 50. On top of that, two counselors and one supervisor were out for several weeks. (One was stuck on the other side of the world – trust me, you don’t want to know.) There were fewer staff to see more clients. If you were a client, which change would be more noticeable to you?

In scientific terms, we manipulated an independent variable (new incentives vs. old incentives) and measured the effect on a dependent variable (retention). Ideally, we would hold all other conditions constant. But our experiment was in a real treatment program, not a laboratory. And wouldn’t you know it, you can’t control external forces in the real world. A condition that offers an alternative and plausible explanation for the results of an experiment is called a confounding variable.

Census and staffing acted as confounding variables in our experiment. This means we can’t call the incentives a success or failure yet. But now things have stabilized and we will keep going. So bear with us, we may get a real answer to our question soon.

Some new developments to report:

  • Our new marketing slogan is in place: Participation = Celebration!
  • We’ll be adding prize drawings in groups because the more frequent the reward, the better at reinforcing attendance. Until now, clients got credit for group attendance but had to wait until their next individual session to get their reward.
  • Counselors held a focus group to share challenges they had in implementing the program and solutions they had found. Since prize drawings took valuable minutes away from sessions, we moved the prize cabinet closer to counselors’ offices. We also learned that counselors are accustomed to using incentives to reward accomplishments and meet individual needs, so it is a real change to reward participation. A refresher training is planned, and we’ve invited an incentives expert to meet with the staff.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Participation = Celebration!

Our new slogan at the BCI Alpha Drug Free Program. Thanks to Intake Counselor Marc Weisburg for the idea.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Vote For Our Motivational Incentives Slogan

As many of you know, BCI Alpha has been offering motivational incentives to encourage more people to stay in drug and alcohol treatment for at least three months. It remains a challenge – more on that in an upcoming post. We continue to believe this can work and we want to do whatever we can to make it a success.

We’ve decided we need a marketing slogan. If we want to convince people to stay longer in treatment, we need to change their mindset. We need to “sell” our customers on the benefits of sticking with treatment once they’re here. We want to drive home the point that the first few months can be the most difficult, and BCI offers these prizes to help people through this period.

So we want a memorable catch phrase that will generate word of mouth. Something that clients can be reminded of every time they walk in our door, but also remember when they’re not here, and contemplating whether to show up for their appointment.

Help us choose a great slogan by voting for your favorite below, and also post your own ideas. We’ll announce our choice July 18. Thanks!

What is the best slogan?

The more you come in, the more you win.

Beginners are winners.

Recovery: Keep your eyes on the prize.

Recovery is the jumbo prize. Start small. Keep coming back.

Spend an hour in treatment, win a prize. Spend enough hours, win your recovery.

Come for the prizes. Stay for recovery.

Free polls from

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Join Team NSAFE for the 2007 AIDS Walk

The BCI NSAFE Program is once again putting together a team for the Delaware AIDS Walk on September 30. They need our help to recruit walkers and raise money to support HIV/AIDS services in Delaware.

NSAFE provides Ryan White and AIDS Waiver case management for individuals with HIV/AIDS. The program will get back 40% of all donations they collect. Each year they use the money they earn to provide a Thanksgiving meal for the BCI clients -- turkeys, food bags, veggies, beverages, etc.

Anyone interested in walking with Team NSAFE, please contact Denise Kitson at (302) 656-2348, ext. 131. If you don't want to walk, you can go to Team NSAFE's Page and make an online donation anytime. No amount is too small, and every penny counts.

Let's help our team reach their goal. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Consumer Scholarships for Summer Institute

The State of Delaware has announced the availability of client scholarships to attend classes at the 36th Summer Institute, “Embracing Change: Promoting Recovery,” July 23-27, 2007.

Consumers may ask their counselor to call in their information, or they may send in their registration with a request for a scholarship to:

Penny Chelucci, Consumer Affairs Office Director, DHSS/DSAMH, 1901 N. DuPont Highway, Main Building, Room 197, New Castle, DE 19720.

The only scholarship requirement is that the person is a consumer of mental health or addiction services and lives in Delaware.

Consumers may register for any sessions they choose. There are some sessions that are specifically designed to be of interest to consumers. They are:

# 1072 Recovery, Trauma, and Empowerment on Wednesday
# 1083 Self-Advocacy and Negotiation on Thursday
# 1068 Empowerment and Consumer Culture on Friday
# 1052 Hiring, Supervising, and, If Necessary, Firing Service Providers in Recovery on Friday

DSAMH welcomes any and all consumers and is pleased to be able to assist their participation. Lunch is included in the scholarship. For consumers who live in Sussex County, the scholarship can also include lodging. Anyone who requires some form of accommodation to attend, please mention this with your request.

Friday, June 8, 2007

I Wish We Could Ride Around Wilmington And Play That Story

Here’s one last audio clip from our needle exchange celebration, and it’s a good one.

The speaker’s cell phone rang just as he came to the podium. He answered it. “Yeah, I’m speaking at the needle exchange. No, I’m not using needles no more, I’m just speaking about it. I love ya!” (Hangs up.) “Grandmas are something!”

Fred is a former injection drug user. All joking aside, he came to deliver an important message. Years ago, he used to share needles. He described the desperation of a heroin addict, how when the craving would strike, it didn’t matter where the syringe came from, and how easily he could disregard his own safety.

“You ended up sharing needles with people, people that were infected. And at the time, nobody didn’t know they had nothing, until they got real sick, and everybody was lying about their situation.”

“That’s what the drug does to a person.”

Thankfully, Fred found a way out of his addictive habit. And that was only the beginning. He turned his life around. He gave up not just drugs, but cigarettes, and cursing, and became a deeply spiritual person. Today he works as part of a local HIV/AIDS outreach team.

Fred’s transformation amazes people he knew in his addiction. “It’s something that feels so good, when a person’s been knowing you for so long, and they come up to you and say, ‘Is that you? Is that you that looks so good?’”

Delaware’s needle exchange program will give today’s drug users the chance to do what Fred has done. It may mean the difference between leaving this world before their time, or living to fulfill their own potential. Fred understands this.

“I know that the day that I die, and you all come and look over me, I’m gonna have a beautiful smile on my face.”

Our thanks go out to Fred for sharing this powerful story. Our MC David Isaac said what we were all thinking. “I wish we could ride around Wilmington and play that story.” Well, here’s a start.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Motivational Incentives Update: We Hit Some Barriers On the Road To Change

Two months ago, it looked like all was going well with our motivational incentives project. Given the chance to win prizes for attending their sessions, more clients were staying longer in treatment. It’s now been about four months and 200 people admitted since we began. The results? Retention is either unchanged, or as much as 10% lower.

Yes, you heard me right – this change we made isn’t working. What should we do? Scrap the new process and go back to our old way of doing things? Or do we press on and trust the research that says motivational incentives improve treatment outcomes? The stakes are high; real people with real drug and alcohol addictions are depending on us.

This is precisely why at BCI, we follow the NIATx model of organizational change: Plan, Do, Study, Act. With major change, some barriers are to be expected. Before we jump to any conclusions, we should question why we got the results we did.

Let’s look at the barriers we faced. First, our client volume was up during the last two months, with admissions and discharges both about 25% higher than normal. At the same time, our staff was down by two counselors, leaving us with six instead of eight. Not only were more clients coming in and out, but counselors had to deal with higher caseloads. Bad timing, but this is the real world, and these things happen.

But that isn’t all. The incentives procedure we had carefully planned out and trained our staff in wasn’t exactly going as planned. Sometimes, clients had to wait to get their prize because the counselor ran out of time. Counselors were faced with altering their preferred way of running a session. At least one counselor admitted he discouraged his clients from drawing for prizes because it was against his own philosophy of treatment.

Should we be surprised that the staff was not totally on board with the incentives? NIATx says no. Change is difficult. If we really want our project to succeed, we should acknowledge internal resistance and try to overcome it. We’re already looking at how to do this.

We’re also faced with other difficult questions. What caused our retention to go down? Was it the external things beyond our control, or the logistical issues that arose? Now that our census and staffing are back to normal, will we see better results? How much longer do we continue the incentives before declaring them a success or failure?

We want to hear your thoughts as well. And keep watching along with us to see what happens next.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Old Skool Outreach

It was not just any other day of outreach. On this day, Brandywine Counseling was rollin' thicker than usual. On May 21, 2007, the existing team of 5 dedicated outreach workers grew to about 20.

Old Skool Outreach was a successful effort to bring former outreach workers, including James Harrison and Shay Lipshitz, together with the present team in order to promote Brandywine Counseling's needle exchange program. The approach was "old skool" in that we kept it simple and real.

We walked miles across the city spreading the message of hope, recovery, health, and safety. We encouraged drug users to enter treatment, enroll in the needle exchange program and most importantly get tested for HIV.

It was very exciting and we were greatly appreciative to work with all of the people that were willing to come out and show their care and concern for the people in the city they serve.
We hope this successful effort will continue and this one be marked the "1st Annual Old Skool Outreach Effort."
We would like to acknowledge and thank the staff at Kirkwood Detox and Brandywine Counseling, Inc. for volunteering their energy and time.

  • 20 Outreach Workers
  • 5 Hours of Outreach Work Completed
  • 3 Neighborhoods Covered
  • 150 People we talked to
  • 400 Condoms and safe sex kits distributed
  • 6 newly enrolled NEP participants
  • 10 people who got tested for HIV

270 Syringes And Counting

Most of us, if we got our picture in the newspaper, might get a congratulatory phone call from our parents. That is, unless we were picking up dirty needles in an inner city “shooting gallery.” Basha Closic’s father was understandably alarmed at this sight. However, that same picture was credited with turning “no” votes for Delaware’s needle exchange into “yes” votes, enough to pass the bill.

Three months into the program’s operation, Basha gave our audience a progress report. As of May 24, 2007, 34 participants had exchanged 270 syringes. Most continue to come back. The majority of referrals are by word of mouth. “We’re moving along slowly but surely, and safely,” she said. Basha also pointed out that Delaware has the only NEP run by a drug treatment program. This means our participants get to talk to “the best hands out there… treatment-minded hands.”

Basha is always willing to go the extra mile to help at-risk drug users. We’re proud to have her at Brandywine, and we’re pretty sure her dad is proud too. Click below to hear Basha’s update.

Basha_Closic_Remarks.mp3 (4:58)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Like Being Pregnant for Ten Years

Senator Margaret Rose Henry addressed the audience briefly following the recognition ceremony. She thanked the advocates and all those who helped bring about needle exchange in Delaware. Working to get her bill passed was “like being pregnant for ten years,” she said. Now, at long last, she gets to watch that baby take its first steps.

“It does my heart such good to see something you’ve worked on really come to fruition. This is important. This is about saving lives.”

Click here to hear Senator Henry’s remarks.

Margaret Rose Henry Remarks.mp3 (2:28)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Recognizing the People Behind Needle Exchange

The centerpiece of our needle exchange celebration was the recognition of our guests of honor: 15 people and organizations who were integral in developing the program. As you will hear, each of them brought something unique and essential to the effort. After all the honorees came up to the stage, BCI Executive Director Sally Allshouse announced that a donation has been made in their honor to the Campaign to End AIDS.

Click here to listen as we pay tribute to the following individuals:

Recognition.mp3 (9:23)

Senator Margaret Rose Henry, for leading the ten year campaign in support of this program.
Representative Helene Keeley, who co-sponsored the bill with Senator Henry.
Secretary Vince Meconi of the Division of Public Health for making HIV and substance abuse related issues a priority.
Dr. Jaime Rivera, Director of Public Health, for assembling the oversight committee.
Mayor James Baker for his commitment to reducing HIV/AIDS in our community.
John Baker of AIDS Delaware, for his persistent advocacy and leadership.
Renee Beaman of Beautiful Gate Outreach Center, for tirelessly supporting this policy change for years.
The Delaware League of Women Voters for garnering support to pass the bill.
Peter Houle of the Delaware HIV Consortium for protecting the bill and combating opposition. (Sorry Peter - I had to change my tape in the middle of your introduction.)
Nicole Leighton of Prevention Point Philadelphia for sharing her expertise and knowledge with BCI.
The Red Ribbon Advocates, who organized a rally and told their stories at Legislative Hall.

In addition, these individuals could not be present but also deserve recognition:

Senator Nancy Cook has been a supporter of initiatives to promote treatment and recovery to Delawareans in need of substance abuse and mental health services. She has continued to help ensure services for Delaware’s vulnerable populations. She has undeniably played an important role in the implementation of the program.

Representative Pamela Meier is an important leader and fighter for Needle Exchange within her party. She is also the chairperson of the House Health and Human Development Committee. This committee was responsible for moving the bill to the House for voting.

Lamont Coger has been running the Baltimore City Needle Exchange for over 11 years. He was there for its inception and has led his organization to provide its service at 17 sites throughout the city of Baltimore mornings, afternoons, nights and weekends. Lamont was vital to the realization of our program here in Wilmington. He hosted our team several times and shared not only his resources and procedures but also his staff and expertise.

Debbie Hamilton has worked tirelessly as a lobbyist to defend and fight for Needle Exchange. The reality of this program is undeniably due to her hard work and diligence. Debbie was able to get legislators to talk about this issue that in the past closed a door to this bill’s advocates. Her knowledge of the legislative process and lobbying helped other advocates to plan appropriate activities and responses to questions. We applaud her efforts.

As Sally said, this is an extraordinary group of people and we in Delaware are very lucky that they came together to make this program a reality. We thank them and we salute them.