Thursday, May 31, 2007

I’m Almost Ready To Take The Ride

Today’s remarks are from our Master of Ceremonies at the NEP Celebration, David Isaac. A member of Brandywine’s Board of Directors, David prepared for his hosting duties by spending a day with our outreach staff on the van for a firsthand look. What he took away from the experience was insightful and poignant, particularly a conversation he had with one client who was weighing his options about entering treatment.

I’m posting the full text of David’s comments instead of the audio because there was some background interference and I don’t want you to miss any of it. So, please enjoy:

“I’d like to deviate from the program here for a moment because I’d like to tell you about my experience the day before yesterday when I actually went out onto the needle exchange van. I wanted to do so because I wanted to stand before you tonight not just to speak about it, but to know exactly what I was talking about and having experienced it. It was really an honor and a privilege and educational all at the same time. I’m not unfamiliar with chemical dependency as a disease, but when it comes to heroin addiction and what it can do, I’m not unfamiliar with that either. I grew up in a neighborhood where that was everybody’s drug of choice. They didn’t smoke pot, they shot dope.

“My experience the other day was very, very broad. We went out for two hours and we were there waiting for the clients to come. One of the things that I observed which was remarkable to me was the cross section of the culture. This disease does not select lower socioeconomic people only. It does not discriminate as to whom it might grab. I witnessed, I think, a total cross section of our community.

“There was one gentleman who stuck out, actually two people who really stuck out. One was a guy who drove up in a late model automobile, and he was very well dressed. He had good clothes on, I don’t know that he was well dressed, because addiction limits us from being able to really take care of ourselves. And the sad part is, that he looked as though he could have been a professional type person, but he looked very washed up, very tired. And it stuck in my mind, because I think that some of us, until we see it, might have this image that isn’t necessarily accurate.

“And it spanned all the way to a person who was obviously very much hurting from heroin addiction. The last client that came up stood there and talked to me for about ten minutes, and we had some of the most intelligent dialogue that I had the entire day. And I thought to myself, he’s an expert. I had remarked to one of the folks in recovery, ‘Recovery - nobody is too dumb to get it, but there are some who are too smart.’ It really is a very, very nefarious disease.

“I firmly believe in the needle exchange program because of the benefits, the obvious consequences. But I asked a lot of questions, like, what if a client comes back the next day and wants to exchange needles? You know, I think from an addict’s perspective, there’s an opportunity here. When a client comes up and gets five needles, and he sells three, regardless of the fact that he does that, you’re getting dirty needles off the street. That’s the point.

“And there’s exposure for these people, that if they want treatment it’s available. Where otherwise, they would not know it’s available. And this fellow, who struck me as being intelligent, looked at me, and one of the last things he said to me was, ‘I think I’m almost ready to take the ride.’ And I thanked him and I said, ‘Well, I hope it’s tomorrow.’ In fact, I said, ‘I hope you’re ready. Because it really is a good ride.’ And that was my experience going out on the van.”

"I wanted to acknowledge the people who go out every day because I can tell you they go to the areas of the city that some would consider putting themselves in harm's way, because some of the activities that go on are unpredictable. But I have a sense that they're respected in the neighborhood. Rochelle, I think she would straighten them right out, regardless of what happens. I had met her, and five minutes later I said, I see the glue that holds this thing together."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

You Can’t Hide Behind Closed Doors

We are so grateful that Pat was willing to share her story at our NEP celebration. She is someone who has struggled with addiction in her life and in her family. Listening to Pat, you can hear that her pain is very much still fresh, and yet, she has turned it into great strength and passion. With 34 years clean and 13 years sober, she feels an obligation to speak out in the community so she can help others.

“I believe that anybody that’s been through difficulty has got to get out there and give a hand up. My philosophy is, if you’re on that ladder in life, if you’re on the ninth rung of that ladder, you should be extending hands two ways: one for up to ten, and one down to eight to pull that person up to your position.

“You have to get out and say to people, ‘Do you understand what this legislation is that we’re trying to bring about?’ [You] try to get people to turn around and understand what an impact it makes when they call or write to the legislators and say, ‘Listen, we support this [needle exchange]. Our neighborhood supports this. We have people in our families who need this service.”

Pat speaks from experience. She watched as her daughter went through addiction and eventually recovery. Now she is watching her grandson go through criminal justice problems. Despite her own experience with recovery, and having worked as a drug and alcohol counselor, Pat was unable to keep her loved ones from making the same mistakes. It’s for this reason that treatment programs are so necessary – because even our best intentions are not enough.

“The only thing you can do for someone who’s an active addict is to love that person. Hold your pocketbook and your wallet, but love ‘em… You can still stop the car and put your arms around them when you see them on the street and let them know that you love ‘em, ‘cause they’re still people.

“First step in recovery is to recognize the powerlessness, that you can only control one person, and that’s you.”

Click above to listen to Pat’s full testimonial. Her words are truly important for Delaware to hear.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

If It's Legal, You Can Do It.

It’s a privilege to be able to bring you some audio from the Needle Exchange Celebration. There were some moving speeches made, and now you can hear them for yourself.

First up was BCI’s Lancaster Site Director James Harrison. James recalled seeing the impact of HIV/AIDS years ago as an outreach worker. He spoke of attending the funeral of an injecting drug user he didn’t even know - “I did not know his name, but I found myself crying for this individual.” James also noted that his own Hepatitis C might have been prevented if there had been a needle exchange program when he was using drugs.

Today, however, he is extremely excited that such a program exists, because lives will be saved. He acknowledged Senator Margaret Rose Henry for battling for ten years to get the bill passed. He also thanked BCI Executive Director Sally Allshouse, who would always respond to a new idea from her staff, “If it’s legal, you can do it.” Finally, he acknowledged all the support from the community since the program has gotten up and rolling.

Click below to hear James's full remarks.

James Harrison - Opening Remarks.mp3 (7:09)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Photos from our Needle Exchange Celebration

Last night was our Celebration of the Launch of Needle Exchange in Delaware. It was truly an inspiring event and a reminder of how important an accomplishment it is to have this program. I plan to have much more to write about this next week, but for now, we have pictures up on our web site, so drop by and take a look!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

You Have to Have a Heart

Before Delaware’s first needle exchange program ever started, it received much attention in the local media. We’ve heard from those who support it and those who are against it. So when it came time to cover it for the BCI newsletter, it was a challenge for me to give our readers something they hadn’t read before.

It was while listening to the outreach staff do a presentation about the program that I knew the story I wanted to write. We hadn’t heard from the people who are out on the streets doing the work. So I let Rochelle, the Program Coordinator, do the talking.

In this excerpt, I asked her what makes someone a good outreach worker:

“You have to love dealing with people, and you have to have a heart. You have to be able to read a person, know when a person wants to be bothered and when they don’t. Also you have to learn how to set boundaries so that you can’t take your work home.”

You can read the full article, “Taking It To The Streets,” here. It’s my pleasure to work with these dedicated people and to bring their story to you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Celebrate the Launch of Needle Exchange in Delaware

Brandywine Counseling is planning some special events during the month of May to celebrate the launch of needle exchange in Delaware.

On Monday May 21, join us for "Old Skool" Outreach to spread the word about the program in the community. Many of BCI's site directors and program supervisors started out as outreach workers, and they'll be returning for this special day. If you've always wanted to know what it's like to do outreach, this is your chance. It promises to be a fun day that will also make a real difference.

Then, on Thursday May 24, BCI will host a Celebration of the Launch of Needle Exchange. We will recognize key supporters of this program who helped make it a reality, and hear some powerful speakers attest to its value. This will take place at Theatre N from 6 to 8 PM and refreshments will be served. Space is limited, so please RSVP.

You can find more details and contact information for these events here.