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.