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.