Friday, February 27, 2009

5 Questions for Tom Bell, Outreach Worker

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: Tom Bell
Job: Outreach Worker, HIV Prevention and Needle Exchange
Time with BCI: 7 years

1. What’s your job at BCI and what do you enjoy about it?
I’m a member of the team doing outreach and needle exchange. The mission is to help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, targeting injecting drug users, and then also offer harm reduction education and information. We’re out there in the community 4 days a week, which is Tuesday-Friday. We also do HIV rapid testing on that van. It’s totally confidential. And one doesn’t have to be in the needle exchange program to receive testing, one can just come on, get an HIV test. If they need referrals, then we’ll make those as well, give them help wherever we can. Also pass out condoms, to help slow down the spread of STDs. Right now we’re trying out a new pilot program. It's called the LINK program, and we offer some incentive, as far as introducing drug-injecting people to the program.

And I kind of like it, because it’s out there helping the community and trying to change their thinking. We understand most people will do what they’re gonna do, but not being knowledgeable of what they’re doing. [So] we try some education in that area, because we know that we can’t stop folks from doing what they do. I like doing it, because I myself was drug dependent at one time. I went through an organization, and aftercare, and a 12 Step program to get my life back, and change my mindset, and become a productive member of society. So we try to instill hope in them that they don’t always have to live like this.

2. The Delaware Division of Public Health announced recently there are now fewer new HIV infections in the state and more HIV tests being done, thanks in part to the needle exchange. What’s your reaction to this news? Do you think progress is being made?
Yes I do. My take on that is, the word is spreading, and it’s a plus.

3. What would people be surprised to know about your job?
It’s not just drug and alcohol related; we help out wherever we can. We help with clothing, food, shelter, referrals, whatever way we can help. I can remember the times when I was drug dependent, and I was just wishing and hoping someone could just help, just not knowing where to go or how to ask for help. And now with this outreach program, we’re out there meeting folks just where they’re at, so some of the things they might not want to ask, or don’t have the courage at that time, or maybe they think it’s gonna take too much time, we’re there to step in and kind of reevaluate their thinking.

4. What’s the fun part of your job?
(Laughs) You say the fun part… Being in this field, the fun part is in the beginning. Maybe meeting someone for the first time, and they don’t really like you, because sometimes you have to be stern and practice a little tough love at some point. But the gratitude is when you see them later on down the line, and they have changed their mindset, and [are] starting to do different things, starting to become a productive member of society, not so much drug dependent, and starting to get their life back together. That’s the joy, you know, that’s the reward, in all. And I love that.

And then, I also have those same individuals come up to me later on, maybe a month or a year later, and say, “Why, thank you. Thank you for being there, thank you for puttin’ up with all that you put up with.” And I in turn say, “You’re welcome, and thank you for puttin’ up with all that you put up with.” (Laughs) So, that’s the fun part.

5. Since you joined the Outreach team, you’ve been working side by side with your wife. What’s that like?
(Laughs) Well, actually, it’s good and it’s bad, you know, to be honest. Because I, too, have to have an outlet. And, like I stated, I was drug dependent, and I attend a 12 Step program, and sometimes I have to talk about some of the things that go on with me working with my wife… And I’m grateful to be able to work with her, because I didn’t have the opportunity [before]. We were in the same field, but different areas, different times, so I didn’t get a chance to spend as much time like I do now.

She’s been in the outreach program [longer], and she knows more than I know in the outreach area, and so I’m humbly taking my stand. And sometimes it gets frustrating when she has to be stern, and then sometimes I don’t like it… But I understand that it’s for the best for the program and the organization, and I keep an open mind. And it’s actually good. We have our bad times, but it’s more good times than bad. I think that it could work. It’s life!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: Nathan West, Tech Support

Nathan West is a student at Wilmington Friends School who volunteered with Brandywine Counseling last summer doing tech support. He was a great help in fixing many troublesome computer issues that we lacked either the know-how or the time to address.

How did you hear about this project?
I heard about the project through a volunteering website designed to give people who are looking for volunteer opportunities the ability to easily find the ones they want, near where they live.

What made you want to volunteer?
I decided to volunteer because I had to do community service for a school project, but more because I really wanted to put my skills with computers and technology to good use.

What did you think of BCI?
I wasn't really sure what BCI would be like, having never experienced a drug counseling institution before. However, I found it to be a very pleasant experience. The people were all very friendly, and I felt very welcome even just a few days into it.

What did you work on?
I mainly worked with the older computers, running through them and making sure they were still in working order. I also helped out people with their computers directly, when the need arose, throughout the building.

What will you take away from your experience?
The biggest thing I gained from volunteering at BCI was using my skills to work with people who needed them. Before this, I had only used them personally (i.e., for my own personal computer work), and this gave me an excellent opportunity to work with other people.

How does it feel to help people in need?
I was thrilled to have an opportunity to use my much-needed skills with computers and technology to help people who needed them. Even though I wasn't making any money, it felt really good to be able to provide the service. Plus, I was able to work with computers for many hours a day, which is never a fault in my book.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

25 Random Things About Brandywine Counseling

OK, we're getting in on the "25 Random Things" phenomenon. Rules: Once you've been tagged, write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

1. BCI’s first Executive Director was David Skinner.

2. Our first location was on 12th Street in Wilmington

3. We’ve had the name Brandywine Counseling since 1990. Before that, we were Brandywine Counseling and Diagnostic Center.

4. One popular misspelling of our name on our junk mail is “Brenuine Counseling.”

5. Some people refer to us as “Brandywine Consulting.” This is also incorrect.

6. BCI’s logo is a compass because we provide direction.

7. In the very early days of BCI, when it was still a part of Wilmington Hospital, we dispensed methadone mixed with orange juice.

8. BCI Client #1 has been with us since we opened in 1984. You can read his story here.

9. The Alpha Center used to be an alternative school and police station.

10. The Outreach Center was formerly a deli.

11. We occupied our former Riverfront site from 1997 to 2005. It was demolished within a week after we moved out.

12. BCI’s first fundraising event was called “Spring Into Spring” and featured oldies band The Fabulous Hubcaps.

13. Years ago, we used to have a program called “The A-Team,” which was short for Assertive Treatment Team.

14. The color of the Lancaster building is most often described as “mustard.”

15. The photos lining the walls at the Lancaster Center were taken by Dr. Glick on his many travels.

16. BCI’s slogan prior to “Where the Journey to Recovery Begins” was “We Care!”

17. We like our acronyms, even when we can’t remember what they stand for. COAPE?… NSAFE?… Anyone?

18. The “I” in “BCI” stands for Incorporated.

19. BCI’s longest tenured staff are Nurse Supervisor Marcia Blancato and CQI Director Janice Sneed, who have been with us 30 years.

20. If you spend any time at all at BCI, you are certain to overhear a conversation involving the word “urine.”

21. During BCI’s first ever “walkthrough exercise,” Basha Silverman went undercover as a client seeking admission, and was actually hung up on by the receptionist.

22. BCI staff later performed a skit, including this mishap, at a national conference to show other treatment programs how we improved our admissions process.

23. BCI started up The Lighthouse Program, including completely renovating a shelter home, within 4 months after funding was awarded.

24. Even the smallest donation to BCI can save a life – One dollar will buy 14 condoms, 4 first aid kits, or 12 sterile syringes.

25. BCI has 13 fans on Facebook. Come on over and join us! Right after you finish your own list. Tag, you’re it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Hours at North Wilmington Center

Effective Monday Feb. 23, the Alpha North Wilmington Center will be open 5 days a week. New hours will be 8:30 AM to 7 PM, Monday-Thursday, and 8:30 AM to 3 PM Friday.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Volunteer Project: Interior Design Expert

First impressions matter in drug and alcohol treatment!

Do you have an eye for interior design? Are you someone who can look at a space and suggest low-cost improvements to enhance the aesthetic appeal?

Brandywine Counseling seeks a volunteer to walk through the Alpha outpatient program and give us your advice to create a more attractive treatment environment. If you like, you can help us make the improvements, or just give us some ideas we can run with!

Apply here

Monday, February 16, 2009

Prevention Works in Delaware

In case you missed it, this editorial ran Saturday in the News Journal. There are improving numbers on HIV/AIDS in Delaware, made possible by the work of organizations like BCI.

Some highlights:

  • No babies born with HIV in 3 years
  • New infections are down while the number of tests is up.
  • Community support continues for the needle exchange and is helping it be successful.
This means we need to keep up the work we’re doing. It’s making a real impact.

Friday, February 13, 2009

5 Questions for Jennifer Rossiter, Assessor

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: Jennifer Rossiter
Job: Assessor, Probation and Parole/Alpha Program, New Castle Center
Time with BCI: 9 years

1. Tell us about the relationship between the BCI assessors and the probation officers. What benefits are there to being located at the same site?
I think the relationship’s great. I love working with probation officers. The benefit is, they have instant access to us. They can have a walk-in. Let’s say a client has missed an appointment because the client was working, and they come in for report day. The P.O. can come and say, “Hey, listen, this guy is working. He can’t make it any other time. Can you see him today?” And sometimes it can be right then, or we’ll see them in an hour, so that’s really an advantage for the client.

The probation officer has instant access to our recommendation, and a lot of times, they’ll stop in, [and] ask me about different drug effects. Actually, yesterday, somebody was suicidal, and one of the P.O.’s came down and asked me to go talk to the person. They might ask about meetings, they might ask about resources. So I think it’s great for the probation officers, because we’re here, and if they have a question, we can answer it as quickly as we can for them. And for the client - they don’t have to go running around town. They can see their probation officer, and come right to us, instead of having to try to get transportation - if they have a drug charge they usually lose their license - so it makes it easier for them, too.

2. Why did you decide to work in addiction treatment?
My life’s given me the opportunity to have a lot of experiences that can relate to other people. And I noticed that throughout most my life, people come up and tell me their life stories. They tell me their problems, things like that. And I figured I ought to start getting paid for it. (Laughs) And then I decided that, I got in the field and I was gonna save the world. I found out that you can’t save the world, but you can help some people save themselves. And I like that.

3. What would people be surprised to know about your job?
Sometimes we deal with people who don’t have an addiction problem. Or they may be social users of alcohol, and something happened and they broke a law and they ended up in the criminal justice system. We may be the only people in the addictions field that they encounter. And they don’t want to be here, they “know” they don’t have a problem, maybe they just made a really bad decision and they got in trouble with the law. So here they are, they’re told they have to go have this assessment, to see if they have an addiction or some kind of problem - so that in itself has got to be very uncomfortable. And sometimes the client or consumer is very uncomfortable when they come in. We may be only connection they have with the addictions field. And somebody might say, “Well, yeah, you’re in Probation and Parole, they all have an addictions problem.” No, they don’t. And that might surprise a lot of people.

4. Tell us your favorite client success story.
It was a while ago, and it was back when the “three time loser law” was actually in effect. This person was looking at a life sentence, and he was involved in treatment. He had a history of dealing drugs, and possession. And because he was involved in treatment, the judge gave him a break. A couple years later, he found me and asked me to go to an NA anniversary meeting of his. And in the meeting, he said that he wanted to thank a counselor that hadn’t given up on him. And as far as I know, he’s now a minister of a very active congregation. That was very rewarding, because he didn’t give up on himself.

5. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI what would you do with it?
I have a pretty strong feeling about this one. I would donate it to educational resources to start training more counselors to deal with men who have been abused sexually. Other than - is Brenda still in the basement? Okay, I’d give some money to get her an office! (Laughs)

I was a clinical supervisor and provided service at a men’s halfway house many years ago. And this isn’t a scientific study, and it’s only a guess, but my guess would be, at least 80% of the men who landed in the halfway house - which means they had usually several episodes of treatment unsuccessfully - have been sexually abused. And I think they carry a lot of pain that goes along with addictions, and I don’t really think it’s been addressed yet, the way it should be, and needs to be, for the whole society.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Help Lighthouse Get Ready for Spring

Spring is almost here and the Lighthouse Program will be able to send the kids outside to play! Here's our wish list of outdoor items we would love to have:

1. Roller skates (adjustable) for girls and boys ages 4-6
2. Jump ropes
3. Wii Fit or anything else to accompany our basic set
4. Volleyball net and ball, horse shoes, and any outside games
5. Tricycles and small bikes with training wheels

If you have items to donate, please call (302) 424-8080 or contact us. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hospital-Based Outreach Connects Patients with Drug Treatment

Brandywine Counseling and Christiana Care have found that placing an intervention specialist on site at the hospital helps get people into treatment who otherwise were not seeking help for their addiction.

Since September 2008, a BCI staff member has been working full time on site at Wilmington Hospital. His job is to be available “on demand” to patients who show signs of substance abuse. The hospital staff sends him referrals mostly from the emergency room, but also the inpatient, outpatient, and CAPES (Crisis and Psychiatric Emergency Assessment) departments. Intakes for treatment are available on site two days a week. If treatment or other services outside the hospital are needed, we make the linkages and assist the patient in following through.

We saw a need for this service, just by looking at drug abuse as a health issue. Drug use is known to increase your risk of chronic disease, including heart disease and cancer. A recent study showed that over an 8 year period, Johns Hopkins treated over 20,000 patients who abused two or more drugs. The average health care cost per patient was about $1300. If more patients got into treatment earlier, it may potentially improve their health and also avoid future health care costs.

Here are the results of our project: In a 4 month period, 122 patients at Wilmington Hospital agreed to speak with our BCI liaison. Their most common drug of choice was alcohol. Over half had at least one prior treatment episode, but 35% had never been in treatment before. 99 patients were referred to a treatment program and 59 were successfully admitted.

The fact that 35% of people never had treatment before shows we’re reaching a population we wouldn’t otherwise come in contact with. It was also surprising that only 21% were homeless; whereas we thought the majority would be. So we’re seeing people who have some level of stability in their life, but haven’t recognized on their own the problems their addiction creates.

Wilmington Hospital tells us the response and need for service have been exceptional. The numbers certainly back this up. We’ll continue to keep you updated as this effort moves forward.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Children of Alcoholics Week

National Children of Alcoholics Week is February 8-14, 2009. This annual, national observance recognizes the damaging effects of alcoholism on children. Often, the people hurt most by alcohol abuse don’t even drink. They are the children of alcoholics. The 2009 campaign theme is “A Celebration of Hope and Healing.”

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) mission is to educate the public and raise awareness about the hardships suffered by children living in households with one or more parents who drink. Children of alcoholics can be encouraged and supported to seek out help and that they can and should have access to caring adults who are able to provide that help. Children of alcoholics and other drug dependent parents need to understand that addiction is a disease and that it’s not their fault.

Here are some tips from NACoA on how you can make a difference during Children of Alcoholics Week 2009, including:

  • Speak out as an organization and as an individual.
  • Ask Churches and Other Faith-Based Organizations to join in Children of Alcoholics Week.
  • Help your local schools, treatment programs and faith communities become acquainted with SAMHSA’s free Children’s Program Kit

SAMHSA also offers many related resources, including the brochures, “It’s Not Your Fault.” And “It Feels So Bad. It Doesn’t Have To.”

Friday, February 6, 2009

Black Life Is Worth Saving. Get Educated! Get Tested! Get Involved! Get Treated!

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is Saturday, February 7, 2009. In Delaware and across the country, communities will be taking action and spreading the word to help prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. Nationwide, Blacks account for nearly half of all HIV/AIDS cases. Here in Delaware, this is even higher. 67% of our state’s residents with HIV/AIDS are Black.

NBHAAD is an annual initiative for HIV testing and treatment directed by a group of national organizations in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal is to mobilize communities and address specific issues in regards to local epidemics and best practices that are science-based and will influence the course of HIV in Black communities across our country.

For more information on what you can do, including events taking place in Delaware, visit

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

BCI LINK: A Social Networking Approach to HIV Prevention

One of our biggest challenges in meeting the goals of Delaware's Needle Exchange is how to reach those most at risk for HIV. With 12 positives found in two years, we know there are more yet to be discovered. As it was reported last summer, fewer minorities are enrolled in the Needle Exchange despite their disproportionately high risk. Typically, these injection drug users are mistrustful of law enforcement, have never been tested for HIV, and are not involved in any treatment program. As resourceful as our outreach workers are, we can never elicit everyone’s trust. So if someone won’t listen to an indigenous outreach worker, who will they listen to? We think the answer is their own peers who are already participating in the Needle Exchange.

Brandywine Counseling has launched a new recruitment strategy based on peer to peer networking, called BCI LINK. We will use existing social networks to promote HIV awareness, the Needle Exchange program, and drug treatment. Specifically, all participants in the Needle Exchange will be offered an incentive to recruit others in their social networks. The approach is evidence-based and has shown that that the incentives also increase adherence to the program.

The great thing is, we assume we already have people who collect and exchange used syringes from their peers. BCI LINK will train these individuals as “Connectors” to reach out and draw in their peers (“Crew Members”) who otherwise would not enroll. The effect will be that BCI reaches greater penetration levels within the community. Every Connector and Crew Member is required to be tested for HIV. We will also learn more about trends in needle-sharing, intravenous drug use, and HIV infection in Wilmington.

What’s more, because BCI LINK takes advantage of established patterns amongst Wilmington’s injection drug users, it has the potential to grow exponentially, reaching ever-larger groups of at-risk drug users. The graphic above shows the results of a similar program in Philadelphia that showed great success after a year and a half.

We began BCI LINK one week ago, and have already enrolled 6 Connectors and 5 Crew Members. We are truly excited to bring this approach to Wilmington. Stay tuned as we report on our progress and results.

Graphic c/o Howard Wasserman for Prevention Point Philadelphia.

Monday, February 2, 2009

This Door Leads to Treatment, Not Back to Detox

The BCI Alpha outpatient program and Kirkwood Detox have significantly increased the percent of patients who leave Detox and complete an evaluation for treatment at BCI. In January 2009, 17 of 19 people referred here successfully completed their evaluation, compared to only 3 of 21 in January 2008. The project is the latest success story in our Paths to Recovery process improvement effort.

For years, we’ve struggled with how to engage people recently discharged from Detox. Typically, they’ve stopped using drugs, but haven’t stabilized their lifestyle, particularly their living environment. They were being discharged from Detox with only the instructions to go to BCI for an intake, and more often than not, they never showed up. Later, many would relapse and return to Detox in a revolving door cycle.

About a year ago, BCI and Kirkwood Detox went to work developing a personalized approach for these clients. We realized they are a unique population with unique needs. The solution we found was to give them more personal attention, and go above and beyond the normal referral process to ensure follow-through.

Detox staff began driving patients to our door upon their release. BCI began sending one of our counselors to Detox once a week to speak to patients about our treatment program, establish rapport, and motivate them to attend. Patients could start their intake paperwork at the time if they wanted to, and many chose to do so. Once someone was admitted to BCI, we offered them incentives to return for their first session. Over time, BCI and Detox fine-tuned our timing of discharge and orientation, exchanged patient lists to track who did or did not get to where they should be, and discussed individual cases as needed. As a result, we strengthened our collaborative relationship to the point where today, referrals are nearly seamless.

Coordination among agencies is so important when a client is moving from one to another. Since we've found a way to make it work, more people now have a chance at long-term recovery rather than being caught in a revolving door between addiction and Detox. Great job to everyone who played a part in this success.