Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lower The Drinking Age? How Would That Help?

Does the drinking age law contribute to irresponsible use of alcohol by underage drinkers? Would lowering the drinking age to 18 solve the problem? Choose Responsibility thinks so. John McCardell, their President, has been making this argument in some recent TV interviews. You can watch his appearance on The Colbert Report below.

On the plus side, they’re in favor of more education on responsible drinking, but that’s really all I can agree with them on. “Alcohol is a reality in the lives of young Americans,” they say. “It cannot be denied, ignored, or legislated away.” So, because young people are going to drink anyway, you want to make it easier for them?

Let’s say that adults 18-20 no longer had to do their drinking “underground.” They won’t want to binge drink anymore? Beer pong will go away? What about teen drinking? If we changed the law, exactly how would that help?

100,000 deaths a year are attributed to alcohol, as The Discovering Alcoholic reminded us last week. What do we need to do differently, in order to change this statistic? I don’t know the answer, but I’m pretty sure lowering the drinking age is the wrong one.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
John McCardell
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Friday, March 27, 2009

5 Questions for Cheryl Ervin-Edwards, Counselor/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: Cheryl Ervin-Edwards
Job: Counselor/Case Manager, NSAFE
Time with BCI: 2 years

1. What brought you to the addictions field and to your present job at BCI?
I am a recovering addict myself. With God’s will, September 17, I’ll have 15 years of sobriety. I started working in the field in 2002 up in Chester, Pennsylvania. It was inpatient, so this is my very first time working in an outpatient facility. Working in that inpatient facility helped me to realize this is where I need to be. This is my niche in life.

When I first got hired at Brandywine Counseling and started working in the Drug Diversion program, I was the court liaison. I was a drug and alcohol counselor, and my job entailed going to court on a weekly basis to present reports to the judge as to what the client’s progress was in the program.

Then in February of 2009, I moved over to the NSAFE program and I am now a case manager here. In that position I do outside community referrals for clients that need special services, such as dental, eye care, food closet, and things of that nature. A typical day is receiving phone calls from clients, assisting clients with getting food from the NSAFE food closet, or assisting my supervisor or my co-workers with some things, because I am new in this position, so I’m just acclimating my way into the NSAFE program right now.

2. How is the economy affecting your clients right now?
Working in this capacity here, there are people that need assistance with their utilities, with food. Because if they do manage to pay their utilities based on the income that they’re receiving within that household unit, they don’t have enough to provide food for their families. Or for themselves, because it could be just single people. And they don’t have enough money to buy food and clothing for themselves. With this tough economy here, whoo! It’s rough. We keep our food closet at NSAFE pretty well stocked, and if we don’t have everything here that they can utilize as far as nutritional items, we refer them to outside community agencies so that they can receive food.

3. What is your biggest challenge in doing your job?
Being limited with resources. That’s the biggest challenge, because if we don’t have the resources, say for instance, if we run out of food, if we call out to an outside agency, a lot of times the agencies do not have funding where they can supply food for our clients. So that’s the biggest challenge here, having to make the phone calls, and being discouraged because you may make several phone calls to different agencies, and you get the same reply. “We don’t have any funding.” But when that happens, they can always give us somewhere else to call, and we eventually find somebody who can help.

4. Last month, the Division of Public Health reported Delaware now has fewer new HIV infections and more HIV tests being done. What’s your reaction to this news?
I think that’s a good thing, and I think a lot of that has to do with the Safety Net program we have, and the Needle Exchange that we have within Brandywine Counseling. Education is the key to having a decrease in AIDS or HIV, being educated about it from every angle. There’s a lot of people in this program that contracted HIV through intravenous drug use. And with the needle exchange and Safety Net program and NSAFE program working together and educating the people and letting them know that there’s a better way to life, I think that’s a good thing.

This Monday we had a training over at the Safety Net program where the nursing staff, Chris Zebley and Joyce [Bunkley] -- they are part of Christiana Care -- they conducted a training session for NSAFE to educate us as to how we can better educate the clients for safer sex practices. And if they’re going to continue with their drug use, they don’t have to use the same needles, they don’t have to share needles with people that may possibly be infected with HIV or AIDS or put themselves at high risk like that.

5. What would people be surprised to know about your job?
We are very compassionate, and we do everything that we could possibly do to assist people in living productive lives in the community. They think that it’s just about coming here, getting food, getting referrals, and things of that nature, [but] we also give them the option to sit here, to talk about situations, or problems that they may have. So it’s not just about them coming in and out. And we do not just only service the NSAFE clients, we also service the Core clients, because if some of the Core counselors have clients that are short on food, they refer their clients over here to NSAFE and we assist them as well.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sharing Stories of Recovery

People in recovery are being given the chance to share their story on several new online forums. By doing so, recovering persons will be able to inspire others and give them the support they need.

Iamrecovery.com is a Web site created by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. It contains a database of stories that is searchable by drug, gender, age, and years in recovery.

The Second Road has also announced they will publish a story a day in April to promote Alcohol Awareness Month. Submissions are invited by email or on video.

We think this is a great idea, because the more stories that are shared, the more people can be reached. We’d also like to do something like this on brandywinecounseling.org. Would you like to see a BCI “story bank?” What kind of features do you want to see? Drop us a comment with your suggestions!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mark Lanyon Discusses Binge Drinking on "Delaware Tonight"

Mark Lanyon, Program Manager of BCI Alpha, appeared on WHYY's "Delaware Tonight" St. Patrick's Day evening as part of a report on the dangers of binge drinking.

Mark discussed how excessive drinking lowers one’s social inhibitions and may lead to high risk behaviors, including unintended sex, violence, and drunk driving. He also said if you feel you need treatment for alcoholism, “You have to do it on your own, but you can’t do it alone,” meaning family or friends can’t make you decide to stop, but you will need their help once you’ve made that choice.

The report also included what the University of Delaware is doing to make students aware of their drinking habits in terms of how they compare to their peers, how many calories they take in, and how much they spend. Finally, there was discussion of how families are impacted when one member has a drinking problem, how to set boundaries, and how to encourage that person to seek help.

You can watch the video here. It will be available through March 24. If that link doesn’t work, click here, then click Tues. Mar. 17, 2009, and the report begins about 12 minutes in. (To watch the video, you need to have Real Player installed or download it for free.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

More Homelessness Seen in Sussex County

From today's News Journal: Crisis House in Sussex forced to send people away.

Truly some staggering numbers:
"In January and February alone, the shelter had to turn away 103 men, 76 women and 73 children -- more people than went through its doors in all of 2008."

Friday, March 13, 2009

5 Questions for Threasa Brittingham, Resident 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: Threasa Brittingham
Job: Resident Manager, Lighthouse Program
Time with BCI: 1 year

1. What’s your job at BCI?
I do everything! I try to guide the women in their daily task of taking care of their children, getting them on a schedule, just trying to get them to have a consistent schedule so they have a routine in their life. Sometimes they need to talk, they can talk to me, pull me aside. I’m constantly on the phone -- every doctor’s office, every court, every division of child support -- we are constantly on the phone! That’s basically what I do.

I usually work in the morning. I come in, I join in the morning meeting with the ladies. Sometimes I attend their groups. If they have an appointment, I usually take them to their appointment. Or I might have to go out and pick up needs for the house. I usually go over to lunch with them. Then in the afternoon, I usually do their afternoon groups with them also. I sit in, but also try to participate, especially when it’s parenting.

2. What made you want to do this kind of work?
I kind of stumbled across the job in the newspaper. I had been a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) for years, liked it but didn’t love it, and decided to try something new.

3. What would people be surprised to know about your job?
We probably know our clients more than their counselors do, because they spend a few hours a week with their counselors, but they’re spending 24 hours a day with the residential manager. So when thoughts and feelings come up, we’re always available to talk to, where maybe their counselor isn’t. With all the different personalities, we have changes constantly. So we know them very well, and our counselors appreciate us for that. They take our feedback very seriously.

4. Tell us your favorite client success story.
There’s one client -- and she actually left the program early. She had been in treatment before. And I saw her last week. She has, on loan, a new car. She’s gotten custody back of one of her children. She goes to school. She’s just doing awesome. So, seeing her lets me know that treatment does work.

5. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI, what would you do with it?
Put in a second story on this house! I wish that we could help more than ten women. I wish that everybody wanted the help, and I wish we had a 100% success rate.

Delaware Does More, Did More, and Will Do More!

This morning I attended the Delaware Does More Victory Event in Newark. Back in November, the goal was set to raise 300,000 pounds of food and $250,000 for emergency shelter and utility assistance.

It was announced today that we raised 343,000 pounds of food and over $300,000 for shelter and utilities. Wow! That is awesome!

Here are some highlights from the celebration:

Government leaders Lt. Gov. Denn, Sen. Carper, and Rep. Castle were on hand to thank everyone for their efforts. “It takes a whole lot of people,” said Rep. Castle, “and you have made a huge difference.”

J.B. Braun of the News Journal spoke about “the power and the speed of how quickly this thing went.” He noted that the food barrel became a symbol for the drive, with 750 participating organizations listed (see picture). He then said the initiative was here to stay. “Delaware Does More is not over; it’s now a brand.”

Tyrone Jones of AstraZeneca followed up on this theme: “We’re not going to stop here, because the need is still there.”

Gary Stockbridge of Delmarva Power summed up why the effort was so successful. “We took advantage of existing relationships in the community; we didn’t reinvent anything.”

Bernadette Winston of Kingswood Community Center shared some of the stories of people who benefited. One individual came for help after losing her job at the same time her husband went into the hospital. $400 in assistance kept her from getting her power disconnected and saved her from going into crisis mode.

Catherine Ciesielski of the Rose Hill Community Center said that her organization alone was able to keep 4064 people from going hungry over the last 4 months.

In their closing remarks, Patricia Beebe of the Food Bank and Michelle Taylor of United Way thanked all the volunteers, businesses, organizations, and staff who took part. In particular, they recognized four children from Newark who went out with two wagons on a 20 degree day, and collected 1000 pounds of food, enough to feed 32 families for 4 days. Go kids!

Delaware Does More will start a new phase to be announced in the coming months. They could not tell us much today, but said it would involve produce and gardening. Stay tuned and we’ll let you know when we hear what it is!

Brandywine Counseling is proud to have been a part of this drive. If you haven’t checked out our photos yet, please do – they’re hilarious. Thank you once again, Delaware. You did more!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Volunteers Visit Lighthouse for International Women's Day

Sunday, March 8th, a group of volunteers came to the Lighthouse Program to recognize the women in the program on International Women's Day.

They were led by Lauren Pearce, the Constituent Relations Liaison for Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who collaborated with Sarah Wyshock-Wolfe, the Program Coordinator of Community Services for the YWCA, and a veteran volunteer to the Lighthouse Program. All together, there were about 8 volunteers who participated.

They brought books and coloring activities for play time with the children. The volunteers and the women of the Lighthouse worked together on reading and creating with the children. The volunteers were also kind enough to bring snacks for all of the women and children.

The women of the Lighthouse enjoyed the outside volunteers. They provided time to enjoy being a mother and develop a further bond with their children. The Lighthouse staff and clients are grateful to the women for generously giving their time to provide positive support in the lives of all of the women in the house that day.

Kelly Enfield
Counselor/Case Manager

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When You've Got a Coach, Recovery is 24/7

"You want to go to Baltimore?" asked the driver of the car, rolling his window down.

Kevin looked in and saw a familiar face. It was Brandywine Counseling's Steve Burns. "Well, I don't have any money..." he answered.

"I didn’t ask you that," said Steve. "Get in the car. You’re going to Baltimore today."

Kevin got in. What followed turned out to be a major milestone in his recovery from drug addiction.

“We went to a Baltimore NA [Narcotics Anonymous] convention. And that was through the recovery coach program. They took me and a couple other guys there. And man, that was the best thing! I met my sponsor that I have today, at that NA convention. So it was because of the coaching program, I got the network I have today.”

Recovery coaching is a new program at Brandywine under the supervision of Steve Burns. A recovery coach provides peer support to a client in treatment, through telephone conversations, meetings, and outings like the NA convention. He or she works with the client to set and achieve goals like remaining abstinent, finding housing, and avoiding criminal activity. As Kevin describes it, his time with his coach is part social, part therapeutic.

“My recovery coach is Chuck Harris. Most of our contact is in person, but we do talk on the phone during the day. He’ll come by and pick me up, take me for a ride. We shoot pool at the 1212 Club, we’ll go out to dinner, we’ll go out to lunch, we’ll go over some literature of the NA books. He’ll call me on a regular basis, just to check how I’m doing. He stops by the apartment. He constantly makes sure that I’m okay, up here in my head. Always checks my behaviors. If he hears something through another person, he immediately comes to me, because I represent him as well.”

Chuck doesn’t work for Brandywine, but is a recovering person and an active member of the 1212 Club, Wilmington’s “recovery clubhouse” and safe haven. A recovery coach is not a counselor and not a sponsor, and isn’t meant to replace either one. Like a sponsor, the coach is based in the client’s living environment and holds them accountable for their actions and goals. But the coach also keeps in touch with the treatment program and documents every contact with a client. When someone is new to recovery, they often need time to find the right sponsor, and this was the case for Kevin.

“The sponsor I had at that time, we weren’t very compatible, and we weren’t really clicking, so I was looking toward finding a new sponsor anyway. But the recovery coach program ended up doing way above and beyond the way they explained it. They said you were going to be assigned to a person, and they were just basically going to be there for you. You would be able to call on them when you were having thoughts of depression, using, bad feelings, anything.”

Likewise, a coach is different from a counselor. Recovery coaching is a new concept that is gaining popularity as treatment programs realize they aren’t meeting all the needs of people new to recovery. Professionally trained counselors are great at providing therapy and intervening in times of crisis, but are unable to offer ongoing recovery support. Clients who don’t connect with their community AA or NA meetings, or don’t want to take part in aftercare, often relapse once they leave the treatment program. But a coach who was once new to recovery himself understands that in the beginning, someone may feel unmotivated, need emotional support, or have unmet needs like transportation or housing. Thus, the coach becomes the link between the outside recovering community and the treatment program.

This link was what Kevin had been missing in the past and why he hadn’t found long-term recovery. By the time he was 24, he had a 10 year history of marijuana and cocaine use. He had spent time in numerous treatment programs and in prison. His addiction took a tremendous toll on his family and relationships. “I pushed people away. I ended up stealing from people that loved me. They just didn’t want to be around me. My father had to bail me out of jail - a few times it was around $20,000. I ended up coming right out of jail, and skipping bail and getting high again. I actively used, every day, while I was still going to treatment.”

But last year, things began to change for the better. Following his latest incarceration, Kevin entered Gateway Foundation’s inpatient program for 6 months. From there, his counselor referred him to outpatient treatment at Brandywine Counseling Alpha. Two months ago, he enrolled in the recovery coaching program at the suggestion of his counselor, Alesha Russell. Today he has 8 months clean.

When you have a recovery coach, your recovery is 24/7, and that’s something Kevin has learned well in the past two months. The urge to relapse can strike anytime, whether you’re walking down the street on your way home, or something happens that tests a close relationship. As it turned out, his coach helped Kevin through an especially difficult time, in a way a counselor couldn’t have done.

“I was going through a relationship with a woman, and she had relapsed, and went back out and started using. I was frustrated, overwhelmed, depressed, and mad and sad, all at once, and with those type of feelings, you could use again. I called Chuck up, and I said, ‘Listen, man, I need to explain something to you.’ And I talked to him over the phone, and he said, ‘Hold on, I’m on my way over now.’

“So he came over and we talked, and he gave me some positive feedback. He says, ‘Listen man, she’s not ready. You’re going on your 8 months clean. A year is right around the corner for you. You’re just about there. You’re on your way. And she decided to make the choice to go back out. Her motives and her mind is not going to be at same level with yours anymore, so you need to let her go.’

“And I didn’t want to hear that at first, because I was attached to her emotionally. But as more time and the weeks went by, I started to evaluate and process the information he gave me, because he went through that himself. And today I do let people speak into my life, and I listen to them. And I let her go. I look at it as, if I didn’t let her go, I’d have probably been back out there. I would’ve drug me down. Not saying it would have, but you don’t rule nothing out, not in this business.”

Since Brandywine introduced recovery coaching a year ago, 32 clients have taken part in the program. They’ve looked to their coaches as cheerleaders, confidants, role models, problem solvers, and friends. Many, like Kevin, are now looking ahead to their goals for the future. He plans to become a professional barber, attending classes through Vocational Rehab. “I want to be a barber, become a sponsor, remain abstinent from all drugs and alcohol, and someday have another relationship with a woman, and be getting married and have my own family.”

Kevin feels like a new person today. He no longer uses drugs and has made changes in his life. “I feel like a productive member of society today. I feel like a normal human being. I can go walk down the streets and look people in the eyes, and know that I haven’t done anything two or three days ago that would make them want to not even be around me. I can walk past police officers today, and not have my heart start racing, or get paranoia because I did some type of crime four or five days ago, and my name might be all out on the computers. I can go in a store today, knowing I’ve got the money in my pocket to pay for it, and I’m not going to steal something. And also, most of all, I have my family back today. They let me in their homes, they let me spend the night with them today. They come see me. We do things. And just 8 months ago, they wouldn’t even want me in their house.”

Kevin gives his recovery coach a lot of the credit for his success. When asked if he plans to keep in touch with Chuck after his treatment ends, he responds without hesitation. “Most definitely. The recovery coaching program is awesome. I can’t even explain the things that has done for me.”

Recovery coaching is funded by and is part of the system of public services offered by Delaware Health and Social Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. For more information, please call 302-472-0381.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sally Allshouse's Testimony at State Budget Hearings

Good afternoon and thank you for allowing me to speak on behalf of addiction services in Delaware. I am Sally Allshouse, Executive Director of Brandywine Counseling, Inc., an addiction treatment and prevention agency. I would first like to thank you for your efforts in the past and want to remind us all about the facts of addiction:
  • One in four people between the ages of 15-54 has an addiction problem.
  • One in four children lives in a home where alcohol is abused.
  • Addiction is hidden in the diseases and injuries it spawns, including: Cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, hypertension, strokes, pneumonia, kidney failure, asthma, bronchitis, hip fractures, HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis C.
  • $10 billion in acute care hospital charges result from addiction in women over the age of 59. 98% was spent to treat the illnesses and injuries that are the consequence of addiction. Only 2% is spent to treat addiction.
  • School failure, infant mortality or low birth weight, and child abuse are consequences of not treating addiction.
  • More than 50 epidemiological studies in the past decade have found small to modest increases in the risks of breast cancer associated with drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Between 80 and 95 percent of alcoholics smoke cigarettes, a rate that is three times higher than among the population as a whole. Approximately 70% of alcoholics are heavy smokers.
  • Adolescents who begin smoking are more likely to begin using alcohol and smokers are 10 times more likely to develop alcoholism than nonsmokers.
  • Considerable evidence suggests a connection between heavy alcohol consumption and increased risk of cancer, with an estimated 2 to 4% of all cancer cases thought to be caused either directly or indirectly by alcohol.
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the leading known cause of mental retardation in western civilization.
  • Most teenage pregnancy cases result from unprotected sex, which likely occurs between teens who are under the influence of alcohol. Only 75% of teens use protection when sober, and as teens consume more and more alcohol, that figure decreases. Just only a little over 10% of teens remember to use protection when intoxicated, and because of this, the number of teenage pregnancies have also risen.
  • Addiction is the leading factor in: 40% of homelessness, 38% of child abuse and neglect, 50% of domestic violence disputes, 50% of auto accidents and 62% of aggravated assaults.
  • Every person in the US pays approximately $1000 per year for unnecessary health care, extra law enforcement, auto crashes, crime and lost productivity resulting from untreated addiction.

Why do I quote these numbers? It is because of your concern about cancer rates, infant mortality rates, HIV/AIDS rates, and tobacco use. It is a hard fact for us as a society to admit and say that unless we treat addiction and offer addiction prevention efforts, some of our major health concerns will not be addressed. I ask that you continue to support addiction treatment and prevention services.

Thank you.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Basha Silverman's Testimony at State Budget Hearings

My name is Basha Silverman. I am the Director of HIV Prevention programming at Brandywine Counseling in Wilmington. I am here to call your attention to the importance of the Needle Exchange Program on behalf of the Division of Public Health and the many individuals at risk of contracting HIV in Delaware. I understand you have some very difficult decisions to make this year, so I wanted to arm you with some information that may help you.

The Needle Exchange program does not only provide access to sterile equipment; it is a bridge to other services.
  • In just 2 years, this mobile program has been extremely successful at identifying at-risk and HIV-infected individuals, and connecting them to medical care and substance abuse treatment.

  • We are reaching a very, very hard to reach population that might not receive or follow through with services if the services were not brought to them.

  • We have tested over 900 individuals on the van.

  • To date, we have identified approximately 20 HIV positive individuals, and linked them to HIV treatment and case management.

  • Additionally, we have successfully linked 62% of those ready for substance abuse treatment to a treatment center.

  • Almost 40% of participants are women. When we connect a woman to treatment, especially a pregnant woman, we increase her chance of giving birth not only to a healthy baby, but one that is not HIV infected.

Why Needle Exchange?

  • In Delaware, it took over a 10 year battle to pass such a significant piece of legislation.

  • In the late 80s, methadone treatment was our best intervention known to combat HIV/AIDS. Today, needle exchange is the most widely studied and has proven to be most effective intervention to combat the spread of HIV.

  • Needle exchange is not just HIV prevention, it is pre-treatment.

  • Studies also show that once a person learns they are HIV positive, they are approximately 60% less likely to infect another person. Therefore, the testing efforts on our van are unquestionably a significant service that should not be cut.

  • Lastly, just a reminder of the cost benefit. The needle exchange program costs roughly $200,000 a year to provide services on the van and make linkages to other services and programs designed to increase the overall health of Delawareans. In comparison, the estimated cost to treat ONE individual infected with HIV over their lifetime ranges from $300,000 to $600,000, depending on how long he or she lives. In two years, we prevented an estimated 10-12 new infections by connecting nearly 20 people to HIV care. Therefore, for $200,000, we saved an estimated $3 million that would have been spent on treating those individuals - and that is a modest approximation that does not include the infections prevented when someone is admitted to substance abuse treatment.

Thank you for listening. Thank you Senator Henry!

Needle Exchange and Law Enforcement: The Secrets of Our Success

Last week, BCI's Basha Silverman was a co-presenter at a symposium by the Yale Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS called "Aligning Criminal Justice and HIV Prevention: From Conflict to Synergy." Allan Clear of the Huffington Post has written a detailed recap, which I encourage you to check out.

Here is the portion pertaining to Brandywine:

"From the service provider and government sector, Basha Silverman from Brandywine Counseling, a drug treatment/ needle exchange program in Wilmington, Delaware and Maxine Phillips and Mary-Ellen Cala from the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute explained the secrets of their success in working with law enforcement. Strategically speaking the tactics are simple; relentless relationship building comprised of community and civic association meetings, meetings with police chiefs/captains and their support staff, joining sub-committees and inviting police onto advisory boards, arranging visits to treatment and exchange programs, working with community relations police, and training, training, and more education. Ideally, these efforts would foster the creation of feedback loops so that it is clear what works, what does not work, and would aid in the establishment of a strategy for furthering more effective community partnering. At all times it is critical to acknowledge law enforcement's own perspective on community drug issues and to emphasize the benefits that they can derive in supporting syringe exchange, such as minimizing risk from a needle stick. The relationship between providers and police can, and should, be a bi-directional initiative."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Making Our Case: Why Delaware's Disabled Should Be Spared In Budget Cuts

This week, Delaware's Joint Finance Committee is hearing testimony from health and social service organizations as it prepares for difficult budget cuts. Several of our BCI staff are in Dover to speak about the importance of maintaining funding for HIV prevention and addiction treatment.

Yesterday, Connie Hughes of the Delaware Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (DelARF) testified on behalf of their member agencies, including BCI, who provide 80% of all services to disabled Delawareans. Through our contracts with the state, DelARF members provide job training, residential care, counseling and support services to 50,000 individuals and untold numbers of guardians and family members. Here are some highlights of what Connie said:

“Our goal is to work with the state to find a way to provide quality programs to as many people with disabilities as we can. We have already taken a variety of steps to maintain existing levels of service: we have created greater efficiencies in our existing programs, have begun to consolidate services by working collaboratively with our colleagues, and have explored areas where the state can reduce costs. Here are two recommendations we have to reduce spending and decrease costs:

“First, continue to invest in the community-based care that our members provide. Services to people in their own homes and communities are better, cheaper, and allow us to give them the right service at the right cost. Funding cuts in our cost effective programs will have unintended consequences that will actually increase the state’s deficit.

“Second, the cost of services delivered by private organizations like our members is less than the cost of those same services provided directly by the state. To decrease costs, we recommend that the state consider privatizing some state run programs.

“We recommend and feel very strongly that funding to serve these very vulnerable individuals should be maintained. But, if you find that funding reductions must be made, we would ask you to first consider several points:

"First, bring us to the planning table before the cuts are made. Not only will this process be better for us but it will also be better for the state. We can tell you how to make these reductions in a way that limits the pain to those we are all serving.

"Second, we have a moral, legal and ethical obligation to our clients and their families to assure that we are meeting their health and safety needs. Because we have received no increases in our reimbursement rates from the state for the past 4-5 years, we can no longer do 'more with less.' We will need to 'do less with less' in order to provide our services in a safe and healthy environment. On that point, we cannot compromise.

“I would like to say a word about our 5,000 member workforce. While they are not technically 'state workers,' they are 'the state’s workers,' doing the work of the state to serve this population. Their average wages still hover at the $10.00 an hour level. They have been heroic in their dedication to this population, often working several jobs to support their families. Further cuts to us WILL increase the number of unemployed Delawareans.”

Well said, Connie. Thanks on behalf of BCI and the people we serve.