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.

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