Monday, November 30, 2009

Deemed Status Awarded to Two BCI Sites

Congratulations to the BCI Lancaster Center and Alpha Center for receiving Deemed Status from the State of Delaware! This means State auditors found the quality of care we provide is sufficiently high to merit a two-year license rather than the usual one year. It is the first time we applied for and received Deemed Status. This is a credit to the staff at these two locations and to our internal auditors (who have been said to be even more strict than the State). Well done!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks to everyone who came and enjoyed our annual Thanksgiving Dinner. We enjoyed cooking and serving for you. Have a happy holiday from all of us at BCI!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Honors for BCI Staff

Two of our staff members are being recognized for excellent work.

Edna Maldonado of NSAFE will be honored for her diligence and commitment in the fight against HIV/AIDS at the 16th Annual Reach-Out Sunday, Nov. 22, 8 AM and 10:30 AM at Bethel AME Church, 604 N. Walnut St. Attendees are asked to bring a new clothing item for an adult male or female living with HIV/AIDS.

Chris Zebley of Christiana Care will receive the 2010 American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Nurse Practitioner Award for Excellence. This prestigious award is given annually to a dedicated nurse practitioner in each state who demonstrates excellence in their area of practice. He will be recognized for this achievement during the 2010 AANP National Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Both Edna and Chris do an awesome job with a very challenging population, and deserve this credit. Congratulations!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009 Annual Report

Brandywine Counseling proudly presents our 2009 Annual Report. Click to view our highlights of the past year and our goals for 2010, over a backdrop of artwork created by our talented client artists.

Here is just a small sample of what we achieved this year:
  • The Delaware Needle Exchange has exchanged over 28,000 syringes, enrolled over 650 participants, and identified 14 HIV positives in nearly three years of operation.
  • 449 methadone patients (40%) have at least 90 days of abstinence.
  • The Alpha outpatient program discharged 44% of patients successfully or with some goals completed.
  • Intensive Outpatient Services were introduced at Lancaster, Alpha, and Lighthouse to offer a higher level of care to individuals not succeeding in the traditional program.
  • The Newark Center saw a 25% increase in the number of patients remaining in treatment for one year or more.

We could not do the work we do without your support. Thank you for making 2009 a year of success for us and for those we serve!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

BCI Is Closed November 18-19

Brandywine Counseling will be closed Wednesday November 18, and Thursday November 19 for an agency-wide staff training.

We will be providing take-home bottles to all consumers from 5 AM to 9 AM.

We will reopen Friday November 20.

Thanksgiving Events at BCI

Thanksgiving Week is almost here, and BCI is celebrating with our two traditional events.

Monday November 23 is Thanksgving Turkey pick-up day! If you signed up to receive a basket this year, you may pick up your turkey at the Outreach Center between 6 AM and 3 PM. If you are a client at Newark, Edgemoor, or in Sussex County, your turkey will be available for pickup at your regular site.

Wednesday November 25 will be our annual Holiday Dinner! It will take place at the Westside Plaza shopping center on Lancaster Avenue, in the old Rent-A-Center, from 11 AM to 3 PM. All clients are welcome to come and enjoy the food & fun. We, the staff of BCI, will cook for you on this day. So come, have some fun, food, and fellowship with us.


From the staff at BCI

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Needle Exchange Update

Can you believe it will be 3 years in February since we started needle exchange in Delaware? Here's an update on the program:
  • 653 clients are enrolled in the City of Wilmington's Needle Exchange Pilot Program, exchanging more than 28,000 needles. This means that we have incinerated over 28,000 potentially infectious syringes and removed them from our streets. Since it is a one-for-one exchange, there is virtually no needle litter problem anymore.
  • 402 participants self-reported that they were referred by another NEP client. This proves that word-of-mouth advertising is what works with this population. 4 people reported that they were referred by law enforcement.
  • Caucasian clients make up 69% of the membership; however, we are working on increasing the participation of African Americans using the social networking strategy called the LINK program. We are asking existing members to refer their peers. Since it began in February, LINK has 97 members, 79 of them recruited by existing members.
  • We've made 72 formal referrals to drug treatment, of which 46 have successfully entered treatment. This does not include informal referrals we make all the time and at just about every instance of exchange.
  • 1711 rapid HIV tests have been completed on the van. 84 of those were people tested for the first time. 14 of them were newly identified positive individuals. Almost 300 of the 1711 HIV tests were NEP clients, but more than 1300 of the tests were provided to members of the community where the NEP operates. These individuals accessed HIV testing because we brought the service to them. As a result of our success at reaching these residents, we are planning to begin offering the combination hepatitis A and B vaccine on the NEP in the coming weeks.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Out Of the Dark, A New Dawn

On a bus stop bench on a frigid February morning, a young couple sat together shivering, and counting down the minutes until 9:00.

“How much longer?” Dawn asked her boyfriend.

“Four more minutes.”

Dawn broke into a smile in spite of the stinging cold. “Oh, I can’t wait! Soon they’ll open up… it’ll be so warm inside!”

He smiled back. “In four minutes, I’m gonna be layin’ on that comfy couch and gettin’ some sleep!”

A miserable, exhausting night neared its end. They had spent it at the bus stop on Lancaster Avenue, with all their belongings in their backpacks, and only their coats to keep them warm. But at 9:00, right behind them, they had a place they were welcome in the Brandywine Counseling Outreach Center. Dawn watched the buses come and go, full of people with places to go and things to do. Her plans today were simple: Get warm. Find some food. Hide from probation. Then, find some more heroin. Tomorrow, she’d do it all again. It wasn’t always this way. Six years ago, she had a normal life, a job, and a place to live. But one seemingly innocent car ride led her off course.

“I was working in a restaurant, and one of the other employees was asking me for rides. When he was getting out of the car, he was picking up drugs. I got curious about what he was picking up, and he let me try the heroin just by sniffing it one time. Eventually, he ran out of money to pay me for the rides, so he would start giving me drugs instead of gas money. I started to get sick if I wouldn’t use it, so I started to use it every day.”

“For a little while, I was okay. I could afford it. I started to be late for work. I started spending all my money on only drugs. I had to move back in with my parents, then I started to steal from them. I lost my job. I started stealing from cars and people’s houses, and ended up on probation.”

Dawn’s choices had led her down a destructive path of addiction, homelessness, and being on the run at age 27. She met her boyfriend and they stuck together, but there seemed to be no way out. They weren’t looking for help; only to survive. It was rare to find a friendly face that understood where they were. BCI case manager Sharon Brown was one who did.

“Hey, guys. Need a light?”

“Nah, we smoked our last cigarette hours ago.”

“Here. We’re not supposed to do this, but go on, take it.”

“Oh, thank you so much!”

“It’s too cold for y’all to be out here. Why don’t you come inside? There’s coffee and donuts. I can get you warm clothes, a place to wash up. You can crash on the couch, watch TV, read some books…”

Since that day, the pair became regulars at the drop-in center. “It became like a little home to us,” Dawn recalls. “We would go inside during the day, and sleep in there, and at nighttime we would just stay outside all night.” She began to trust the outreach staff. She began using their services, taking HIV tests, and visiting the needle exchange van. She learned about other services she wasn’t yet ready for.

“They would let us know that the methadone clinic was there, but they never seemed like they were judging us, or trying to push us into anything we didn’t want to do. They knew that we knew the services were there, and that we would use them when we were ready to.”

One day, a probation officer came to the bus stop. He took Dawn into custody, and she served six months in jail. In July 2008, she was released and reunited with her boyfriend. They were both free of drugs for a while, and even found themselves an apartment. But by September, they had relapsed and were using heroin again. They returned to the needle exchange.

“When we started coming back, they knew we were using again. They were a little more adamant this time. ‘You guys really need to try methadone this time, before you end up back in the situation that you were in.’” The couple faced a difficult decision.

“No way I’m gettin’ on methadone. It’s just another way to get high. It’s just as bad!”

“Well, I’ve heard those stories too, but what about the people we know who got on it? Seemed like it was working for them.”

“That’s true. They do look better. They’ve got jobs, they look stable.”

“Why don’t we try it? It’s the only thing we haven’t tried.”

With that, a window of trust had opened. The next morning, Dawn and her boyfriend went in to BCI, and they both started on methadone. She knew it would be a challenge to make her daily dosing, individuals, and groups, but she committed to getting clean as strongly as she had committed to getting drugs. Sharon Brown continued supporting her as her Safety Net Services case manager. Safety Net specifically targets two high-risk groups, women and recently released ex-offenders, often living on the streets. Knowing that willingness to accept help comes and goes, case managers meet clients where they are, ready to connect them to services they need when that window opens.

“Sharon was a big help,” says Dawn. “She’s always checked on us, made sure we have everything that we needed. I’m glad the outreach really latched on to [us].” But there was a big surprise for Dawn on her intake day. Nurse Barbara Garrity gave her the news at orientation.

“Now just to let you ladies know, when you get on methadone, it seems like it’s a lot easier to get pregnant. But Dawn, you’re already pregnant!”

“Oh! Really? Wow, that’s quite a surprise!”

“Yes! But we have a program just for pregnant women."

Dawn was 4 weeks along. Her surprise quickly turned to motivation to stick with treatment. She was determined to deliver a healthy baby. She was transferred to the pregnant and parenting women's program, which assists over 20 clients every year to deliver drug free babies. Her counselor, Aja Redmond, linked her with prenatal care, helped her identify her triggers for drug use, and taught her about FAS and nutrition. Four months into treatment, Dawn was staying abstinent. Things were going well. It was then that the couple received another surprise.

“We’re having twins! Oh, wow… two babies? How are we going to do this?”

“Don’t worry, Dawn, we can deal with it. Just one more obstacle in our way.”

“This is so difficult… I’m staying clean and doing what I need to do, but every day something else comes up.”

“Yeah, it would probably be easier to go back to the streets and start gettin’ high. But look at all the good things we’ve accomplished. We’ve come too far to throw it all away.”

And so, preparing for twins became the latest challenge in their shared journey to recovery. “We were already together when we were looking to get clean. We weren’t willing to separate for any reason, so we had to do it together.” Dawn recalls. “[It helped,] having somebody to walk through it with you, share all the ups and downs, and remind you how far you’ve come and where you still want to go.”

Dawn had support not only from her boyfriend, but from Aja and the women's program. She redoubled her efforts to set and achieve goals, worked on her parenting skills, and cut back on smoking. As her due date approached, a case manager made a home visit, making sure they had food, clothes, and baby furniture. On May 15, Dawn gave birth to healthy, identical twin boys.

“Being in a relationship and having the babies helped me get clean, because it gave me a reason to want to move forward in life,” she says. “Having the children and having a partner that loves you and is there for you, gave me my life back.”

Today, Dawn’s children are 4 months old, and she is nearing one year clean. She is a picture of composure as she tells her story and tends to her sons at the same time. She shifts one baby from her arms into a stroller to pick up the other, then reverses again. As they fuss, she remains calm and soothing, wiping mouths, giving them their bottles, even laughing cheerfully to herself as her son’s expression changes from restless to content. She shows no trace of her former life on the streets, sleeping at bus stops. She looks like a mom.

“I think for the two of us to go from where we were, to where we are now, it’s all pretty much thanks to Brandywine. This is the longest period of clean time either one of us has had. Being able to come up here every day and be accountable for your actions, and have people checking in on you, along with the medication that you get, has made us successful.”

Dawn sees a bright future ahead for her family. Life is not simply about surviving anymore; it’s about building a future for herself and for them. They’ve moved into a relative’s house, and they have a car. She hopes to one day own a home, put the children in a good school, and go back to school herself. For now, she wants to stay clean and sober, enjoy family life, and continue to build her support system. She’s on the right course again, and it all started with a friendly face offering food and shelter, no strings attached.

“It feels like a blessing. It feels that God was with me all along, and He’s looked out for me, and that He made a way for me to get better, and as long as I continue to follow it, things will continue to get better. It hasn’t been easy for us at all, but we’ve been able to get through it. I’m very happy with the way things are now.”

Brandywine Counseling services are funded by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA/CSAT; and Delaware Health and Social Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. For more information, please call 302-656-2348.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interns, Interns Everywhere!

Brandywine Counseling's internship program has grown by leaps and bounds over the past year. We currently have over 90 students involved in a project around our agency! This is a big help to our staff while providing real-world experience for the interns.

The Alpha program has been working with interns for close to two years. Site Director Mark Lanyon has partnered with several local schools to get the word out about our program and make it a sought-after destination for many students. Our internship program really started at Alpha, and now our other locations are jumping on board.

The Outreach department and Lancaster Avenue site have started a "service learning" partnership with Del Tech. It began because a Human Services professor thought some field work would be valuable to her intro students, rather than waiting until all of their coursework was completed. It's mutally beneficial; we can depend on a group of students each semester to complete tasks, while we teach the next group of people coming to us after they graduate for full time jobs. The work they will do for us will prepare them for the "real world" of human services. There are 68 students working with us through this project.

In addition, Outreach is working with nursing students from the University of Delaware. These interns are assisting with the Needle Exchange to do rapid HIV testing, educate about safe injection and overdose prevention, and have discussions with users about their sexual health. This opportunity gives the interns a wonderful opportunity to practice working with real individuals. 16 nursing students are currently with us.

We'd like to thank all the professors and administrators who have helped our internship program grow to this level: Karen Stevenson and Terry Fisher at Del Tech, Elaine Greggo at the University of Delaware, Sandra Brisiel at Del Tech, John Corrozi of Wilmington University, Norma Gaines-Hanks of UD, Vanessa Johnson of West Chester University, Carla Strassle of York College of Pennsylvania, and John Smith of Seton Hall University.

If you'd like to intern at BCI, here's how to apply. Yes, believe it or not, there are still some of us staff without one! You can have a clinical background, but also communications or technology.

Monday, November 2, 2009

BCI to Offer Clients Yoga, Thanks to Donation

BCI would like to send a big thanks to the Greater Wilmington Yoga Association for their donation of $2,000. These funds will be used to enable our clients to experience the therapeutic benefits of yoga. The group is unfortunately dissolving and wanted to donate the money they had left in their account. We are honored and grateful that they remembered us and thought enough of BCI and our clients to make a donation.

Details on our yoga activities and how clients can take part will be announced shortly. Thank you to Michele Hensey and the GWYA board for this generous gift!