Please Know...

As I come to know these fine people, they share with me more of their personal and sensitive stories. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist. "Blog names" have occasionally been given to me by the person whose story I am telling. Names are never their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.

Throughout this blog you are now seeing advertising. I need to provide this so as to keep going financially with this ministry. If you see something that is inappropriate to this site, please let me know - maybe get a screen shot of it for me. I do get credit for any "click" that you might make on any of the ads. If you're bored some night and want to help me raise some needed cash, visit my site and click away to your heart's content....


Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Kensington Issue That Isn't…

Today, as I was doing my thing in Kensington, I met three new (new to me) people who reside on the streets in the midst of their Substance Use Disorder, active drug use and Medicaid's incompetence in providing dignified, prompt and respect filled health care.

These two men and one woman claim Delaware County as their own.  Brookhaven and Aston are the hometowns of the men.  The woman worked "for many years" at a Wawa that I can absolutely guarantee all of my Glen Mills, Pa. neighbors frequents on a regular basis.  You, dear neighbor to me in Glen Mills/Garnet Valley, have met her!!!

We speak of Kensington as if it is some faraway land filled with 'addicts, junkies, freeloaders, panhandlers, prostitutes and whores' more gently labeled as 'them' and 'they'. 

It is not. 

By default, this aspect of what's happening in Kensington is NOT a Kensington issue.

These human beings who are made in the image of God and who are worthy of the highest dignity, honor, respect and love are, for a stunningly shocking majority, our actual, factual, literal, real, genuine, authentic, bona fide next-door neighbors to YOUR suburban mailing address! 

Philadelphia suburbs resident:  That's YOUR next-door neighbor on the streets of Kensington!!!!

Read this series of blogs to better understand what your neighbors are experiencing and

Get Involved Accordingly!!!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Overlooked Aspects of Harm Reduction

When we think of 'harm reduction' three aspects top the list: distribution of Narcan, safe injection sites, and needle exchange.  All three are very worthwhile pursuits.

There are several aspects of Harm Reduction that tend to get overlooked.   

Let's look at this partial list of overlooked aspects that 'Dakota'provided to me one day not too long ago when I asked her why she doesn’t go to detox even though she's very clearly stated that she is sick of this lifestyle…

"The long wait time, the need to get high before going in, the need to hide enough drug to inject during a quick trip to the bathroom while waiting too many hours for a bed, the rudeness of the staff, the strong possibility that at the end of those hours being told that there are no beds available in the entire city and to come back the next day."

Let's break this quote down a bit…

These three points are related:

The long wait time, the need to get high before going in ( a side effect of expecting a long wait time and wanting to avoid dope sickness), the need to hide enough drug to inject during a quick trip to the bathroom while waiting too many hours for a bed…

Reduce the Wait Time = Reduce the Harm


…the rudeness of the staff,

Reduce the Rudeness = Reduce the Harm

Remind staff to demonstrate the dignity and respect that is owed to any patient with Substance Use Disorder who is seeking treatment.


…being told (after many hours) that there are no beds available in the entire city and to come back the next day."

Increase Bed Availability = Reduce the Harm


Here are a few other overlooked aspects of Harm Reduction:

Discipline or remove from employment any nursing/medical staff member who tells a Substance Use Disorder patient in their care to "Get out…" -

Discipline or Remove = Reduce the Harm


When a Substance Use Disorder patient needs hospitalization for any condition, provide the best available and prompt detox comfort care while tending to the specifics of the medical situation that made hospitalization necessary.  

Provide Prompt Comfort Care in the Hospital = Reduce the Harm


When a patient with Substance Use Disorder has been admitted to a detox facility, provide prompt and complete detox comfort care. 

Provide Prompt Comfort Care in the Detox Facility = Reduce the Harm


Provide Rehab services in the jails so patients with Substance Use Disorder do not find this to be a time of 'mental rot.'  

Turn Jail Time into Rehab Time = Reduce the Harm


I leave this testimony with you from the blog: As I write this, one of my Medicaid-reliant loved ones from the streets sits in a crisis center awaiting a bed for detox.

I have personally been to several crisis centers in Philadelphia. A few months ago, I went to one and sat for about 13 hours in a waiting room so very sick shaking and sweating and vomiting everywhere and all for them to come out and tell me that there were no beds and said to come back the next day to try again. 

Mind you I was very very sick and when they told me that, I asked them what should I do as I was laying on their bathroom floor vomiting everywhere and it looked like someone had sprayed a hose on me because I was dripping wet. My clothes were soaked and I was flopping on the floor like a fish out of water. 

The doctor said to me "I don't know what to do." She said she cannot give me anything because I am not admitted and there are no beds. So they asked me where would I like to go to because they will call a cab for me. As I was waiting for the cab, security and a nurse came outside to me and asked me what I was doing and I said "You told me you are calling a cab." The nurse said, "We did not call one and you have to get off of the property!" 

Mind you, I had no money and I was so sick so I ended up walking to the EL. The SEPTA personnel told me I cannot go through without money and I told them that I just came from the hospital. I showed them paperwork and they still said "No" so I ended up jumping the train and the SEPTA personnel hit the alarm! 

So thank God the train came before any cops got there so I was fine. As I was on the train I dropped to the floor and had a seizure. When I woke up people were standing around me and they were waiting for the ambulance but I jumped up and said no and got back on the next train and got off at Somerset station and had to find a way to get well... 

My experience that day with the crisis center made me so sick to my stomach thinking that I really wanted to get clean and I really wanted help and nobody helped.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Dear Suburban Housewife/Girlfriend,

Dear Suburban Housewife/Girlfriend,

You might want to have a chat with your man, especially if he drives a black Cadillac Escalade and tends to keep it in pristine condition.

He was on Kensington Avenue on Sunday.  The young lady he picked up and drove off with is a woman I've come to know over my five years of visiting those streets.  I must admit, this man who you believe is solely dedicated to you shows excellent taste in picking her up for his own orgasmic goals.  She's an exquisite, downright stunning woman when she's all dressed up and made up in preparation for 'doing a date.'  So stunning is she that in those moments when you and he may be intimate - if those moments exist these days  -, he might be closing his eyes imagining her and not looking at you.[1]

If there's the slightest comfort to be found for you in this it might be in knowing that this woman would rather not be performing requested sex acts on your man.  She would rather be with her desperately ill loved one with whom she has shared several actually intimate years and be with her own children and family who love her without any conditional attachments.

But she can't. 

She needs to financially support her active medicinal intake of 'heroin' by 'doing a date' because she knows that seeking treatment through the Medicaid system of health care provision is so sought with undignified lethargic and uncaring service that it is a far smoother process to jump into your family car and onto 'your' man - if that's his desire - than it is to go get the care she desires from medical Medicaid employed representatives who have dedicated their careers to the ideals of Hippocrates.

If we solve the Medicaid health care provision crisis, we just might save your relationship…

Sadly,

Chris


[1] As a footnote, I'd like you to know that even when she's sitting next to her street bound tent home, her natural beauty is absolutely apparent.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

A Tow Truck In The City of Brotherly Love

I was standing in McPherson Square handing out my typical bananas and water and song sheets. I also had some clothing and toiletries and snacks which had been donated recently.

As I was standing next to my table, a very petite well groomed nice and neat young lady walked up to my table. There was that look of fear in her eyes that told me she was new to those streets. I asked her name and how long she had been there in Kensington and she told me…

 "About 2 weeks."

I already knew the answer would be something like that.

She told me something that I've heard time and time again.

"I came here from my home in the Philadelphia suburbs and I got stuck."

It seems to me that any city referencing itself as the City of Brotherly Love should have a system in place where any human being who has been made in the image of God and who is worthy of the highest dignity and honor and respect and love should be able to walk up to any police officer on the street or walk into any emergency room or clinic or any other such place of authority and say…

"Hi. Help me. I am stuck and I need help now."

Any one of us who has a car knows that we can do that if our car breaks down and we need help from a tow truck. These human beings need a tow truck for their lives.

It is high time that the City of Brotherly Love takes the initiative to identify every single block that prevents these human beings from getting the care that they need promptly and with dignity and respect so that they do not have to live on the street if they would rather not do so.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

You picked me up...

This past Sunday, June 6, 2021, I was standing at the corner of Kensington and Somerset handing out bananas, water and - most importantly - song sheets.  The conversations were wonderful as people stopped to chat.

I'm known as "Banana Man" in this area - a name given to me by a resident of the former 'Emerald City'[1] a few years ago when I started visiting that community with a case of bananas each time.  Rarely do I hear anyone call me Chris and so when it happened on this morning, my actual name caught my ear by surprise.

A young woman I wasn't yet recognizing and in a very conversational tone simply asked:

"Chris, do you still drive for RCA?"

"Yes, I do. How do you know?"

"You picked me up and took me there five months ago."

I did not need to ask her why she was standing in front of me now.  Her presence on that corner meant that she had drifted back into her substance use.

"You can go back today if you'd like."  I reminded her.

"I no longer have my private insurance so I can't." was her response.

I could not help but notice her black and blue eye, peeking out from behind the overgrown bangs of her strawberry blond hair as she spoke. 

"What happened to your eye?" I cautiously inquired.

She explained that she had been assaulted on the street by someone other than the young man standing right next to her this entire time we were speaking.  "He stopped them." She was quick to add.

I asked her for her name and where I had gone to get her.  She told me.  I picked her up at her home about an hour away from Kensington.  I recalled her name from that day I went to get her.

Having given out all but one of Steven's Bags, I told this young lady that I had something for her.  I reached into my car and pulled out the last bag.  As I gave it to her, I explained the story of Steven and how these bags came to be.  She and her male friend were very appreciative.  We said our goodbyes and off they went…

**********

About five minutes before this happened, a much shorter version of the same story occurred.

"Chris, do you still drive for RCA?"

"Yes, I do. How do you know?"

"You picked me up and took me there."

"You can go back today if you'd like."  I reminded her.

"I am no longer on my parents'  insurance so I can't." was her response.

**********

RCA is leading the way in modeling what detox/rehab health care should be in the 21st century.  They can do so because of the combination of high quality and visionary leadership and the funding made available through private insurance payments received for the services that they provide to people dealing with various versions of Substance Use Disorder.

Relapse is not a requirement on that long road to finally claiming victory over substance use but it does happen.  RCA did not fail these two women.  Something along their individual paths led them back to their substances.  In time, provided that overdose or the hazards of street-bound life don't claim them, they will navigate their way back to healing and health once again.

Let's look at that path to healing…

While under their parent's health insurance plans, upon reaching that moment of being 'ready' for detox, these two women would have made a phone call and had their insurance approved.  It was at that point when I would have received a notification to go to their address and bring them in for five-star high-quality treatment that begins before dope sickness can start to cause its problems.  And keep in mind, prior to meeting each one at their home addresses, I had never seen either one on the streets of Kensington or anywhere else.

Having aged out of their parents' insurance policies, these two young ladies are now reliant on the Medicaid health care system with all of its lethargic practices that lack dignity and respect.

Nearly 100% of the people on the streets of Kensington who are there due to active drug use within Substance Use Disorder are reliant on Medicaid funding to find their way back to healing.

I invite you to read this blog A Tale of Fraternal Twins And Simulated Hardwood Floors that provides a side by side comparison of private insurance vs. Medicaid.

The bottom line is this…

It's 'easier' for a street bound Medicaid-reliant patient with Substance Use Disorder to endure the hardships of life on the street than it is to seek the treatment through the only avenue that is CURRENTLY available to them.

Here's how 'Dakota' described this:

I asked her "Without meaning to seem like I'm pushing the idea on you, what keeps you from going to detox?"

She didn't need time to think about it… 

The long wait time, the rudeness of the staff, the need to get high before going in, the need to hide enough drug to inject during a quick trip to the bathroom while waiting to many hours for a bed, the strong possibility that at the end of those hours, being told that there are no beds available in the entire city and to come back the next day.

The final bottom line is this… (Because this blog is getting way tooooo long!)

Kensington Does Not Have an Opioid Crisis!



[1] https://www.google.com/maps/place/2701+Emerald+St,+Philadelphia,+PA/@39.9882186,-75.1228458,3a,61.8y,102.58h,79.1t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sKxB5ul74cfHsIqzG6coriw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c6c82433cb9135:0x260f4013c18e94ab!8m2!3d39.9879455!4d-75.1233488?hl=en&authuser=0

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Steven's Bags

For the past three months or so, my lifelong friends, Shannon and Anne have been organizing some
amazing care packages for me to distribute to the people on the streets of Kensington.  Once every two to four weeks, I've been given anywhere from 10 to 20 bags.  Each is hand decorated and stuffed to the gills with items that are relevant to the needs of the people and season of the year.

As you may know, the needs on the streets of Kensington are staggering.  Since the beginning of this incredible effort, now known as Steven's Bags, rather than hand these bags out to the first x number of people I see, I've discreetly distributed them to specific people on the streets.  I may or may not already know each person.

  • One might go to a man who has just been released from jail only a few hours earlier.  He has no place to go and is trying to get oriented to what's happening in his life. 
  • Another might go to a woman who is standing on a street corner looking to 'do a date' so as to raise funds to support her addiction that she would rather not have. 
  • Another might go to an individual whose worldly possessions have just been stolen while nodding out in drug consumption. 

In each of these examples, it's an incredible privilege to look at each person and tell them that they are unconditionally loved.  And that's the point of these bags.  By discreetly handing out one bag at a time, I'm given the privilege of connecting with an inspirational human being who is made in the image of God and who is worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love.

A note from Shannon:

Steven’s Bags is a grassroots effort to provide a little love in the form of hand-decorated bags packed with food and comfort items for you.  Steven is autistic, does not communicate with speech and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Although originally Steven was only decorating the bags, he now shops for content and participates in the packing. Steven is blessed with a loving and supportive family who focus on his strengths and abilities and a team of support staff whose patience and creativity help him share our love with you.   Look for Steven's Bags on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Your Prayers Are Needed for "Your Helpful Neighbor"

For the past almost five years, I've been visiting Kensington, doing whatever I can and sharing with you the true stories of real people in ways that protect their anonymity.  I've loved every moment of the experience.  I've delivered countless cases of bananas, water, and clothes, along with reams of song sheets.  The latter is the most popular of all and that makes me happy. 

To date, I've provided Narcan to 10 people on the streets.  I've taken a few people to detox, hugged, laughed, and cried with people, spiritually adopted one stunningly brilliant daughter and conducted one funeral of an amazing Christian who was found by overdose before she found healing.

Two cars have served me well during this time.  The first was a Chevy Uplander that eventually met its demise due to an inoperable clogged cooling system.  The second, a Nissan Altima, has held up through an additional 60,000 miles from its previous use.  It is showing signs of nearing the end of its service life.  Its immediate ailments are a failed air conditioner system accompanied by some really inappropriate sounds that led my mechanic to advise me to use the car sparingly until I can get it in the shop tomorrow (Thursday 6/3) morning.  The bill may be pushing $1,000 for repairs.

In the past, I have sought prayer and financial support with the above-mentioned bananas, water, song sheets and other smaller items.  People have been very generous.  I'm now turning to you for the biggest prayer support/fundraiser I've ever done in regard to my efforts in Kensington.

It's time to find a new to me, AKA used vehicle for my efforts in Kensington and personal use. 

Your support could come in various forms such as:

First and foremost, Prayer for the guidance that leads to:

Locating a vehicle through a dealership or private owner who may be sensitive to my efforts and willing to give 'a great deal' or an outright donation of an appropriate vehicle for the cause.

Financial donations by way of any of the processes listed on my fundraising page for when I find the right vehicle (or repair the current one) for the cause.

Any input you care to share is very welcome...

Thank you for considering this possibility.

Prayerfully and Sincerely,

Chris

AKA: Banana Man

Contact Information:

ccwbattin@gmail.com

Phone number provided by way of email

Monday, May 31, 2021

If all goes 'well'… What could go wrong?

Imagine the following scenario:

Heroin[1] usage has you locked into your current lifestyle not so much for the 'high' that you once really enjoyed and virtually never comes to visit anymore but rather for the avoidance of dope sickness.  You know that you must keep injecting heroin or face the consequences.

To keep consuming, you've got to keep earning money.  As a woman, your only available option that can produce the needed funds in a relatively short period of time is to provide sexual services to men who pick you up.  Prior to the first time this guy picks you up, you did not have any knowledge of his existence on this earth.  He's a total stranger to you. 

Before there is any discussion of what he's hoping for from you, you check to be sure he's not an undercover police officer.  Undercover police are not permitted to do or allow certain interactions in the course of their work.  You've learned that the best way to be sure he's not a cop is to ask him if you can kiss him - well let's just say - on a part of his anatomy that should never receive a first kiss from any woman.

Once you're fairly sure that he's not a cop, and following a tiny bit of negotiation on your price for the requested services, you are driven to a secluded street where you provide those services in the front or back seat of his car.  You might be taken to a local hotel or not so local hotel for an extended version of the same.

If all goes 'well' he will take you back and release you where he found you and you're free to go buy your drugs, inject your drugs, avoid your impending dope sickness and then start the process all over again.  There's no schedule for this.  It can be 24/7/365.

If all goes 'well'…

What could go wrong?

I'm trying to avoid the graphic descriptions that I've heard as I describe the following:  

I've spoken to women who have agreed to a 'lesser' level of sexual service only to have far more forced on them.  Even in the context of 'willingly' providing a sexual service, this non-agreed to and uninvited additional activity is considered rape.  Rape in this context goes unreported for obvious reasons.

I've spoken to women who have learned how to escape from a moving car by pulling the door handle, shoving the door open and then rolling out so as to avoid the knife that's just been pulled on them.

Now imagine this:  You finished providing full sexual services in the back seat of a car to this guy who a very short time ago you did not even know existed.  You had been paid in advance to fulfill his desires.  Just before getting out of his car, he pulls a gun on you and demands that you give him his money back or he will kill you.  You comply and he releases you.  You run in fear with tears streaming down your face to a couple of other women you see who are looking for their own dates.  After some time to regroup your thoughts and clean up any hint that you've been crying, you're realizing that dope sickness delays for no one.  You go back to your preferred street corner and start the process all over again… Assault with a deadly weapon in this context goes unreported for obvious reasons.

The quickest path to healing for a Medicaid-reliant patient with Substance Use Disorder does not involve going to a clinic or crisis center.  The quickest path to healing from dope sickness involves one thing: the injection of heroin.  To inject, you must buy.  To buy, you must 'do a date.'  To do a date, you must face the possibility of rape, knives and guns.

The Medicaid system of health care provision to its patients with Substance Use Disorder MUST review every aspect of how it does what it does.  It MUST identify EVERY part of its process that creates a longer path to permanent healing than that path of 'doing a date' at the risk of rape, knives and guns that leads to temporary healing.

For further reading on this subject, I invite you to read this recent blog: "What keeps you from going to detox?"



[1] I'm sticking with the word 'heroin' while recognizing that the contents of those tiny blue packets is rarely just heroin.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

DD or TT? That is the question…

DD or TT?  That is the question…

There are only two ways that opioid use ends for an individual with Substance Use Disorder. 

A person Decides Detox or 'fate' ends it with a Toe Tag.

That's it. There is no alternative…  There is no third option…

I celebrate any time that one of my loved ones on the streets of Kensington Decides to Detox.   That individual has reached the point where they are ready to seek the treatment that will return them to the healthy life that they once knew - and maybe an even more incredible version thereof.

Medicaid reliant patients of Substance Use Disorder on the streets of Kensington - and that's essentially 100 percent of the population - are reliant on medical provision which is far less than honorable and does not reflect the standards of the Hippocratic Oath upon which all medical professionals have committed their careers.

When any of our loved ones on the streets of Kensington reaches that point of Deciding Detox, the Medicaid-based health care community MUST be prepared - as required by the Hippocratic Oath - to provide services to their patients in a beneficial, prompt, dignity and respect filled manner.

This is not the case:

Does Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love - truly want to end what is called the 'opioid crisis'?  If so, please stop looking at it as an "opioid crisis"!  When it comes to the people on the streets of Kensington, what we are seeing play out day in and day out, night in and night out is far more of a crisis in the delivery of Medicaid based health care than it is a crisis led by an inanimate powder in a little blue wrapper.

We cannot correct the ways of that inanimate powder to stop being anything other than what it is. 

We can correct the ways of a broken system of health care so as to bring healing to its patients so they can overcome the inherent hazards of that inanimate powder.

Do we want to save far more lives (and families) than we are now?

Solve the Medicaid-based health care delivery process and we will do so.

For further reading, I invite you to click here:

Kensington Does Not Have an Opioid Crisis!


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Medical Representatives within the Medicaid system of health care providers are not treating their patients as they should.

This article from WHYY is about the exact area of most of my visits.  I would encourage you to read or listen to it and check out the pictures.  

I'm thrilled that the transportation organization SEPTA is providing social services to these amazing men and women who have this medical condition known as Substance Use Disorder.

I'm happy that police whose role is street-level law enforcement have the Police Assisted Diversion Program that assists these amazing men and women who have this medical condition known as Substance Use Disorder.

I'm just wondering when the local medical community whose professional members have dedicated their careers to the ideals of Hippocrates for the purpose of medical provision to medical patients will actually step forward and start to treat their medical patients who have Substance Use Disorder with prompt dignity and respect-filled care.

If you're reading this blog and not familiar with Substance Use Disorder, it is recognized as a medical disease. The Philadelphia Police Department and SEPTA should not have to be involved in a leadership role in treating medical patients who have a medical disease.

Medical Representatives within the Medicaid system of health care providers are not treating their patients as they should.

Let's personalize this personal situation:

In this picture from the article, you see Kenneth Harris interacting with a woman who needs services related to her Substance Use Disorder. 

"Get out of My Emergency Room!"

It is high time that the Medicaid-based medical community - in the spirit and name of Hippocrates - steps forward and invites their patients into a prompt dignity and respect filled healing experience so that these people - these inspirational human beings who are made in the image of God and worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love - can get on with their lives and back to their families and realize the joy of living.

There's a world of difference between the styles of health care provision to Substance Use Disorder patients depending on their Private vs. Medicaid insurance status.  Here's a blog that looks at those differences.  The private insurance realm of this tragedy can and should lead the way in finding solutions so as to save the millions of lives that lie in wait of much wanted and needed prompt dignity and respect filled health care services.

 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

"What keeps you from going to detox?"

As I begin writing this blog, it's 8:00am on Monday.  'Dakota' has been walking the streets of Kensington most of the night looking to do a few dates so she can buy her 'medicine' to get high or, more likely, to avoid dope sickness.  "The guys who pick up girls on the street are cheap."[1]  She further explains that when a girl has a "regular" who calls her, that guy typically pays much more - $60.00 or more and rarely but sometimes ridiculously more.

In past conversations, Dakota has expressed interest in going to detox.  "This isn't fun anymore."  I don't get high and it's getting harder to make money."  She then shares with me her plan on getting to the local crisis center for the required evaluation the next day.  The next day and then the next week comes and goes and Dakota is still walking the streets looking for dates and buying her medicine.  Annoyance with the situation is obvious in her voice.

This morning, as Dakota was waiting for an as of yet unknown date to pick her up, we were talking on the phone.  I asked her "Without meaning to seem like I'm pushing the idea on you, what keeps you from going to detox?"

She didn't need time to think about it… 

The long wait time, the rudeness of the staff, the need to get high before going in, the need to hide enough drug to inject during a quick trip to the bathroom while waiting to many hours for a bed, the strong possibility that at the end of those hours, being told that there are no beds available in the entire city and to come back the next day.

Her answer was a repeat of everything I've been hearing from other Medicaid-reliant patients with Substance Use Disorder.  Click here to read how one of Dakota's street mates described her experience of trying to get into detox.

The urgency to fix this broken Medicaid system is real and was made crystal clear during this same phone conversation with Dakota (now at 9:00am) about an hour ago.  As we were talking, she was walking and rounded a corner.  In front of her, down the street just a bit, Philadelphia police were attending to a deceased man laying on the sidewalk in a very common location where people go to inject their 'medicine.'  Now an hour later, it's reasonable to presume that there's a family receiving a phone call, that long dreaded phone call, informing them that their loved one has "died of an overdose."

In that exact moment, yes, that son/father/brother/uncle/etc. died of an overdose.  How many times did he try to get help and experience what Dakota's street mate experienced?  Had he ever overdosed before, been saved by Narcan, transported to a local hospital, and then been told by a registered nurse to "Get out of my emergency room!" as had been Allison?

Kensington Does Not Have an Opioid Crisis!

If opioids didn't exist, we wouldn't have what has been labeled an 'opioid crisis.'  But they do exist and they are on the streets in the form of an inanimate powder that is simply doing what it does.  It's our society's lack of healthy response that is causing the crisis here. 

An inanimate powder cannot change its ways.  It is up to us as a society led by medical professionals who have dedicated their careers to the ideals of Hippocrates to change how we respond to it. 

By making the needed changes ASAP, Dakota can find the healing she desires in a medical setting of prompt dignity and respect. 

Two and a half hours after starting to write this blog, by way of text, Dakota has just this moment told me that she's not yet found even one more date.  This means dope sickness and desire for healing is setting in big time.  She knows that the shorter path to comfort is to keep looking for a date rather than looking to the Medicaid health care system.  And so she walks, stands on street corners, tucks in her nausea[2] for the world not to see and hopes that some guy will pick her up, pay her for some degree of sexual service and then let her go so she can buy her medicine and relieve her pain.

Kensington Does Not Have an Opioid Crisis!

PS: I've known 'Dakota' for a few years now. She's an amazing naturally gifted counselor and my dearest friend.

The final edit of this blog has been approved by Dakota.

{1] Putting that in perspective, Some women might only get $20.00 per date.  If a woman has a drug habit that costs $200.00 per day, that's 10 dates every 24 hours 7 days per week 365 days per year = 3,650 dates per year.  To add to this disturbing number as has been explained to me, about 60% of these guys are married or in committed relationships.  That's 2,190 acts of adultery on the man's part per year per woman who is not getting the detox she desires.

[2] Symptoms of dope sickness – and their intensity – can vary by person, drug of choice, and the amount of drugs used on a regular basis. However, common signs of dope sickness include Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation, Loss of appetite/huge return of appetite, Hot and cold flashes, Muscle aches and spasms, The sensation of bugs crawling on or under the skin, Hyper-awareness, Dry mouth, Headaches, Insomnia, Sweating…

These physical effects are often accompanied by mental and emotional symptoms. Those who are dope sick may also experience: Agitation, Anxiety, Paranoia, Frustration, Depression, Despondency

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

We can do this! Let us make it so!

This past Sunday, May 23, 2021, there were more blessings than I can describe as I wandered the streets of Kensington. I arrived early due to the expected excessive heat anticipated for later in the day.  I saw my stunningly intelligent daughter Rose.  I had awesome conversations with street residents and multi-generational residents of the area. 

I distributed my usual bananas and water and song sheets.  One of those recipients was a cute-as-button young woman who has told me that she's sick of 'doing dates' with total strangers so as to raise needed funds to meet her medicinal needs of street bound Substance Use Disorder.  She's experimenting with drug dealing as an alternative income source.

The heat was getting oppressive.  I was driving up "The Ave." with my windows down due to the dead air conditioning in my dying car.  I glanced to my left and saw Destiny and Kassidy sitting in the shade of an open lot near Kensington and Somerset.[1]  I did a mid-block u-turn - a skill I've developed in these recent years, pulled to the side of the street, and parked.  I walked up to them, sat on an available pillow, and we got caught up on an abridged version of the stuff in our lives.

A bit of back story:  If you knew where to look on Facebook, you would find some incredible pictures of Destiny and Kassidy in their years before addiction took over.  They are a stunning couple filled with the joy of life.  They are my actual suburban neighbors with family homes within a reasonable bicycle ride of where I am sitting as I write this blog.

Destiny had recently injected her medicine and was dipping out on a combination of pillows.  Once we were sure she was safe, Kassidy and I went to Martin's Deli,[2] ordered a Chicken Nuggets Platter with cheese fries and coleslaw and a couple of drinks.  We walked back to Destiny who was now awake.  We rearranged the pillows to form three places to sit and used two pillows to create a table for our Sunday dinner.

Kassidy looked at me as we were getting organized and gave me the ultimate compliment:

"People who do what you do don't do what you're doing."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

Kassidy went on to explain that people who visit the streets to be kind in various ways to the people who live on those streets don't ever sit with them on the ground and would never do so for the purpose of eating dinner.  "We're not clean." She said as she stared at the ground beneath our pillows. 

I thanked Kassidy for her kind words and pointed out that "being clean or not clean" should only refer to the last time a person took a bath or had a shower.  "You have a medical condition here that is causing you to do what you do.  That has nothing to do with being or not being 'clean.'"  Destiny and Kassidy both smiled their charming smiles at that thought.

Dinnertime conversation wandered from topic to topic as we dipped our chicken nuggets in the ranch and honey-mustard sauces.  The cheese fries were awesome especially when dipped in either sauce. My typical chocolate milk had the added ingredients of bliss and joy as I shared this moment with my misplaced suburban neighbors.

At one point, a cluster of Sunday afternoon street evangelists visited the three of us and encouraged all of us to stop our sinful drug use or risk the eternal consequences. 

As the actual neighbors who Destiny and Kassidy are to me, I've agreed to celebrate their sobriety with them by treating them to dinner at Harry's Savoy Grill by the end of this summer.  And then I asked a question of them that brings me to the actual point of this blog:

"What's your first step in achieving that sobriety that will lead us to Harry's?"

I wasn't expecting the answer that Destiny gave me:  "We don't know what to do."

I hope my confusion wasn't obvious.  I was wondering how these two intelligent women could not know that they need to go to the nearest crisis center (which isn't actually 'near' to them), strip down to one layer of outer clothing, walk through a metal detector, be frisked by a male guard, fill out a form, sit in a stench filled room on chairs that should have been retired from use years ago and wait with all of their personal effects bagged up in trash bags out of reach of them hour upon hour upon hour with little to no comfort care as dope sickness increases only to be told that there are no beds available in the entire City of Brotherly Love and that they must now depart the premises and should come back some other day and try again.

"We don't know what to do." suddenly made sense to me.

Why should a patient with Substance Use Disorder tolerate and subject themselves to such torment, medical neglect and substandard of care from a medical community made up of people who have dedicated their careers to the ideals of Hippocrates?

Let's turn "We don't know what to do." Into "We know what to do." 

Let's create a five-star high quality intake process right there on Kensington Avenue where those hundreds of homeless Substance Use Disorder patients will see dignity and respect flowing from its front doors, and know that they will be cared for and promptly tended to when they reach that point of wanting release from their addiction! 

We can do this!  Let us make it so!



[1] https://www.google.com/maps/place/Kensington+Ave+%26+E+Somerset+St,+Philadelphia,+PA+19134/@39.9918085,-75.121953,3a,75y,291.12h,98.82t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sgSBrSomJw-IXWIzyg_2k4A!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c6c826ffa4f833:0xaad848b951dfb238!8m2!3d39.991429!4d-75.1225621?hl=en&authuser=0

[2] https://www.google.com/maps/place/Kensington+Ave+%26+E+Somerset+St,+Philadelphia,+PA+19134/@39.9911561,-75.1231401,3a,75y,354.94h,92.17t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1swEnaUuv2CmzgUyLkNGhfvw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c6c826ffa4f833:0xaad848b951dfb238!8m2!3d39.991429!4d-75.1225621?hl=en&authuser=0

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Harm Reduction practices must involve more than the typically understood elements.

One year ago almost today, a woman overdosed, was saved by Narcan, transported by ambulance to a local hospital and told by the Registered Nurse to

"Get out of my emergency room!"

This nurse continued on with her career and so did this almost died patient of Substance Use Disorder. 

Based on averages that have been shared with me, it's not unreasonable to think that this patient, having been thrown out of an emergency room has performed 10 acts of prostitution every 24 hours seven days per week since that day.  That's 3,650 times that she has hopped in a car, been parked in a back alley, or taken to a hotel room or private home in Philadelphia or its suburbs (including New Jersey), risked various forms of harsh and threatening treatment including rape, been occasionally threatened at knife and/or gunpoint and gone through some of this from time to time intensely dope sick. 

Let's add another sickening element.  Again, based on what these ladies have told me, at least 6 of those ten 'dates' in each 24-hour cycle are married or otherwise in an actual committed relationship.        

**********

When a Registered Nurse who had committed her career to the ideals of Hippocrates looks at a patient in her care and demands "Get out of my emergency room!", she also demands abject failure of that opportunity for healing in the life of that patient.

If this same nurse had honored her Hippocratic Oath, maybe, just maybe, this woman, this patient with Substance Use Disorder, would have found healing.  In finding healing, she would not have done 3,650 'dates'.  X number of threats of violence and rape that will forever go unreported would never have happened.  2,190 violations of marriage or committed relationship would not have found opportunity with this patient.

Harm Reduction practices must involve more than the typically understood elements.  Harm reduction must also involve the suspension of the license of any medical professional who does not honor their Hippocratic Oath as they deal with Medicaid-reliant men and women who suffer from the officially recognized diagnosis of Substance Use Disorder.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

An absolutely overlooked aspect of "Harm Reduction" is that part that demands the termination of any medical professional who does not live up to their Hippocratic Oath to 'do no harm.'

I was cleaning a table today that had unintentionally overgrown with multiple days worth of the current day's receipts and other miscellaneous stuff when I found two used doses of Narcan, lovingly placed in a bowl as a testimony to the young lady life almost lost and yet saved and then tossed to the street by a registered nurse who had, at the beginning of her professional career, dedicated that career to the ideals of Hippocrates.

Only a bit before May 6, 2020, Allison laid blue and nearly lifeless on the steps of the Somerset El stop.  Someone else had administered Narcan #1.  After four minutes, I provide the second and mouth to mouth resuscitation in the absence of any of her own breathing.  She stepped away from the cliff of death that navigates its way around the edges of Medicaid Mountain, walked to the ambulance, was transported to Episcopal Hospital and was told by the registered nurse to

"Get out of my emergency room!"

Today, one year later, Allison continues her life of drug use - increased recently as she told me three days ago - continues with 'dates' and the horrors of street life.  She wishes she was dead just like her childhood friend Diane

How different would Allison's life be right now if that registered nurse had fulfilled her Hippocratic Oath when Allison came through those emergency room doors?

An absolutely overlooked aspect of "Harm Reduction" is that part that demands the termination of any medical professional who does not live up to their Hippocratic Oath to 'do no harm.'

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Samples!

As I sat at Ruth and Somerset[1] on the open trunked back bumper of my Nissan Altima, a man who I'd never met came up to me and shared how he had "been away for several months."[2]  He teared up as he shared with me how he had just learned that two of his closest guy friends had overdosed and died during that time. 

"I don't know how that could have ever happened to them." was his summary statement with this conversation.  He then turned and headed in the direction of the "Samples!"[3] call that had been announced further down the street.

Barely a minute later, another man who I'd only met one other time some time ago was walking in the direction of the 'samples' call.  He stopped to talk.  And talk we did.  He accepted my usual banana, water, and song sheet and then just stayed to talk.  There was no particular topic…  Just talk…

"I've been 'clean' for a couple months now.  I heard the call for 'samples' and started to go to get one even though I knew deep down inside my heart that I didn't want one.  Seven people died in a call for samples up near McPherson Square yesterday.  I saw you and stopped to talk so that I wouldn't go get the sample."

In itself, that's a remarkable thought.  This man used my presence on the street to keep himself from breaking his 'clean time' and potentially saving his own life.

But this moment gets better.

The first man, having retrieved his 'sample' backtracked to me, asked for a bottle of water,[4] saw his presumably recently deceased dear friend and burst into tears that instantly and spontaneously turned into a bear hug between them that lasted at least a minute…

Praise God!



[1] https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ruth+St+%26+E+Somerset+St,+Philadelphia,+PA+19134/@39.9908549,-75.1220859,3a,75y,272.48h,75.66t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sV2i1ASYn3kg5G8qVrsRFNw!2e0!6shttps:%2F%2Fstreetviewpixels-pa.googleapis.com%2Fv1%2Fthumbnail%3Fpanoid%3DV2i1ASYn3kg5G8qVrsRFNw%26cb_client%3Dsearch.gws-prod.gps%26w%3D360%26h%3D120%26yaw%3D55.98066%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100!7i16384!8i8192!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c6c82650aa0fb5:0x66597182623d2bd5!8m2!3d39.9908595!4d-75.1220512?hl=en&authuser=0

[2] This probably meant a period of time in jail.                                                                                                                               

[3] "Samples!" refers to an announcement on the streets that the dealers are providing for free a sample of a new batch of drug to be experienced by the consumer.

[4] For drinking and/or using to mix his sample