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.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Reaching "Ready" Before Overdose Overtakes

From time to time, I must use some harsh words and offensive language so as to describe an event.  

This is one of those times.


Imagine being a young woman living on the streets of Kensington with Substance Use Disorder, fully addicted to some combination of drugs that have occupied your mind and body for months or years, being reliant on "dating" to support the financial expense of buying those drugs and then having on top of all that a guy screaming in your face on a public sidewalk as loud as a human being can scream: 

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

 

You scream back through panicked tears: 

"Get away from me!"

"Get away from me!"

"Get away from me!"

 

You try to escape and he continues in your face for all in the vicinity to hear and witness: 

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

 

You try to get away and finally do.  

You're shaking and walking alone and those words are giving a third-degree burn to your soul.  The last two words burn deepest as they are both derogatory words used by far too many people - who don't know you - to describe your current situation. 

The fire of those words continues to burn through you as you tearfully walk toward two men who do outreach work, both of whom you know.  One calls over to you: 


" 'Candice,' You are a fine and decent woman.  You are made in the image of God.  You are worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love." 


You walk over to him, bury your face in his chest and ask to be hugged.  You wail with the agony of burn bandages being ripped off your wounds.  Too many emotions to describe create a flash flood of tears rushing down your cheeks.  The agony is beyond staggering and absolutely immense. 

After a minute or so, you calm a bit.  You back away.  You gather your composure.  You try to engage in some pleasant conversation with the two men and then you turn and walk away.  The next thing that you must focus on is finding in the next few minutes that next date who doesn't even know you exist.  You will provide him with some degree of sexual "service” so as to support your financial expense of buying those drugs that your dope sickness demands you consume so as to avoid its return.  

This scene played out in front of me this past Wednesday as I stood in front of an old Fidelity Bank Building at the corner of Kensington and Huntington Avenues.   

********** 

For most of my life, I've called Glen Mills, Pa. my home.  For about five years of her life, 'Candice' did too.  We both know of and have been in Elam United Methodist Church, Saint John's Episcopal Church and Chester Heights Market.  'Candice' is not now, nor has she ever been a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie. 

If you claim Glen Mills or vicinity as your address then 'Candice' is your literal, actual, and factual misplaced neighbor.  She suffers from a combination of Substance Use Disorder in its active drug consumption phase and the gross incompetence of the Medicaid system of health care reimbursement to promptly provide detox/rehab to her with the spirit of dignity and respect that she deserves. 

'Candice,' and thousands of other human beings like her, do not have the private medical insurance with its higher rates of reimbursement that make it possible for her to make one phone call and be picked up to enter proven best practices treatment before half the day has passed.  

In the absence of proper reimbursement by Medicaid, the moment of being "ready" for treatment for people reliant on Medicaid must reach such a staggering level of hideousness that many people don't find it before overdose finds them. 


There's a simple solution to this death inviting issue.  

Medicaid must reimburse all detox/rehabs at a level equal to private insurance.  People who understand society's distribution of finances could easily rearrange available dollars so patients of Substance Use Disorder can sleep on a rehab bed and not a sidewalk nor jailhouse cot and visit with a nurse and doctor and therapist and not a judge and public defender and prosecutor. 

Once again, just as I did in this blog, I'm calling on all persons who have any degree of official standing within this topic to look deep within your realm of influence and  to work with others to make the changes that must be made so that neighbors such as 'Candice' can know that detox is one phone call and not more than two hours away.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Crucial Connections when Dealing with BOTH sides of Addiction…

Jolene and I have decided to write a topic or two together, each from our own perspectives.  This is our first attempt.  You can find Jolene's first entry of this dialogue on her blog site by clicking here.  I've copied that text into this blog reading.  We hope you find this helpful.       

I look forward to this ongoing discussion.        

Chris 

**********

Crucial Connections when Dealing with BOTH sides of Addiction… 

Jolene: 

In my personal opinion, obtaining and sustaining any level of personal connections with others is of the utmost importance in the recovery process. In my own addiction, I was an extremely self-loathing and self-destructive person. I was fortunate, however, to have created some wonderful & helpful connections with others that aided in strengthening my desire to stop actively using drugs, as well as showing support, especially early in my recovery. I truly believe that if it were not for those few connections I had, I would’ve not been very successful in my recovery. I recall saying that “I know that you mean more to me, than I do to you, but I appreciate the support cuz a little goes a long way”. Mainly, because I felt as though I was just another “face” to them in their outreach work. I, personally, lost any family support a long time ago and was, I feel, very fortunate to have any connections/ friendships during that point in time in my life. I felt as though I would’ve disappointed my support people if I went back to actively using once I’d gotten off of drugs. That was a huge part of my decision-making process at that time. I also did it for myself, but due to my low self-esteem, it was “easier” for me to care more about what others felt than myself at that time. 

Chris: 

As a person doing street outreach and having never dealt with Substance Use Disorder in my own life, I was sure that my goal was to get at least one person into detox each and every time I visited the streets.  I came to understand that my efforts, for as well-intended as they were, were misplaced and inappropriate.  

The more I listened and casually chatted with people without any specific goal beyond that - basic conversation - , the more they[1] opened their lives to me.  I have heard stories of blood-curdling agony the likes of which would drive any child, young adult, high school dropout or soon to be surgeon to consume whatever pain killer they could find.  I never would have heard these accurate accounts of life behind closed family doors if I had continued to be focused solely on putting another notch in my belt of getting one more into detox.  

The result of this has been profound.  I can't put into words what it's like 

  • To sit on a sidewalk while someone's son/daughter injects in front of me and explains how much they despise doing so but MUST because they need their medicine. 
  • To have a dealer ask me what he needs to do to stop doing what he does because he's sick of knowing that he's potentially killing people is a role that I never expected to be in. 
  • To give a bottle of water to someone's daughter as she hops out of one car and immediately into the next while saying to her loud enough that she and the two drivers can hear "(First Name), you are made in the image of God and you are worthy of the highest dignity, honor, respect and love." is a setting I would never be in if belt notching was my goal. 

I've made a few mistakes along the way but overall, I've come to understand that through connection, doors open and healings happen.  The following TedTalk presents this topic nicely: 

 

 



[1] "They" is a term that I've grown to find as inappropriate in one way.  We must remember that "they," the people trapped in Substance Use Disorder and homelessness, are very literally an extension of "us," the non Substance Use Disorder and non homeless members of our one society.


Sunday, July 19, 2020

This Isn't the Rainbow Bridge!

The number one thought that goes through the mind of a kitten is this: 

"It's time to run over there!" 

And it does…  

It runs over there and then over there and then over there and then stops to eat and then over there and then over there and then to stops to use the little box and then over there and then over there and then takes a nap and then over there and then over there and it goes on and on and on… 

That kitten grows and runs and eats and poops and loves and gets older and then that day comes when for as much as you don't want to do so, you know it's time to take it to the veterinarian for that shot that will put your loved one to 'sleep' and transport its soul over the rainbow bridge. 

 **********

Your child, that flesh of your flesh, plays, and poops and eats and naps and grows.  He or she gets injured in high school sports, or gets 'played with' by his/her uncle or biological father or witnesses any number of horrors around them in the young day to day of life. 

It's too much pain to bear and pain can be relieved by pain meds:   legal or street. 

And your child injects and physically fades with the same slumping as your dear former kitten upon that injection so as to be put to 'sleep' by the veterinarian.    

Unlike your cat/vet relationship, this injection is self administered with the same intellectual knowledge that this may bring about death and or final peace from the miseries experienced throughout life.

********** 

When will the powers that be: 

  • the elected officials who set societal policy 

decide that they need to treat these men and women not as soon to be dead pets but as human beings in need of dignity, honor, respect, love and healing?

 

When?

 

When?

 

When?


This Isn't the Rainbow Bridge!


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Photographic Memory

Maintaining confidentiality in the midst of telling a true story in a blog can be especially challenging at times.  This blog is one of those moments.  Some of what I'm going to share won't make sense in the absence of the whole story which, for reasons of confidentiality, cannot be shared… 
So, when something doesn't make sense, just know I'm maintaining the privacy of the person… 

**********

We sat near the corner of This and That Streets as I gave her a cell phone for her birthday.  The corner heroin dealer - or lookout - or whatever his role is  - looked on as I, this white guy from the suburbs, sat on the sidewalk in the birthday celebration of one of his clients.

As the gift-giving concluded, she told me that she needed to take her next dose of medicine.  She prepared it, injected it, and faded into a lump of bilingual, God imaged humanity with her photographic memory waiting to be developed through detox and rehab - but not today.

And we sat,

and sat,

and sat…

45 minutes later, her high came down and my friend reawakened for conversation and kindness.  The dealer looked on, still seemingly confused by the sitting-on-the-sidewalk white guy from the suburbs and his client, the birthday girl.

Six weeks of continuous guarding of that phone by this previous birthday girl gave way to a brief moment of theft.  The phone was gone, never to be found by her again.

I called it twice a day for the next three days.  It rang each time which I thought odd for a phone whose battery should have died within the first few hours of waywardness.

On the third day, just before my decision to suspend the account, I called one more time…

It rang four times and then,


"Hola"


The woman on the other end of the phone explained that she had found this phone in a trash can[1] three days earlier, knew it belonged to someone, kept it charged and hoped for a call in search of it.

She and I met an hour later at another corner of This and That Streets in the Heart of Kensington, a section of Philadelphia, in the bull's-eye of the heroin epidemic on the east coast of the United States of America.

In a day or so, I hope to re-gift this phone to its original recipient with her photographic memory waiting to be developed through detox - maybe that day.



[1] With a passcode having been created for this phone, the thief would have found the phone useless and, therefore, thrown it away as soon as possible.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Don't Fall Short of Your Chance to Choose Detox and Life.

A former resident of the streets of Kensington told me the following as they were in the midst of their street experience.  I didn't really understand what they meant until recently.

Here is a simplified version of what I learned that day…

Life as a person in the grips of addiction is as follows:

Make money. Get high.
Make money. Get high.
Make money. Get high.

Make money. Get high.
Make money. Get high.

Die.


OR

Make money. Get high.
Make money. Get high.
Make money. Get high.

Make money. Get high.
Make money. Get high.
Make money. Get high.

Choose Detox and Life.


Nobody chooses to Die.

There's one choice that you have the chance to choose.

Choose Detox and life…

Did you notice that in the example above, there are five lines before "Die." and six lines before "Choose Detox and Life."?  Don't (literally) fall short of your chance to choose detox and life.


"Die?  That won't happen to me." - you've told me...  Did your friend who died wake up that morning saying "Today is the day I'm going to die."  No. Of course not.  Now is your chance to choose detox and life.



The former street resident who taught me this eventually chose Detox and Life.  They (avoiding the he/she pronoun to add anonymity) are recently engaged and moving toward marriage.

Choose Detox and Life...


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

For as much as I want to know your pain, I never will.

Having never been in the vices of any particular substance, there is no way for me to fully understand in a first hand kind of way what it's like to be so viced.  Over these past four years of visiting the people of Kensington, I've developed a fairly decent second hand intellectual understanding of what it's like to be dope sick, desperate, and deprived of dignity.  Short of deliberately starting to use substances and becoming homeless and Medicaid dependant, I will never know firsthand what it's like.  My current level of understanding is where I will stay.  And that seems to be okay with my friends who do understand in that first hand kind of way.

********** 

Dear Friends who live on the sidewalks of Kensington, 

For as much as I want to know your pain, I never will.  I can know you have outrageous levels of pain in your soul as you recall 

  • that uncle and/or biological father who did what he did to you when you were young.
  • that family tragedy that left you with none of them.
  • those promising days of sports success that ended in injury and a prescription that led you to the underside of a bridge 

For as much as I want to know your pain, I never will.  I can know you have outrageous levels of pain in your soul as you recall 

  • the registered nurse who told you to get out of her emergency room that day you overdosed and managed to be saved by a bystander's Narcan.
  • the stranger who threw things and savage words at you as you sat on the sidewalk.
  • the officer who demanded you leave your sidewalk address where you've lived since your last sidewalk eviction. 

For as much as I want to know your pain, I never will.  I can know you have outrageous levels of pain in your soul as you seek 

  • healing in the midst of entrapment in the barbaric Medicaid system of health care reimbursement.

As if all of that - and so much more - is not bad enough, For as much as I want to know your pain, I never will.  I can know you have outrageous levels of pain and anxiety in your soul as you now experience 

  • Corona Virus and an impossible-at-street-level requirement of isolation and social distancing and wondering who will die from it on top of who will die from overdose. 

For as much as I want to know your pain, I never will.  As the icing on your slice of Cyanide cake of all of the agonies mentioned and not mentioned above, I can know you have staggering, mind-blowing, outrageous levels of pain in your soul as you now experience for reasons that go far beyond discussion in this blog 

  • Looting and shooting and
  • barbequed buildings spreading their ash on that spot of cement from which you've been not yet evicted and you are stuck to call home. 

For as much as I want to know your pain, I never will.  

For as much as I will never know of your pain, this much I do know first hand 

  • You are loved with a love that far exceeds any and all of the agonies mentioned and not mentioned above.  

To tell you "Jesus loves you." may seem an understandably ridiculous statement from your vantage point.  

I can choose to know firsthand the agonies that come with substance use by trying a substance.  All I need to do is to ask you for my first sample. 

You can choose to know firsthand, the love of Jesus, the love that comes with following in Faith.  All you need to do is ask Him for your first sample. 

I do pray that people who know firsthand the outrageous levels of love in their soul from Jesus will choose to walk alongside you as you know firsthand the outrageous agonies of your soul. 

Of the two choosings, Jesus WILL WIN…  

Read this absolute promise: 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord (Jesus).

“They are plans for good and not for disaster,

to give you a future and a hope. 

Jeremiah 29:11  (NLT)

 

 

 

 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

30 Minutes

30 Minutes 

Dear Glen Mills Pa., 

30 minutes away from you, a man stands at an intersection addicted and homeless and bearded and bent and smelly and begging for money to fund his addiction to the street level pain killer that will kill his emotional pain.  He is haunted by that night his wife and children burned to death when a drunk driver slammed into his car that she was driving.  He was at work in his full-time job to be the breadwinner for his treasured family. 


30 Minutes 

Dear Garnet Valley Pa., 

30 minutes away, a woman enters homelessness under a bridge known as "Emerald City."  We laugh together about her unusual street name.  She goes on one of her first "dates" the next day where she prostitutes herself as her only available income. He rapes her, slices her throat, and leaves her dead 24 hours later. 


30 Minutes 

Dear Radnor Pa., 

30 minutes away a woman is getting into an Uber paid for by her next date.  She will soon arrive in your neighborhood and lay in your neighbor's ill-fated marriage bed where she will provide him with the "relief" his marriage no longer does.  She will return to Kensington with her income, buy her medicine, and continue in her life of addiction. 


30 Minutes 

Dear Bensalem Pa., 

30 Minutes away, as Natalie Grant Sang "Clean" at the Christian Life Center, the Kensington version of the lady in her song longs for the day when a random guy doesn't see her as a "hole to stick himself in." 


30 Minutes

.........


Friday, May 22, 2020

sewer pipes and fluffy beds, the differences in insurance

Not all that long ago, I was driving through South Philadelphia in a fully loaded Ford Explorer, my mobile office as a driver for a five star detox/rehab.  I saw a very dark skinned man with long dreads crossing the street at my red light.  His clothes and the condition of those clothes made it clear that the street was his home.  

He had a deep smile and why shouldn’t he?  He was walking with a long time trusted friend, a woman whose clothes and general appearance suggested that her home was that of the street as well.  Her smile radiated back that she too felt good about the companion beside her.

I’ve come to know these two people  over the past couple of years as I do what I do in Kensington, a section of Philadelphia which from where this scene played out, is a very healthy walk.   

He’s a great bass guitar player.  They are both kind hearted and trapped on the streets by the barbaric procedures required of them within their Medicaid reliance to find healing if they ever hope to be free of their substance use…

And here I was, just a few blocks away from picking up a person who, about four hours earlier, had decided to enter detox and rehab so as to free himself of his substance use.

My light turned green.  I drove through the intersection, pulled over and jumped out of my five star black car.  With an atypical boldness for a suburban white guy, I shouted loud enough to be heard across the busy City street and down the half city block that was already separating this caring couple from me.  The man must have heard me right away.  He turned and saw me waving.  He immediately waved back with his dreads blowing a bit in the breeze.  She realized quickly thereafter what was happening and waved as well.

This was an inspiring and sad moment.  We waved back and forth in seeming delight at seeing each other for the first time since Covid moved to town.  The traffic pattern and our individual agendas made crossing the street for a closer greeting one to the other not practical.  

As I hopped back into my five star black car, the unfairness of the moment really hit me.  Here are three different people, all equally human and worthy of the highest dignity, honor, respect and love.  Two are heading for their favorite yet to be buried in a construction project sewer pipe or back ally to settle into and sleep for the night.  The third person who I was about to meet for the first time ever is  now in his earliest stages of a month of five star rehab being shown his room that has a large flat screen tv and firm yet fluffy bed.

The only difference between this couple on the street and this man in his room – the quality of their insurance.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

MVP - Medicaid Vs. Private insurance

I will never forget the day as long as I live.  Allison (not her actual name) had come up to me saying that she wanted to talk to me but had to go do her shot first.  I said okay and please be careful.  She said she would be right over there on the steps that lead to the El (elevated train line) on Somerset Street. 

A few minutes later there was a commotion on those steps.  I looked up that direction and there lying at a 45-degree angle on the steps was the same winter coat from which Allison had said she will be right back.  People were yelling:  "Does anybody have Narcan?"  I had two units in my pocket.  I dashed up those steps asking people to get out of my way.  A face growing increasingly blue with ears to match told me that Allison was in serious trouble.  I gave her one Narcan as two police officers looked on in support and crowd control.  I checked Allison for breathing.  At first there was some, not much but some.  I tried gently shaking her hoping that the Narcan would quickly take its effect and revive her failing body.  Monitoring her vitals, I was aware that she was maintaining a pulse.  Her body was starting to slip down those elevated rail line steps.  I tried my best to hold her up and to keep her head protected as she drifted toward Kensington Avenue. 

Continuing to monitor her breathing I realized she was not and so I gave her some very light mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  As I held her I was almost yelling "Allison, do not do this to your children!  Come back to us now!"

A few minutes after a second Narcan, Allison began to revive and appeared very confused.  By this time the ambulance had arrived and she was able to walk to it and was transported to Episcopal Hospital.  In a moment in which I was not in the room, the nurse told her to get out of her emergency room.  I could not find Allison for for the rest of the night.  I did not learn of these details until the following day when Allison explained to me why she supposedly left the emergency room. I reported that nurse to administration at Episcopal Hospital and supposedly the issue was addressed very firmly and included safeguards to assure such a thing would never happen again.

In my work with men and women, as they come into detox, I’ve had the privilege of hearing many stories.  I will never forget the story of another young woman who overdosed in the privacy of her own house and just happened to be discovered by a family friend who walked in and saw her on the brink of death.  This family member provided Narcan and CPR. This particular young lady was transported to a local hospital where she was treated and transferred to a detox facility that helped her address her situation and guided her to move on in a healthy way.

Allison lives in a world of substance use and addiction and homelessness and is reliant on the Medicaid system to cover her medical expenses to help her move on in a healthy way with her life.  Months after this story that I have just shared with you she remains on the streets of Kensington suffering to a staggering degree that breaks my heart every time I see her.  She is a good and fine and wonderful person. She is a mother of several.  She is worthy of dignity and honor and respect and love.  She is victimized time and time again by the obvious aspects of living on the street.  She is also victimized time and time again by the barbaric Medicaid system that cannot or will not provide the care that she desperately needs and wants.

The second young lady who I have described in this story is fortunate enough to have private insurance. Upon entering this acute stage of her substance use disorder and addiction, the processes that exist within the private insurance realm of healthcare kicked right in.  She immediately began receiving the health care that she needed and wanted so that she could move on with her life in a healthy way. 

Both of these women are worthy of dignity and honor and respect and love. One received it thanks to private insurance.  Allison did not.  It is high time that we level the playing field and make it possible for all human beings to receive the same quality care that is available to people who have private insurance.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Titles and Testimonies


Dr. Tony Campolo has a sermon that he calls " Titles and Testimonies."  It's a powerful message about people from the Bible who had impressive titles such as king, queen, etc and yet did not necessarily have an impressive testimony.  Dr. Campolo compares these impressively titled people with less titled individuals who made a powerful difference in the lives of those around them.

His message has come to my mind during this time of physical isolation from people in my life and has taken a blog inspiring twist.

As I've sat here alone in my apartment, I've called the people closest to me and yet not ever been called back by them.[1]  There are two non-relative exceptions to this sad reality which brought Dr. Campolo's message to mind. 

These two people have a title thrust upon them by circumstances beyond most of their control.  They would rather not have this title nor its derivatives.  It's a title that is used to entrap them within their own minds and society's beliefs of them as being "less than" or "not worthy of" and more.  It's a title most often times heard as one of shame and disgrace and sin. 

And yet, day after day during these weeks of isolation, each one calls or texts with a simple "How r u?" or a detailed story of what's happening in their lives and asks me about what's happening in mine.

My 'title' at my employment is "Driver."  Yours might be a teacher, custodian, doctor, mail carrier, pharmacist, truck driver, chef…

It's how we earn our money that is our societal 'title.'  It is not who we are. 

Each and every one of us is a human being who has been made in the image of God and who is worthy of the highest dignity, honor, respect, and love.  That's our actual and factual title AND testimony.

Due in very large part to the incompetence of the Medicaid system to provide the care that they need and deserve and want as they try to find the end of their dark tunnel of entrapment in their Substance Use Disorder, these two people who contact me multiple times throughout each day bear their societal forced title. 

On top of that societal violation, too many members of the nursing and medical community routinely violate the Hippocratic oath upon which they individually swore or affirmed their career. 

The end result for these two blog inspiring people is that they are left feeling trapped by walls of apathy and indifference, incompetence and loathing by the highly titled people who could make a positive difference in their lives.

These two people of whom I speak in this blog will read this.  (One of them has texted me "What's Up?" as I've been writing this.)  I apologize to each of you in advance for putting in print the titles that have been forced upon you by the incompetence of our society and the highly titled people therein.

Society too often titles you "prostitute" and more.  I title you "Friend" because of your testimony, that of reaching out beyond yourself. 

Far more importantly than what I title you, God, the creator of everything that has ever been, is and will be, calls you God's child:

John 1:12   
Yet to all who did receive him, 
to those who believed in his name, 
he gave the right to become children of God.

I'm thankful to God for the gift of both of you in my life.

Peace Always,

Chris



[1] With the exception of my sister

Monday, March 30, 2020

A Call To Action to All Private Insurance Detox/Rehabs to Open Your Doors to Homeless People Suffering from Substance Use Disorder


With so many aspects of this current pandemic to deal with, there's one way that private insurance detox/rehab facilities can help with the homeless and Medicaid reliant people who are dealing with Substance Use Disorder and addiction on the streets throughout our nation.

There are plenty of beds available.  There are a surprising number of homeless folks who would go to detox if they knew they would not have to wait double-digit hours for service.  This wait time is often the deal-breaker in seeking medical care for their Substance Use Disorder.

The payments for service offered by the Medicaid system prevent private insurance facilities from offering services to this population of people who are equally deserving of being healed. 

Can something be worked out with these private insurance facilities to encourage/compel them to provide services?  In so doing:

  • Men and women who are extra vulnerable to contracting coronavirus may be navigated away from that danger.
  • Stress will be taken off of the system that is trying to find basic housing for them.
  • Detoxification and healing may actually be found for people who would otherwise continue suffering.
  • Children may actually get their Mom or Dad back rather than going to their funeral and asking:  "Why is my Mommy/Daddy sleeping in that box?" - a painful thing to witness.

 Anything that can be done across our nation would be helpful in this regard.

Thanks for reading this.

Sincerely,

Chris

PS: Stay safe!

(The preceding is a generalized version of a letter that I have recently sent to a Pennsylvania Senator.)

If you agree with this concept, please share it with your social media groups and local/regional representatives.  Thank you.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Song Sheet in a Pandemic

I started creating "Song Sheets" for distribution to the wonderful people currently living on the streets of Kensington, in June of 2018.  I chose songs that addressed through contemporary Christian wording and music answers to thoughts and agonies shared by these people as they opened their lives to me.

It's not unusual to hear someone say that they save all of these sheets or that they don't need water or a banana[1] but do want the most recent song sheet.  These moments always make me smile…

There's another aspect of these sheets that seems to be appreciated.  By sharing lyrics based on God's Word and doing so through a song, people who might not be otherwise open to the message of Christ are a bit more likely to be open.[2],[3]

With all that's going on in our world right now, people are asking questions regarding the current situation and wondering what's next. 

I don't pretend to have any insider information that isn't available to anyone else.  Earlier this morning, I found this song[4] with its lyrics that jumped out and begged to be read, pondered, prayed about and considered for action.

The King Is Coming

The marketplace is empty
No more traffic in the streets
All the builders' tools are silent
No more time to harvest wheat
Busy housewives cease their labors
In the courtroom no debate
Work on earth is all suspended[5]
As the King comes through the gate

O the King is coming
The King is coming
I just heard the trumpets sounding
And now His face I see
O the King is coming
The King is coming
Praise God, He's coming for me

Happy faces line the hallways[6]
Those whose lives have been redeemed
Broken homes that He has mended[7]
Those from prison He has freed[8]
Little children and the aged
Hand in hand stand all aglow
Who were crippled, broken, ruined[9]
Clad in garments white as snow[10]

O the King is coming
The King is coming
I just heard the trumpets sounding
And now His face I see
O the King is coming
The King is coming
Praise God, He's coming for me
I can hear the chariots rumble
I can see the marching throng
The flurry of God's trumpets
Spells the end of sin and wrong
Regal robes are now unfolding
Heaven's grandstand's all in place
Heaven's choir now assembled
Start to sing "Amazing Grace"

O the King is coming
The King is coming
I just heard the trumpets sounding
And now His face I see
O the King is coming
The King is coming
Praise God, He's coming for me
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Charles Millhuff / Gloria Gaither / Willam J. Gaither
The King Is Coming lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group


I'm not sitting here writing a blatant nor subliminal 'end times' blog.  My song sheets are presented to and shared with the readers as something to consider and to act on according to what they're sensing deep within their soul.  I invite you to do the same…





[1] The typical things that I share
[2] One man who I Narcaned before I knew him has gone from saying "No. I don't want your damn song sheet." to "I'll take your damn song sheet." to "Can I have one of your song sheets?"  J
[3] There's one side story that I've got to share with you.  Maybe a year ago, I was talking to a man on the street who I've come to know a bit.  He's very much part of the rough and tough crowd.  I asked him if he'd like a song sheet and he very firmly said  "No. I don't need your song sheet."  I immediately thought to myself that this seemingly frightening, knife-carrying, and possible occasional drug dealer is just not open to it.  He continued…  "Today is Sunday.  I'm walking to my grandmother's house right now where she and I will open up her old hymnal, sit at her piano and sing old-time hymns together."  That was the day that my stereotypical image of such a Kensington resident developed a crack.
[4] Seems to have been written about 10 years ago
[5] We are closer to these first seven lines of this song as being an absolute fact as we ever have been…  We are not there - yet.
[6] Hallways: Anyone who knows Kensington Avenue knows the resemblance that it has to a long hallway in a large building.  The stores are its walls and "the El" (elevated rail line) is the ceiling.
[7] Broken Homes: The number of 'broken home' stories on those streets is staggering.  It is often the details of those stories that led the person to kill the associated pain through  the use of 'pain killers.'
[8] This is actually happening.  People in jail for non-violent crimes are being released so as to cut down on a captive population exposed in this current pandemic.
[9] Several people come to mind…  The person so severely bent over (presumably) with scoliosis, the little one who loves vanilla ice cream and appears to be in her senior years and yet is hovering around 30 years of age, the men and women navigating those streets in wheelchairs after losing a limb to the infections of the street, the now-adult children born addicted who know no other form of life, those escorted/thrown out of emergency rooms by medical people who, in so doing, violate their Hippocratic oath, and more. 
[10] For those of us who know these people, specifically or in general, of whom I speak in the above footnote, just imagine him or her "Clad in garments white as snow." 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

So, you don't want a Safe Injection Site in your neighborhood?


Well, Okay. 

If you could arrange for the following changes[1] in how our society serves people who have Substance Use Disorder and are homeless as a result, maybe, just maybe, these sites would not be as needed. 

E
mergency rooms, crisis centers, walk-in clinics and drug stores that offer patient care services need to treat Substance Use Disorder patients with the same promptness, dignity, and respect that they do all other forms of illness and injury. 

The medical and nursing personnel in too many such places have forgotten or misplaced their copy of the Hippocratic Oath upon which they swore or affirmed their careers.  This oath does not allow for an exception to any category of individuals.  In those situations where a health care worker cannot provide care to a patient due to some personal/ethical belief, they are obligated to turn the care of that patient over to an equivalent health care provider who can provide the care needed and as expected by their common professional oath.

The current process for receiving detox and rehab requires Medicaid reliant patients of Substance Use Disorder who seek help to wait double-digit hours before receiving proper care.  I've written about this situation in this blog.  The end result in too many cases is that these people give up on that day - and occasionally all together - in finding the help that they desired in that brief window of opportunity for healing.

U
ntil there are enough shelter beds and non-slumlord apartments within which to house currently homeless patients of Substance Use Disorder, allowing them to stay in their own tented communities saves lives. 

As a condition for being in any one of these communities, it was agreed upon by all residents that no one was to consume their medicine in solitude within any tent.  The result was an amazingly low fatal overdose rate.  In a very real way, these tented communities were in actual fact grassroots self-governed Safe Injection Sites.  As such, thanks to the life-saving measures provided by other members of these tented communities all manners of human relationship with family and friends not living on the streets lived to see another day.

C
leaning up a city block is something that we do with trash types of debris.  When society says we are going to "clean up" the block of people dealing with Substance Use Disorder and homelessness, we are equating them with unwanted debris. 

A patient of Substance Use Disorder is equally human with that person with ABC injury or XYZ illness.  To treat persons with Substance Use Disorder as anything less than human is to add trauma to their preexisting list of traumas - the hearings of which would make any man cry. 

These three examples are three among many that need to be and can be addressed so as to create a culture of connection with these men and women.  In so creating this culture of connection, we can potentially eliminate much of the need for that Safe Injection Site[2] that you fear in your neighborhood. 



[1] Among many others that need to be made
[2] Also known as Overdose Prevention Sites (OPS) or dare I suggest it, using the same initials and in the case of a saved Mom or Dad, these can be seen as "Orphan Prevention Sites."

Monday, February 17, 2020

This is true... Yes. This is True... No.

I found this statement at
"The Addicts Diary."

This is true... Yes.

This is True... No.

The "Yes" part is sort of obvious.

The "No" the part is not.

My friends died from their use of heroin or whatever else was in that (intended) insulin syringe. How many times did each of these human beings seek treatment within their required process of receiving health care as outlined by the Medicaid system?

How many times did they go to that Medicaid required crisis center only to leave after double-digit hours of waiting in desperate dope sickness and find their own healing by way of one little blue bag?

How many times did my friend get discharged from jail with no follow-up services set up and move to an abandoned house and die in solo medicine consumption since his community under that bridge had been eliminated?

She was fortunate enough to have a judge who truly cared and did his best for her.  Why didn't the Medicaid level detox/rehab assure that patients around her were not taking their "medicine" IN the state-licensed facility?  In the name of truly wanting to find healing, she left the poison of that environment and, in the absence of support was overcome with the temptations that come with Substance Use Disorder and life on the streets and died behind a closed door in an abandoned house since she had no bridge community upon which to return.

And now you know:

Heroin and the Medicaid system of health care killed my friends.