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, September 18, 2020

As I write this blog, an inspirational human being who is made in the image of God and who is worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love lies in an Intensive Care Unit bed with a chest tube and multiple IVs

...so as to bring her back from the edge of a very thin hiking trail on a cliff that separates life from death that he's walked on as she[1] has tried to traverse over Medicaid Mountain.  

Too many medical and nursing professionals who have dedicated their careers to the ideals of Hypocrites have failed in their sworn privileges when this human being sought care in their required visit to a local crisis center.[2]  

  • They failed to treat him with the dignity and respect that he deserves.  
  • They failed to provide basic comfort care as she waited double digit hours for full[3] treatment as an inpatient.  
  • They failed with their built-in procedure that any human being must wait double-digit hours for care that is (currently) only provided as an inpatient.

 

Here's how one person explained their experience when they tried to traverse Medicaid Mountain… 

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. 

It is time to plow down Medicaid Mountain!



[1] (Note the deliberate mixing of the pronoun he/she.  This story is playing itself out multiple times and in multiple places as I write and as you read.)

[2] Medicaid reliant patients of Substance Use Disorder are required to go to a crisis center - a place where mental disorders are diagnosed - for clearance and as the first step in finding a bed for further treatment somewhere within the city.

[3] And proper treatment as outlined in their sworn Hippocratic Oath

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Symptoms of Sickness

The symptoms of the medically recognized condition known as 'Substance Use Disorder' can be found here.

The symptoms of withdraw, commonly referred to on the street as 'dope sickness,' can be found here.

It is time for us to look at the symptoms of sickness that make health care provision to patients of Substance Use Disorder and who are reliant on Medicaid so incredibly week and unable to support its patients who are in desperate need and desire for care. 

There are no articles that I can find to share with you so here are two blogs from within my own series:

It would be far better to initiate treatment of the Medicaid reliant patient of Substance Use Disorder in the Crisis Center rather than make them wait for full admission to the detox facility.

A Tale of Addiction, One Set of Fraternal Twins And Two Sets of Simulated Hardwood Floors

In these links, you will find firsthand accounts of the symptoms of Medicaid healthcare provision sickness that is causing overdose death at a higher rate than the actual use of the drugs would cause in and of themselves.

It all boils down to money.  In round numbers, private insurance pays $1,000 per day to provide Substance Use Disorder detox and rehabilitation services in an inpatient facility.  Medicaid pays $200 for the same services.  

Close that gap.  

Find ways for Medicaid to properly fund and we will save lives.

Friday, September 11, 2020

My First ever Redundant and Repetitive Blog that Says the Same Thing In Different Ways... :)

This is the first time that I can recall when I used my occasional ministry email as my blog.  I'm repeating themes and topics in hopes that some readers will decide that this topic needs to be addressed.  


And so, without further delay,  Here's a link to my recent email that expands on recent blog posts.


If for any reason that link does not work, here it is in its raw detail:

https://myemail.constantcontact.com/-Your-Helpful-Neighbor--An-Update-on-Ministry-in-Kensington---where-life-is-real-and-love-and-care-for-each-individual-is-thorou.html?soid=1102708875927&aid=hhUcgSbB5O8


Thursday, September 10, 2020

It would be far better to initiate treatment of the Medicaid reliant patient of Substance Use Disorder in the Crisis Center rather than make them wait for full admission to the detox facility.

The following is a firsthand account of a person I've known for a few years now as he tried to seek detox services while being reliant on Medicaid.

 

I have personally been to several crisis[1] 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.[2]  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...[3] 

 

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.

 



[1] Medicaid reliant patients of Substance Use Disorder are required to go to a crisis center - a place where mental disorders are diagnosed - for clearance and as the first step in finding a bed for further treatment somewhere within the city.

 

[2] She said she cannot give me anything because I am not admitted and there are no beds…  The crisis center is the equivalent of an emergency room in a medical hospital.  Would the nurses or doctors of an emergency room tell a patient with severe life-threatening injury or illness that "We cannot treat you because you're not yet admitted to the hospital."?  No. Of course not!  That patient with the medical injury or illness is a patient of that medical emergency room and would be provided whatever medical intervention is needed until being transferred to an inpatient setting.  Why do we treat patients of Substance Use Disorder differently and in such a substandard way - a way that dishonors the sworn intentions of the Hippocratic Oath?

 

[3] find a way to get well… Well…  From what?:  What does that really mean?  Here's an outline as provided in this linked article:

 

The Symptoms of Withdrawal

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

Sensation of bugs crawling on or under 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

What does "Find a way…" really mean?  Imagine, not that you can actually fully understand but do your best to try…  Imagine being a woman in this situation.  You have no money for that five-dollar little blue paper-wrapped "cure" to your dope sickness.  You have no option but stand on a street corner doing all you can to hide the above symptoms when some random man pulls up next to you…

 

"One was an important lawyer who picked me up in his Cadillac, took me to a center city hotel, tied me to the bed, had his way with me, got dressed, untied me and left the room.  I had to use some of the money he gave me for public transit just to get back here to buy my medicine." 

 

It would be far better to initiate treatment of the Medicaid reliant patient of Substance Use Disorder 

in the Crisis Center 

rather than make them wait for full admission to the detox facility?

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

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.

Compare and contrast the Hippocratic Oath with the reality faced by men and women who are dealing with Substance Use Disorder, addicted, and reliant on Medicaid… 

Hippocratic Oath: Modern Version 

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant: 

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow. 

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism. 

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug. 

I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery. 

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God. 

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems if I am to care adequately for the sick. 

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure. 

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm. 

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help. 

—Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today.

**********

And now read this, an all too common account of what a patient of Substance Use Disorder in the active grips of addition faces when that human being decides it's time to seek treatment… 

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 so 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.

 **********

How was the Hippocratic Oath upheld and honored that day?…  

That day repeats itself multiple times each and every day and is doing so as you read this…

Friday, September 4, 2020

Too many people have died recently in this apartment building.

 "Too many people have died recently in this apartment building.  One was in the building for three days before they found their body."[1] 

Subsidized housing for people who are suffering homelessness can be a powerful first step in regaining orientation to life and strength and developing a clear focus on what steps to take next in life.  

If that person's reason for homelessness is rooted in Substance Use Disorder and that person is still using, is housing in a setting of solitude an acceptable answer?  Is it a safe answer?  Is it an answer that the medical community, the members of which have dedicated their careers to the ideals of Hippocrates, would approve? 

People who are still using must continue to use until medical intervention is realized within their personal journey.  Until then, I simply ask this question in this short blog: 


Is private housing in the absence of a definite plan for ending potentially deadly drug use an acceptable answer to this current crisis?



[1] This quote has been generalized so as to preserve the anonymity of those who have died and the one who made this statement.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Touch of the Master's Hand at the Corner of Emerald and Somerset.

Last Saturday the poem "Touch of the Master's Hand" came to mind for no particular nor tangible reason.  I felt a strong urging to print it as one of my songs for distribution the following day.  I had done so maybe two years ago.  The next morning - this past Sunday - the same urge continued.  I printed it on one side of the song sheet and "Love Like This" by Lauren Daigle on the other side. 

I visited the people who are escaping the summer sun in the former Emerald City, the people of Ruth and Somerset and then the people on Emerald between Hart and Somerset.  And that's when the Touch of the Master's Hand quickly touched two men on the block.  One of those men was me and the other was a well-groomed and rugged, gentle-spirited Hispanic man who has always been kind.  He specifically requested a song sheet and without me asking him to do so, began to read out loud for others to hear the poem, "Touch of the Master's Hand." 

As he began to read, we were standing right at the corner of Emerald and Somerset.  He was facing the street.  My back was to the street.  With Spanish as his primary language in both speaking and reading, he began to read in English, pausing only a bit here or there to ask me how to pronounce a particular word.  

As he read, I listened and marveled at the privilege in my humble attempts in ministry that I was experiencing at that moment.  As he read, I looked up the block and saw our - yours and mine - misplaced suburban neighbors who are currently homeless and who have been bound with invisible chains to the streets by active substance use due to Substance Use Disorder and society's and Medicaid's inability to provide dignified health care to them. 

At this man's feet and about a yard behind him, Roman Catholic glass candle holders remained as the only items left from a memorial to the two men shot and killed right there in June.  The stuffed teddy bears and other cloth items that were once lovingly placed had been rained on and removed.  

It is in that setting that the Touch of the Master's Hand did in actual fact touch the hearts of anyone within earshot of this man's reading… 


Friday, August 14, 2020

A Time of Mental Rot

 

I have, just this morning, learned of the overdose death of a young man with whom I've had some interaction on the streets of Kensington.  He and I have several Facebook friends in common.  I'm deeply saddened as I learn of his passing.  

As I write this, I'm trying to find that balance of sharing with you my thoughts, honoring him and being sensitive to his family's agony.  This young man spent the last several months in local jails, was discharged, and overdosed within hours.  

Why Die? 

In the words of a woman of whom I've written here and as she unwittingly followed the same path: 

“This (time in jail)  is a time of mental rot.” 

“This process only builds up more resentment in people who are already dealing with resentment from the emotional traumas that got them here in the first place.” 

This woman went on to describe this time of mental rot… 

As a time of sitting in an oversized toilet stall  with no privacy around the toilet and sharing that toilet stall with some other woman she doesn't know, having two cots in that toilet stall with something that's supposed to resemble a mattress and one sheet to cover herself at night.  It is a time of little to no therapies and living inside one's own head and reliving the emotional traumas that escorted her into addiction and convincing herself more and more that she's just not worth it.  It is indeed a time of "mental rot."


Jail is no place for a patient of Substance Use Disorder to receive treatment for their condition.  

Detox and Rehab Facilities are designed for patients of Substance Use Disorder. 

Jails are designed for people guilty of a crime. 

Having Substance Use Disorder and behaving accordingly with active drug consumption should not be viewed as a crime worthy of jail but rather a condition worthy of appropriate treatment. 


If you, governmental leaders, insist on having medical patients of Substance Use Disorder residing in your jails, then you must provide the therapies that are needed so that your patient/inmate will be healed enough and have the resources so as not to be called back to their substance(s) and be dead within hours.

Much of this blog series looks at this topic.  A next blog to read that you may find helpful is this one:

This Week with Tabitha and Melanie

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Kensington - where life is real and love and care for each individual is thoroughly obvious and abundant

It's a hard thing to come home to an empty apartment after experiencing what I experience in Kensington some days.

Until you've been there, and by "there" I mean that section of Philadelphia that is 30 minutes away from us in Delaware County, you will never really understand what it's like to listen to and sing praise songs through my humble sound system with another Ministry person on the street as we look across a gathering of men and women who I know by name as they inject and sleep and smoke and dream of, in one particular case, heading to Kirkbride tomorrow morning so is to begin their detox and rehab and all new life.

As this scene was playing out, we were under the El, the elevated train line which runs down Kensington Avenue. On occasion, the sound of the train drowned out the playing of the praise music but that did not seem to matter. 

At one point I looked down the street as the praise music continued and I saw men and women who I know by name and story and others who I do not. I saw one man to whom I had provided Narcan months ago as he was assisting a woman with her injection into her neck. I turned my head to the right and looked down the street a little bit and saw the XXX video store which may or may not have been open at that moment. And the praise music continued.

I thought of how incredibly blessed I am to be permitted into the lives of these men and women who, for the most part, are not actually from Kensington. Almost everybody within eyesight of where this praise music was being played is from some other County and on occasion some other state.

For at least half an hour of this praise music time, I found myself sitting on the back of my open trunk with my feet propped up on my water cooler which had long since run out of its water as if the entire arrangement was my backyard lounge chair. The other Ministry person and I chose songs and played them through YouTube and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as various men and women came up, some to join us for a little bit, and others to ask for water or bananas or song sheets.

I'm sharing all this with you as I sit here in my living room in my humble apartment here in Concordville in hopes that maybe somebody in this area will be inspired and choose to become involved and maybe, just maybe, actually meet a neighbor with whom you went to high school here in Garnet Valley or with whom you have been involved in some group here in Glen Mills, or with whom you have shared some moments in Chester Heights.

If it seems to you that I am rambling on nonsensically it's because I don't know what else to say to inspire you to get involved with these men and women who are not they but rather extensions of us. I can think of no place that I would rather be than on the streets of Kensington where life is real and love and care for each individual is thoroughly obvious and abundant.

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 soul burning agony.  Too many emotions to describe create a flash flood of tears rushing down your cheeks.  The pain is beyond staggering and absolutely immense. 

After a couple of minutes, you calm a bit.  You back away.  You gather your composure.  You try to engage in some degree of pleasant conversation with the two men and then you turn and walk away.  

The next thing that you must focus on is to find in the next few minutes that the next date who doesn't currently know you exist.  You will provide him with some degree of sexual "service” so as to support the 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 what she was accused of being that day. 

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)