The 2012 Bi-Annual PDSE Harm Reduction Conference

 

I attended and participated in my first conference ever last Friday May 4th and had a blast!! We had been working on it for the last three months and it was worth every second of every meeting every single week! Of course we cannot take all the credit because we were just a small part of the whole thing. The Harm Reduction Coalition and the Peer Network along with the Aids Institute and several other awesome organizations deserve our praise too. This was the second PDSE conference to be put on and the first was in 2010. That actually brought about the Peer Network which is a collection of peers from all of the different drop-ins and syringe exchanges. The 2012 conference was an all day event from 9am to 5pm and then an after party from 6pm to 8pm. I honestly was worried I would be bored and tired and want to leave halfway through the day but I never even thought about it once !  It was a bit hot so I needed a few short outdoor air breaks but I stayed the entire day and seriously stayed afterwards hanging out in front of the church where it was held!
 

The theme was the past, present, and future of PDSE and the Peer Network. Hiawatha Collins was the MC, Terrell Jones was the host for the past, Liam Gibson was the host for the present, and I was the host for the future. And I DO NOT LIKE PUBLIC SPEAKING!! But they asked me and I agreed because I really believe in the cause and I know that I need to get over my fear especially since I am back in college now. It went great though and I am so glad that I did it! We also put on a 5 minute skit about overdose prevention and from the audience response I would have to say it was a great success! The idea for the skit was from a fellow peer from Users United named Louie Jones. Ian Jernigan and I wrote the actual skit with some outside help from Ty Webster, a good friend of The Space. I was the director while Andrea Stella was the peer on outreach and Ian Jernigan, Kathryn Villaverde, and Cindy Gindin were users. Eric Dorris was the one who overdosed right after being released from Rikers and Manny Gonzalez was our EMT. Everyone was AWESOME and I am so proud to have been a part of it!!
 

During the conference we heard from a number of important players in the harm reduction community. I learned how PDSE came to be and where we hope it will be in several years. Evan Goldstein spoke about the Good Samaritan Law which is such a wonderful law that protects those who call 911 during an overdose from being charged with possession of narcotics, which is the main reason people do not call. Moshey Moses, Terell Jones, and our own Andrea Stella about how they each began as a peer and moved on to a career in the harm reduction industry. I could go on for pages about everything I learned and those who spoke but I will just say this…thank you to EVERYONE that had a part in the 2012 Bi-Annual PDSE Harm Reduction Conference and especially to Narelle Ellendon from HRCo and to Anika Archip who was the event coordiantor that made sure EVERYTHING ran smoothly!! It truly was a memorable experience and I am already excited to help with the next one in 2014!
 

Join Us: VOCAL Meeting with OASAS

On Thursday January 12 at 9am members of VOCAL and other methadone maintenance clients are gathering to meet with OASAS to try and come to an agreement with changes that need to be made at OTP, opiate treatment programs. VOCAL is a wonderful group made up of many people that have either have a history of drug use, are currently still using or know someone that is, or just care about the rights of those who cannot advocate for themselves. OASAS oversees all of the methadone clinics in New York State and are the only ones with the power to make any changes.

 

The two groups have had several meetings with each other about the findings of a survey that VOCAL took at various OTPs throughout the NYS area with 502 clients. This survey asked various questions regarding the care given by their clinic including how respectful they were treated by the staff and what kind of medical treatment was available. On top of the fact that more clinics are needed upstate and in Staten Island, the most important findings were significant problems with hepatitis C (HCV), bupenorphine, overdose prevention and the need for harm reduction and access to clean syringes. 87% of those interviewed said they would like a syringe exchange in their clinic. The most serious of these is the need for HCV testing, treatment and information. Most people are tested initially but are not given their viral load when found positive and they do not know to ask for it. This is very important because you may test positive but have a viral load too low to be detected or your load may be so high that immediate treatment is necessary. HCV is so widespread that approximately 75-90% of people on methadone programs are infected. So naturally the two should go hand in hand.

 

If you are on methadone or are interested, please join us at this meeting:

 
Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 9:00am

501 7th Avenue, 8th Floor (between 37th & 38th Street)

 

It starts at 9am and ends around 11:30am. It will include video conferencing from members in Albany that cannot make it to NYC.

 

 

“Crusties” Back in Tompkins . . .

So as an outreach worker and someone that lives in alphabet city I frequent Tompkins Square Park quite often. And to my surprise and disappointment the park has been pretty much void of all things dirty this summer. And by that I mean the traveling community that I used to be a part of. In the past Tompkins was the meeting ground for these “kids” as I call them even though many reach into the high twenties and thirties age group. But as many have already noticed or at least read about, this year was different. We have been having to actually search for people to service instead of just sitting in the park as in past years. However, as we had suspected many “kids” have returned to Tompkins and can be seen in the grassy area of the park now instead of in “Crusty Row” the line of benches they used to sit in. Even though it is nowhere near as many as it used to be, it is really nice to see some friendly faces back in Tompkins for the summer.