Health Education Seminar January 28: Substance Abuse

By John Peck |  February 8, 2017

Our clinic helps many people with health problems and one of the most common we see for our 'walk-in' guys living on the streets is substance abuse - in various kinds, but usually alcohol or illegal drugs.
You might be interested to know that New York State has instituted a 5-year Health Improvement Plan that has a large Prevention Agenda in several key health areas, including substance abuse. The state aim is to promote mental and physical well-being, prevent substance abuse, and strengthen infrastructures to deal with substance abuse problems. We're aware of that, and we're trying to do our small part in addressing prevention by holding education talks with our day-worker patients.
Dr. Asha Alex and James Patterson, our social work intern, and Mary Ortega, a volunteer translator, presented a substance abuse education talk on January 28th. James helped give our guys classifications on substance abuse. It was important to point out to our guys that even legal prescriptions or medicines can cause abuse problems. When people receive prescription medicine and become addicted (often containing a narcotic) after the medical need has passed, that becomes a health epidemic of its own. EMS workers and emergency room attendance often see the same patients, sometimes called 'frequent flyers' over and over in such circumstances, but not for medical necessity reasons.
James also pointed out the side effects that often accompany abuse issues, such as shaking, depression, lack of concern for appearance, and overall ill feeling. James also had his own story to tell our audience that brings home the issue in a way our guys could relate - he has had substance abuse in his own past, and has overcome it. 
At the end of the presentation, James said the sharing of his own story and giving the presentation was a 'fulfilling' event for him. Mary, our volunteer translator, said "I was truly blessed to be a part of this great group of servants. Using their knowledge, education and personal experiences helps to bring awareness. It also builds a bridge that leads to Jesus in the most practical way by meeting them where they are: 'even a glass of water to the least of these'."
Please continue to pray for our guys that are in need and know very little about their substance abuse issues. Dependence on alcohol is a serious issue for 1 in 5 adults, and dependence on drugs affects 1 in 15 adults. Along with health education and support programs prayer goes a long way in providing hope, treatment, and escape from substance abuse.