NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Thursday July 7th 2022

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The Trouble with Normal

The Trouble with Normal

Peace House Community Journal By Marti Maltby A friend of mine who struggles with addiction recently told me about a hiking trip he took with a group of acquaintances. He didn’t know anyone in the group very well, but he knew them well enough to talk with them throughout the day, and he enjoyed his time with them. I was surprised when he told me that later on he had suffered a severe bout of depression because of the hike. “I feel like I lied to them. I tricked them,” he explained. It turned out that as part of his recovery from addiction, he tries to be completely honest with others, not living a double life as he did when he was actively using drugs. Understandably, he hadn’t used the hike as an opportunity to tell the group about his addiction, and he was worried that they thought he was “normal.” He felt like he had pretended not to have any problems, when from his perspective he was an addict who was totally messed up, despite the time he had been able to spend away from drugs. I admire my friend’s commitment to his recovery, and to being honest, but I didn’t think he did anything wrong by not revealing the worst parts of his life to the group. When I asked him what was so bad about not telling them about his addictions, he replied that everyone in the group was normal, and that they had accepted him as being the same as them. I needed a minute or two to organize my thoughts before I could give him a reasonably coherent answer, because my mind was going in two separate directions. My first thought was that he wasn’t under any obligation to tell others about his personal struggles. His struggles are his, and he can tell others if he wants to, but he shouldn’t feel compelled to tell everyone he knows about everything in his past. My second thought was that he was probably wrong about everyone in the group being normal. Or, maybe more accurately, that it’s normal to have problems you hide from others. I’ve met many [...]

Neighbors and Harm Reduction Groups Explore Overdose Prevention Site in Phillips

By GRACIE HALLBERG-CAIN, LEX HORAN, and KOR PACE As summer settles in, more neighbors are out and about in the neighborhood - gardening, teaching kids to ride bikes, walking dogs. Along with the relief of the warm weather, it’s also a time when some of the issues that we have in the Phillips neighborhood become more visible. Syringes are uncovered when the snow melts. Sometimes, we see folks using drugs in public areas – situations that are often unsafe for the people using drugs, as well as those around them. This year, a group of neighbors has been exploring an approach that we haven’t tried before: an overdose prevention site (OPS). Overdose prevention sites are proven to save lives and reduce syringe litter, and have not been shown to increase drug use in the surrounding neighborhood.  These issues in Phillips are part of a bigger picture. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, overdose deaths rose by 30% between 2019 and 2020 and continue to rise. In 2019, Black Minnesotans were twice as likely to die from a drug overdose as white Minnesotans and Native Minnesotans were seven times as likely to die of a drug overdose as white Minnesotans. We need solutions that center racial and health equity. Overdose prevention sites are part of a broader approach called harm reduction, which is a set of proven strategies for addressing the negative impacts of drug use. OPS are spaces where people bring their pre-obtained drugs and consume them in the presence of trained staff who monitor for overdose. Two of these sites were opened in New York City in November 2021, and they have existed outside of the US for decades. There has never been an overdose death reported at any OPS, and people who use these sites are also shown to seek additional healthcare and drug treatment at a higher rate.  From Kor and Gracie: As outreach workers with Southside Harm Reduction Services, we spend a lot of time in East Phillips. Our organization provides [...]

Midtown Phillips June ’22

Phillips Community Listening Session Focused on Encampments

By JANA METGE, JAMES TRICE and DONNA PUSUSTA NESTE On March 30, a meeting entitled “A Listening Session About Encampments in Phillips and Minneapolis” organized by a Phillips Neighborhood group calling themselves Phillips Neighborhood Safety Coalition took place at the East Phillips Park Community and Cultural Center. Facilitator James Trice, a resident of Phillips for 25 years, welcomed all and went over the ground rules for a respectful meeting, which it was. 78 people signed in, however there were an estimated 100 in attendance. AIM Patrol members mingled with the crowd to let everyone know they were welcome and that their presence was important. Attendees were invited to add printed materials to an information table in which various perspectives were represented, from a harm reduction model for safe injection sites to a draft on policy and procedure for encampments. Five community members gave testimony on their experiences with encampments. Mike Forcia, a leader in the AIM Patrol, spoke on healing the Native community and the Dakota land we are on, and on the need for jobs, culturally specific programs for youth, as well as culturally specific treatment centers for addiction, mental health, and historical trauma. He said that we can build a hundred little houses, but his people won’t leave the camps unless their opioid addictions are addressed. Joani Essenburg, resident of Phillips and founder of Banyan Youth Center, related how her anger was initially focused upon those living in encampments, but changed into frustration with the government’s lack of response. She spoke of the need for the government not to ignore what is happening and instead provide for encampment residents’ basic needs. Desmond McCloud, a youth and former resident of the Near North camp, spoke of his struggle with addiction and the need for dignified housing which is safe, healthy, and provides support services for those struggling to get clean. Kent Bakken, a [...]

East Phillips Needs Harm Reduction Solutions for the Drug Problem

East Phillips Needs Harm Reduction Solutions for the Drug Problem

By Stephen Gregg In the eight years I’ve owned my home near 26th St and Bloomington Ave, I have been stuck by a discarded syringe, seen multiple overdoses, two deaths, and countless ambulances and police vehicles. I have watched in horror as entwined problems increase: the number of people experiencing homelessness, open air drug use, and crime. When approaching neighborhood issues, I try to practice empathy. From the beginning I’ve wanted to be involved in the work to find solutions, attending countless neighborhood meetings of all sorts. The problems here are deep-rooted and complex. I’m not a social worker–actually I’m an agricultural plant scientist. So I also comb research for solutions to problems. And this search has pointed me strongly towards harm reduction practices and services, practices endorsed by the CDC. Harm reduction has the potential to reduce short term harms while creating space for long lasting change. The city is already funding harm reduction services, such as the work of Southside Harm Reduction, who do street outreach and provide needle exchange. According to the National Harm Reduction Coalition website, harm reduction principles are a set of practical strategies to reduce the consequences of drug use, based on a belief in rights for people who use drugs. Some of these include: acknowledging the realities of intersectional causes of drug use; ensuring that people who use drugs have a voice in the creation of solutions; NOT minimizing or ignoring the real harms and dangers caused by illicit drug use; and creating non-coercive and non-judgmental services. At this point, I can hear countless neighbors in meetings saying, “We don’t want to enable drug users.” And without much support from the city, the primary tactic that comes up is for neighbors to move people experiencing homelessness off a given block, inevitably resulting in them moving to another nearby. This is all neighbors feel they can do, but it makes the [...]

East Phillips Needs Harm Reduction Solutions for the Drug Problem

East Phillips Needs Harm Reduction Solutions for the Drug Problem

By Stephen Gregg Photos courtesy of PHS Community Services Society In the eight years I’ve owned my home near 26th St and Bloomington Ave, I have been stuck by a discarded syringe, seen multiple overdoses, two deaths, and countless ambulances and police vehicles. I have watched in horror as entwined problems increase: the number of people experiencing homelessness, open air drug use, and crime. When approaching neighborhood issues, I try to practice empathy. From the beginning I’ve wanted to be involved in the work to find solutions, attending countless neighborhood meetings of all sorts. The problems here are deep-rooted  and complex. I’m not a social worker–actually I’m an agricultural plant scientist. So I also comb research for solutions to problems. And this search has pointed me strongly towards harm reduction practices and services, practices endorsed by the CDC. Harm reduction has the potential to reduce short term harms while creating space for long lasting change. The city is already funding harm reduction services, such as the work of Southside Harm Reduction, who do street outreach and provide needle exchange. According to the National Harm Reduction Coalition website, harm reduction principles are a set of practical strategies to reduce the consequences of drug use, based on a belief in rights for people who use drugs. Some of these include: acknowledging the realities of intersectional causes of drug use; ensuring that people who use drugs have a voice in the creation of solutions; NOT minimizing or ignoring the real harms and dangers caused by illicit drug use; and creating non-coercive and non-judgmental services. At this point, I can hear countless neighbors in meetings saying, “We don’t want to enable drug users.” And without much support from the city, the primary tactic that comes up is for neighbors to move people experiencing homelessness off a given block, inevitably resulting in them moving to another nearby. [...]

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