Dear Huntington, W. Va.

Dear Huntington (W. Va),

I ran into an article the other night that alerted me to your debacle; the city with the highest rate of drug overdose fatalities in the US. And I want you to know that it made sense to me. Most of the states with high OD rates were either poor states or red states, as in conservative and consequently broke; it looks like you’re both. Believe me, yours is not the only state on the rocks and going down under corporate republican/repugnicratic leadership (that’s my words for people who have lost their essential humanity in the corporate funded beltway Washington DC death cult there where they feel oh-so-special. . ). I digress.
So you are in a bad way and here’s some ways to make it better. Face up to the fact that it is really either poverty or learned helplessness/hopelessness that is driving people to use. There is this hidden desperation that no one dare speak of, so since they can’t trust anyone to protect their privacy and consequent humanity anymore, it can get way beyond pretty lonely out there real fast if you are in a bad place and around 60% of the people in the US are in this bad place now, maybe even you. Make sure that any health professionals you deal with understand clearly understand just how important it is to your safety that they protect your medical privacy adequately; it is a sign of respect for you. Face up to the fact that there are not enough jobs out there good enough to take care of everyone. Now, don’t you feel better in just facing up to that? Let’s go on to the next one. Unless some people make it so those poor people or those hopeless people get a place to live, food to eat, and adequate medical care from a decent person for starters, their health problems and lives won’t get better and the crime rates won’t go down. A little note on incarcerating nonviolent drug addicts; they will use more after release because of the additional trauma of going to prison; though a friend said that prison is the only thing that would’ve stopped him from using cocaine. What is the just sentence in the situation? What will work best at keeping the person safe and sober or at least using moderately? Usually white conservatives will over-penalize and punish/torture “just for fun”. I will never forget how this republican woman laughed at a person with a long term chronic health condition in a town hall forum one time. Yes you can profile this kind of criminal psychopathology out-sociopath/psychopath. . . . See John Yoo above.
Remember 40 years ago when Raygun became president? Things were going downhill then but still pretty good. But then they started lying and saying that trickle-down worked, and budget cuts were good for you, kind of like Edward Teller telling us that nuclear radiation is perfectly safe, another huge lie from the usual suspects, your misleaders so check stuff out for yourself if something seems wrong. What they didn’t tell you was that they were good for you only if you were so rich that you didn’t have to work for a living anymore. You were still pretty much screwed if you still had to work for a living because the union-busting, and the de-regulation had pulled the rug out from under your personal finances and maybe even the finances and consequent viability of your fair city or town. I know how that feels. My city is run by a leadership of screwballs; almost to the point where they can care about people but not quite. So what they cobbled together to “help” people still pretty much sucks, and this was posited as a good effort too. The doupoly is designed to roll up the red carpet, protect itself, and sacrifice the lives of the poor when hard times like this hits ( It’s all legal too, just like the reich. So if a treatment professsional seems a little off, they probably are. Get a lawyer, and avoid them like the plague. Jerry Garcia was addicted to heroin and died in a treatment center; who knows what happened, but he probably had a crew following him microwaving him for a few years; they weren’t going to stop at the clinic door. Also Billie Holliday was addicted to heroin and was cut off and died in the hospital because she refused to stop singing Strange Fruit, a song about lynching.
I remember West Virginia when we would go backpacking in the Dolly Sods wilderness areas, bouncing down those roads all pounded up by the coal haulers. There were certain places you were warned not to go, just like anywhere but it was new and mysterious (the ex- just loves it and I would too if I wasn’t so old). We’d be doing these drives at night a lot of times, so the odd animal would rush out of the brush trying to kill itself on our bumper. Guess you know what that’s like, huh. It was rough living even when there WAS an economy there, and that was 15-30 years ago. So it has been this gradual slide into fourth world living over these last years that laid the foundation for your present fame as the place with the highest fatal OD rate in the US. There’s not much constructive going on and that is not by accident, but devastation by fiscal design masquerading as seeming error.
So this is what you’re going to do. You start with a low barrier medically supported dual use disabled/elderly subsidized very low income housing initiative. Low barrier means that there is NO drug test, NO background check, and NO credit check for access to housing. You just house them and cut the crap because they will die without housing. The only thing you raise a fuss about is MAJOR property damage or MAJOR provable disruption, and I may not evict them even then. See how this takes the right kind of nice people who understand things? Get rid of the ones with the god complex who want to ban people because they don’t like them for whatever reason. The law says you must make the best effort you can to house, feed, and care for ALL people, and since when have americans obeyed any laws like that?!! Not recently, especially in a hater red state. You are definitely in hostile territory if you are a nice generous person in a red state; they will almost eviscerate you if you ain’t like them. . .
Now for number two; food. Homelessness and poverty really stress people out, so the best way to stabilize them out is with really GOOD food, as in nutritious food. Here is a self-teaching website that will teach you enough about nutrition that you will be able to help yourself and a lot of other people out (, I also use the superfood drinks out there too, like Columbia Gorge Vitasea Superfood Drink with the algae and fruit juices in it-protein-brainfood. There are 8 very distinct body-mind types out there that have very unique nutritional needs; the closer you get to feeding a person’s brain right for the stresses they are under, the closer you are to supporting their continued sobriety in the long term. And sobriety is not even my goal in the situation because I just want to get you to tomorrow better than today and I work with “wet” alcoholic/addicts, and don’t even do the post-recovery support crap. I do know this though; some people will need help the rest of their lives and that IS what we should do too, because they costed this out and found out that it actually is cheaper from a long term systems cost-benefit perspective to house, feed, and care for people adequately than not to do so. I will debate people on this too. So add on a network of outpatient health clinics and there’s no reason why this can’t be a mobile health clinic too. We also had inpatient treatment up to one year available in the Seatlle/King County system that was developed. Some people will need every bit of it and then some especially if there is a history of serious violence exposure. . . outpatient support after inpatient treatment. We lose people mostly for the following reasons; 1) no response for their needs, 2) Negligent, incompetent, undertrained, unsupervised, abusive helping personnel (see advoserv-nice mansion Mister).
So a person is now housed, fed, and cared for, what now? Counseling for any past serious trauma issues or violence exposures will assist a person in grounding in the present and also will help to re-socialize them again too. Then see what kind of things they REALLY like to do, not just what they do and seem good at. This is why it is that I would like 2 years of community college to be free in addition to the 12 grades, considering that life now is much more complicated and difficult than before; a lot more to keep up with than before. So you encourage them to find two things they like to to that are also barterable skills as well as income-generating and get them on that track to their particular special individual future hopefully catalyzing skill sets along the way.
Now people with a serious abuse history are not just immediately going to get life, they are going to make some and maybe even more than a few mistakes, sometimes pretty big if they don’t have anyone who understands the specifics of what they have been through-I have augmented my expertise using libraries sometimes. So you have your harm reduction system set up anticipating 7-10 relapses minimum if there is a violence exposure/abuse history. This system consists of a few things: 1) a needle exchange, 2) adequate amount of subsidized, medically supported dual use very low income housing (HUD extremely low income housing funding-see above), 3) adequate medical support for the population-medicare for all would be a good start (overhead/admin. costs are much higher in the private sector), 4) Adequate food: the private sector nonprofits have been an abject failure at achieving that goal where I live, so lets fund public food stamps adequately especially if you are dealing with young adults under 26 years of age; try and improve whatever you’ve got though so that all those in need get fed adequately without illegal bans or exclusions or unsafe, inedible food-the people with the god complexes will want to run out the people they think of as “bad”-bad ole so and so, bad ole drunks, bad ole criminals, bad ole commies, bad ole neighbors who ripped me off, bad ole this, bad ole that, bad ole, beadle, bad ole, bad ole. . . on and on and on. It will never be perfect, GET over it and just love and help everyone as best you can. If someone screws up really bad in real time, on location and is provable, see if you can cool it down yourself, only call the cops if you can’t do it yourself. Why risk it if they can’t be trusted to help, not hurt people? A volunteer position is considered a job under federal definitions and yes, learning how to love everyone who comes through the door is sometimes real work; the better you do it though, the more people you help and save, the less go to jail needlessly for whatever reason, and the more likely your people will go through a disaster well, because there’s no real strong feelings dividing people up.
As you can see, so much of this has to do with situations that are ruining us that are beyond our control to change. But it’s an election year; a good time to push for whatever it is that you need-see above. And if you get the community organized up, then you will have a grassroots advocacy network that will assist you in getting together what you need to fill in the gaps in your harm reduction system; housing, food, medical access, mass transportation especially for elderly/disabled, and higher education; the foundations upon which any society grows up the peace. From this fertile humane soil will emerge employable people who are stable enough to do a job and also get through a disaster pretty well. There is one person per family trained up to to CPR and first aid in South Korea. And there’s a lot more great things to do that you can add to the list too that can include and occupy people in creating a better situation in your city or town.
I have been mostly dealing with low income drug addict/alcoholics. This system is built somewhat for them, though a lot of professionals don’t have a lot of street experience. Most nice people want to learn; the best way to learn from a patient/client is to both listen and respect them when they are sharing important information with you. You can add on an internet/web/database based education system that can be accessed by people who are middle class/employed through your city or state health department if you don’t have one that is available locally. This can work for all concerned at your library system. You can also write up resource lists too if you don’t have the internet available. There are mobile options available that you can develop too-see the project Remote Medical Access for inspiration.
The best computer troubleshooter I ever ran into was a stone cold cocaine addict, and after he had done way too much work way too fast, he was way addicted. Once he cooled down his jets a bit in recovery, he went on in his profession. One of the most beautiful people I ever met in my life died at 35 of an overdose; don’t let people tell you you are a bad person for being an addict or helping them. Someone went for my black meth head friend with a baseball bat; they hated him because they didn’t know him. They were afraid of a stereotype they learned in the media that was one of the best propaganda operations done in US history; too bad it was so mis-begotten and born to such an evil purpose. WE were taught to hate those poor people and homeless people and people of color because we listen to the TV and take it seriously. 2,000 cop shows later and whaddaya know? You hate poor people because no rich people are on cops, on the news, or ever go to prison. A reporter in Seattle also was allowed to go on the TV news and just relentlessly lie about how bad the homeless were for a solid six months, just making the stuff up out of thin air. . . . sick. . . Q13 Fox Seattle while that psycho Ailes was running the show into the ground that time. . .
So we were taught to hate by the lies of the system under criminal republican leadership; not all republicans are criminals though, just superrich Bush republicans. We can learn to love and care for addicts and poor people and consciously re-program ourselves to love them. It will be an effort though. It seems much easier to just come up with a reason in your head to judge and get rid of people asking for your help than it is to actually help them substantively, commit to them some even. Something in us is out of whack; the ability to care for people has been pretty much destroyed in most of us by how this culture conditions us continually for conformity, hopelessness, capitulation, the acceptance of slow death policies, and re-enslavement from a multiplicity of sources out there throughout the day. But that does not mean that this is our natural human condition; quite the contrary. We are debilitated, then overdriven by contextual factors largely beyond our control. That is no excuse for not continuing to fight the power though. As a matter of fact, a grassroots bipartisan coalition pushed for and got an upgrade to the Seattle Public Library system that the leadership of both parties there didn’t want to do ($125 mil. public and $60 mil. private and only one person was shot at during the whole fight-they missed, he survived). We did it anyways and succeeded that time because we stuck with it. So it is definitely possible to take on this multi-headed beast killer drug addiction and stuff it back into it’s lair together huh. Yup.
And as you can see, this takes more than a little money to do. But if you start and organize, the money will come, or at least you will find out who is not coming through with the money you need to turn the situation around. Max Baucus of North Dakota, a center-right repugnicrat blocked public single payer healthcare for the entirety of his term; he and his friends must have been making big bucks off that. So add a county-level housing trust structure to make better use of existing housing resources, and a county level revolving loan fund to finance what you need (public banking institute). Finally ignore the zero tolerance maniacs like Baucus and rightwing friends; they’re the ones with the destructive sociopathic god complex stuff going on. They will just mess you and anything you try to do up royal unless it is on their wacked out terms; hello lala land, come in.
You may need to go back on some drugs sometimes if you can’t handle things. That’s OK, just don’t overdo the relapse and OD. Drug tolerances can go up and down, so be careful and make up small doses if you haven’t used opiates or similar substances for awhile-ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION. And you can teach other addicts to take smaller doses and to clean up their gear so that it’s sanitary. That and other tactics teaches them that they are valuable people that are worth saving and taking care of. So much of why people use in the US is related to the social consequences of poverty, fascist oppression, and random chaos and violence; exactly what one gets when the survival services budgets are cut to the bone by the crazy red state skinheads in congress. One way we reduced the risk out there is by targeting enforcement on the killer addictive drugs and alcohol while legalizing marijuana. Cannabis saved my life at 14 years of age and children 8 and under are using it to control seizures (reductions from 40-50 a month to 3-5 a month are common-nothing else seems to work as good). Also what I read says that children shouldn’t be using codeine (suppresses breathing) and that there is a wide variability in how fast people metabolize opiates and other drugs (AND WATCH OUT FOR THE COMBINATIONS!!!). SO ALWAYS ERR ON THE SIDE OF MEDICAL CAUTION AND STAY ALIVE. . . USE THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE IN ANYTHING YOU DO AND ALWAYS USE CLEAN NEEDLES, WATER, AND COTTONS-NO SHARING. Our health department used to put out cut reports when the cut on the heroin was bad, as can happen in a black market. 200 people were killed in Vancouver BC in two weeks when 75% pure uncut heroin was put on the street there. Also heroin addicts in Canada were pushing to be allowed to have a doctor prescribe heroin to them-takes the crime out of it because it’s paid for. And no 50 mg. hydrocodones (Zohydro). One pill kills a child and they always end up with more than one, so always make sure they can’t get to them at all. SO, ONWARD THROUGH THE FOG AND WHATEVER ELSE SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY BECAUSE. . . YOU ARE FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE; MORE THAN WORTH SAVING. . . . REALLY. . . .


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Lyle Courtsal is a disabled author/activist who has worked variously as a school bus driver, tree planter, truck driver, and shipyard laborer. He has also attended three colleges, but prefers studying on his own. During the past several years, he has developed a street outreach method for getting intensively self-poisoned, dually-diagnosed addict/alcoholics off the streets and into truly helpful hands while maintaining constitutional standards of non-discrimination and privacy. His technique has an 80 percent success rate. Lyle likes really big, old, live trees; Frisbees; sailing; mid-70s long nose Kenworths going really fast; hardcore rock; true decency; generosity of spirit; and freedom. He presently more-or-less exists in Seattle, Washington. He goes to church at least once a month whether he needs it or not. Check out the book-Enjoy!!

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