I had a call yesterday from a reporter wanting to talk about 'the crack pipe issue'.
Since 2008, Safeworks, a harm reduction service of our health care system, has been distributing screens and mouth pieces along with new crack pipes to addicts. They have a mobile clinic from which they distribute the items, though they do hand out screens and push pins from their office in the shelter where I work.
It's wrong! decry citizens. It's enabling. It's illegal. I don't want my tax payer dollars to go to support drug addicts. It's about the principle. How can we support such illegal activity.
Yes, I replied when the reporter asked me for my thoughts. Crack is an illegal substance. Being an addict is not. Handing out pipes is enabling. It enables people to stay alive. To be safe. It prevents the spread of transmittable disease. And in the end, it saves tax dollars.
It is so easy to paint such an issue black and white. To brush it over with 'it's wrong' judgements as we push ourselves into a frenzy of puritanical righteousness about our political leaders incompetence in allowing such a transgression to transpire.
Doesn't change the fact, it saves lives.
I don't agree with crack usage. I don't agree with a lot of things our clients do -- just as I don't agree with murder and rape and war and all the things we, as human beings, do to harm ourselves and each other and our world.
It doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility to take care of those for whom life has lead them to a place where the only thing they believe is that they need their next fix to feel alive, to feel life, to feel human or part of the human race. Or, that the only way to stop the pain of living in this world is to numb themselves with the next fix, the next snort of some illegal, or legal, substance that will take away the reality of their lives -- where ever they live.
The 'crack pipe issue' has lead to the program workers being told to quit handing out crack pipes while a review of the process is undertaken.
Oh for leaders with courage!
These are our tax dollars at work. Our tax dollars are saving lives.
It's not about right or wrong. It's about keeping people engaged in admittedly high risk behaviours from dying. It's about giving these individuals a chance. Any chance to make a different choice, because in this program, the hand that reaches out to pass the pipe is a caring professional well-equipped to connect, to build a relationship that could, one day, lead to the one taking the proffered pipe making a different choice.
It's all about keeping the lines of communication open.
It's all about reducing the harm and building bridges.
It's about prevening death where possible.
But they choose to take crack. They should live with the consequences. Why should I have to pay?
People choose to smoke cigarettes. They do not choose cancer.
People choose to overeat. They do not choose heart disease or diabetes and while the correlation between their behaviour and the outcome can be made, it does not mean we do not offer treatment and support. We don't shut the door on a cancer patient because his/her cancer is 'self-inflicted'.
I have never met someone with cancer who insists they always intended to get it. I have yet to meet an addict who insists they always dreamt of being an addict.
Sure, our choices do lead us to paths we never imagined. and sometimes, those paths are places the rest of us in 'righteous society' abhor and shun.
I can't change the choices someone made to get to crack alley. I can affect how they're treated. I can ensure they do not fall further -- by opening my mind to the possibility that where ever they're at, they need help. And while the medicine may be hard to swallow, sometimes that help means all I can do is hold a space for them while they struggle through whatever turmoil they've encountered. If that turmoil includes an addiction to illegal substances, I can do whatever it takes to prevent that addiction from killing them.
It's like teaching safe sex and handing out condoms in schools, I told the reporter. Just because I might think it's 'wrong' for teens to have sex doesn't mean it makes it right to ignore that they are. Reality is, sexual activity is starting younger and younger. To pretend it isn't taking place is to leave our children at risk of communicable diseases, unplanned pregnancies and a host of life impacts for which we, as a society, will be responsible. And perhaps, in the conversation about sex, some will make different choices. If we don't have the conversation, the opportunity to learn and grow will never happen. And teens will engage in unsafe sexual practices.
These are the same tax dollars at work. The same harm reduction practices.
I can't stop an addict from using. I can make it possible for them to have the opportunity to be safe by doing the difficult things that reduce their risk to harm.
It's something we all can do, all must do.
I'd rather lose my principles than lose a life to drugs.