Music updates!

This will be a brief post, and will not involve me discussing political or social issues (I’m sure some are thrilled to read that!).  Rather, I wanted to take the time and share some news from my personal life.

For the first time in nearly ten years, I have begun to work with a collaborator on ambient music!  Those who know me know that ambient and experimental musics are near and dear to my heart.  However, these styles are not exactly popular, and it is difficult to find anyone who wants to collaborate on such a project.  I’ve still been creating on my own, but my output has slowed as I’ve become increasingly tired of making music for an audience of one (myself).  This has changed, and I feel excited and rejuvenated!

In November, my friend Mike and I launched Fresh Fictions.  Due to circumstances beyond our control, we actually hit the recording studio in January, before we had played a live performance.  We’ve had a couple of gigs since then, with more lined up, and we continue to mix the studio recordings.  I don’t have Facebook, but Fresh Fictions does have a Facebook page, which may be the easiest platform to follow for updates.

Onward through the fog!

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Faith Mission Health Center updates

The Health Center at Faith Mission is rolling out a Women’s Health program.  Access to safe and affordable contraceptive options are crucial for the health of any woman, but especially so for those who are living in poverty or other vulnerable circumstances.

According to Nurse Practitioner Manager Alyssa Huddleston, the program is active now.  “We have oral contraceptives and Depo-Provera in our pharmacy now,” reports Huddleston, who tells me that these have been prescribed to patients who are interested.  Depo-Provera is a contraceptive that is given by injection every three months. Additionally, “all of the providers are certified to give Nexplanon implants,” says Huddleston.  The Nexplanon implant is a small rod that is inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm and can prevent pregnancies for up to four years.

In the near future, the Health Center will be able to provide other contraceptive options in addition to those described above and the condoms that are kept in stock.  Huddleston is attending training at the Columbus Public Health Women’s Health Clinic in order to provide IUDs to women. “They offered to let me shadow so I can get some hands-on experience,” she says.  The Health Center will have both hormonal and copper IUD options for women so that they can best choose the option that fits their needs.

The Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program continues to grow as well, and the Health Center has hired an additional case manager to help with the anticipated program growth.  Participants can be prescribed Vivitrol or Suboxone, depending on the needs of the individual. The MAT program is not a medication-only program, but a whole-health approach. “We treat the whole person, which is the only way to do it,” says Sarah Hurst-Pelfrey, Recovery Counselor.  A person who is interested in medication only would not be a good fit for the program, but for those who are looking for holistic approaches to addiction recovery, the MAT program can be a great opportunity. “We’re still taking referrals, because we still have a lot of slots we can fill,” says Huddleston.

Audrey Knaff is the Behavioral Health Manager at the Health Center and oversees the MAT program.  Knaff is well aware of the challenges that face the program. “Obviously, there is a stigma regarding medication-assisted treatment,” says Knaff.  Health care providers have been somewhat nervous about prescribing Vivitrol and Suboxone. “There are a lot of rules and regulations in prescribing these medications,” reports Knaff.  “Through training, discussion and practicing, the level of comfort has increased tremendously, and the providers are eager to participate.”

The MAT program has seen success stories, which are encouraging to staff.  I spoke to Hurst-Pelfrey about a particular patient, who she says has been helped by “giving him tools to help manage cravings, and providing social support as well as structure, which is always essential in the early stages of recovery.”  This particular patient chose Vivitrol and has been taking the medicine as prescribed. “We addressed his primary care medical needs in conjunction with his addiction needs, which is essential,” says Hurst-Pelfrey.

The MAT program is still relatively new, only having begun in October 2018.  When asked about the future of the program, Knaff says she anticipates the patient load increasing.  “Being able to obtain data and information about outcomes that will help us better understand who we are working with” will help the program as it grows, “as well as progress, barriers and the path that we need to take with our program.”  The staff at the Health Center are excited about the opportunity to address the severe addiction needs in Franklin County.

The Health Center at Faith Mission is open to the public.  Referrals to the MAT program can be made by calling Audrey Knaff at (614) 224-6617m extension 2136.  Persons who want to participate in the Women’s Health program or address any other health care needs can call (614) 224-6617, extension 3, and ask to have an appointment with a medical provider.

Dream 08-18-18

Last night, I had a dream in which I owned a lime-green Ibanez electric guitar.  This guitar did not have a traditional jack for an instrument cable.  Rather, it was wirelessly connected to an amplifier; I do not know the make or model of the amplifier.  The guitar was incredibly hot, as in it was very loud and overdriven.  I felt that the guitar may be too overpowering for my current guitar rock band, and yet I could not put it down.

Ohioans Attempt to Change Laws Regarding Drug Crimes

May 26, 2018

Ohioans Attempt to Change Laws Regarding Drug Crimes

Petitions are currently being circulated in support of a ballot initiative that would change the way Ohio classifies drug crimes.  According to the website Ballotpedia, the “Ohio Classification of Non-Violent Drug Offenses as Misdemeanors Initiative” may appear on the November 2018 ballot as a constitutional amendment.  If passed, this ballot initiative would have a profound impact on the lives of many Ohioans.

Ballotpedia reports that the measure would make the possession, obtainment and use of drugs no more than a misdemeanor.  First or second offenses would result in probation, while an individual who is convicted more than twice in two years would receive a jail sentence.  Those who are currently serving convictions higher than a misdemeanor could petition the courts for re-sentencing.  If passed, the initiative would allow the state to save money spent on incarceration costs.  The language of the ballot measure specifies how the savings would be spent, with 70 percent going towards substance abuse treatment programs, and the remaining 30 percent would be used for programs targeting crime victims, rehabilitation, graduated response and adult and juvenile services; at least half of the 30 percent would be dedicated to services for victims of trauma.

This initiative was filed on December 1, 2017, and the attorney general, Mike DeWine, determined that the initiative petition was fair and truthful on December 8.  Petitions began to circulate after the Ohio Ballot Board approved the language of the measure.  The deadline to submit signed petitions is on July 4 of this year; around 300,000 valid signatures are required to place the measure on the November ballot.

If approved by voters, this measure would have a significant impact on the number of persons imprisoned in Ohio.  According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, over 50,000 people were imprisoned in Ohio.  Ohio’s state prisons were built to house around 38,000 persons, giving credence to those who say that Ohio’s prisons are overcrowded.

The issues around drug crimes are often dismissed by the more moderate members of the population.  However, those who work directly with those who have had their lives impacted by drug use and/or criminal records related to drug activity know that the consequences go far beyond the time served.  Persons who are convicted of drug crimes often have difficulty obtaining housing and employment.  The citizens of Ohio who work with the homeless population should pay attention to this ballot measure as November approaches.  Our state has the opportunity to remove some barriers that lead an individual to homelessness.  Prison is not an adequate result for drug use or drug crimes; this measure hopes to allow for funds that are currently spent on incarceration to be funneled towards treatment programs, giving hope that we may make more progress on working with and through addiction.

From Canton to Columbus

This is my submission for the March 2018 edition of Street Speech, which is published by the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless.  For more information, visit this site or purchase a paper from a vendor.

I was born in Canton, Ohio, a small city that sits a little over 20 miles south of Akron and about 60 miles south of Cleveland.  Shortly after my 27th birthday, I moved to Columbus on my own to start over again.  The time I’ve spent in Columbus has shown a city going through rapid changes, although I can’t really speak to how things were before I arrived.  The experiences I had growing up in Canton always affect the ways I feel about my new home.

After high school graduation, I found myself adrift without any real direction to latch onto.  I did not see any reason to attend college; I didn’t have the money for it, and no one else was going to pay for my classes.  Besides which, the last few years of high school had left me very jaded about the prospect of spending even more time in well-lit classrooms among my peers.  My passion was, and is, playing music, and I was determined to make a go of it.  My family was dismayed and were probably convinced that I was going to make a life out of being a professional bum.  To try and assuage their fears, I committed to attending college around the age of 25 if the music thing didn’t work out, but I don’t think they believed me.

My passion for music never resulted in any sort of career-sustaining income, and years of gainful employment in restaurants left me unhappy and hopeless about my future, so by the age of 25 I did indeed enroll in a local college and begin taking classes.  However, even the prospect of a steady career didn’t shake the feeling of ennui I held for my hometown.  Many of my close friends had left the state for other opportunities, and I felt that remaining would leave me in a rut that I wouldn’t be able to shake, so I decided to look to advance my career elsewhere.  My two main concerns for college were affordability and being able to get a job with my degree, and I felt that Ohio State met these two requirements more than my other options, and so I relocated to Columbus and enrolled in the College of Social Work, eventually obtaining my bachelor’s degree in 2012.

All of this is to say that I’m a relative newcomer to this city, and that my opinions will be shaped by my upbringing in a different city with a very different feel.  I find all of the change in Columbus to be exciting, but it seems that many long-term residents don’t share this opinion.  Granted, I too am saddened to see the homogenization of High Street, changing from charming old buildings full of character and history to faceless glass and steel monstrosities, but of course capitalism marches onward regardless of my opinions.  I also see a city that has the opportunity for upward mobility and personal growth, and I don’t mean earning potential.  Since moving to Columbus, I have found a city full of vibrant people, diverse neighborhoods, and incredible opportunities for social experiences, be they a unique restaurant or a club that doesn’t just play the same old rock and roll.  These were things I found sorely lacking in my hometown.

As I get older, I realize that Canton does indeed have opportunity.  I have seen family and friends find satisfying careers and raise wonderful families in that city.  I don’t knock it, but their choices are not for me.  I’m excited to find a home where I don’t always know what waits for me around the next corner or in future chapters of my life.  I am comforted to know that, no matter what happens, it probably won’t be boring.

Love for my work

This is my submission for the February 2018 edition of Street Speech, which is published by the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless.  For more information, visit this site or purchase a paper from a vendor.

Our editor, Shannan, had asked for submissions around the theme of love for this month’s edition of Street Speech.  Anyone who knows me can tell that I’m not the mushy type.  Regardless, it was easy for me to find something I love to write about: my job.

I have never cared for a job the way I care for my current position.  I have been steadily employed for the past 24 years of my life.  During this time, I have held a number of jobs that were soulless and degrading, and I’ve held some that were fun but not particularly rewarding.  The position I have currently is the first that fills me with a sense of love for the work I do.

I believe that it must be difficult to be ignorant of societal ills.  I don’t understand how a person can look at the world around themselves and not see those who are hurting and those who need help.  We are confronted daily with the ways in which our country and our community has failed to help those who need it the most.  This can be overwhelming, whether it comes from reading the news about the wealthy continuing to pass legislation to line their pockets, or when driving around the city, looking at all of the boarded up homes, and wondering why we have so many citizens who are without a home.

When I was younger, I felt hopeless and helpless in addressing these causes.  So much of it seemed out of my reach.  After all, I was never going to be a millionaire with the ability to funnel money to important causes.  I was never going to be a politician who was in a position of passing legislation to help the most vulnerable members of our community.

When I discovered the field of homeless services, however, I found a way that I could contribute to the improvement of the city I live in.  Not improvement such as “tearing down historical buildings to build fancy high rises;” I’m talking about doing the often invisible work that touches the lives of those who have little else to hope for.  I realized that I didn’t need money or influence to help strengthen the infrastructure that provides services to those in need.  I just needed a good work ethic, and guidance from those with more experience than I have.

This is why I love my job.  I come to work every day and put time and effort into making this a better community for all.  Not everyone is so lucky.

 

2017 In Review

12-20-17

This is my submission for the January 2018 edition of Street Speech, which is published by the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless.  For more information, visit this site or purchase a paper from a vendor. 

2017 in America was some year, wasn’t it?  When one looks back in a decade or two, what will they see?  What will stand out?

Some big moments that strike me include, in no particular order:

  • Women finally gaining support for standing up against sexual harassment
  • Innocent people of color continued to be killed by police, and the police face few repercussions
  • The most popular sport in our country made people openly uncomfortable with very public displays of civil rights activism
  • White supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in the streets without fear

What I see is that there are many who are taking advantage of newfound social capital, and this makes the powerful frightened.  The LGBTQ community, women, people of color … these formerly disenfranchised groups have a public voice, and they’re using it.  Those who seek to keep a stranglehold on culture and society are tightening the screws in a last-ditch effort to keep ultimate control.

I see a lot of reason for optimism, but I’m overwhelmed.  I can feel it creeping up on me, on days when I can’t stand to hear any news about the city, about the country and the world.  I can’t let this get the better of me.

Things are getting better.  It’s hard, and it’s not going to get easier.

So, let’s look forward to 2018.  There is a lot of work to do!  We’re starting to make some real progress on important social issues, but there will be those who want to impede this progress and keep the status quo.  It’s going to be a struggle to keep moving forward in the face of this adversity, and I’d be lying if I said there were never days where I wanted to give up.  I need your support, and I need to keep giving you my support as well.  Whether we focus on national issues, local issues, or more meta-level concerns, we need to stay strong and keep moving forward.

I’d like to set some goals for 2018.  Not for myself, but for some things that I would like to see in our city and our country.

  • I would like next year’s homeless memorial service to have fewer names of people who lost their lives on the streets of Columbus
  • I would like to see men stop acting like creeps
  • I would like to see the wage gap between men and women disappear
  • I would like to see the income gap between white and black Americans disappear

These are lofty goals!  I’m not optimistic that we’ll accomplish all, or any, of these things, but I will continue to use my voice and my privilege to work towards these goals.  As for you, I encourage you to look at your community and set some goals as well.  Take the time and make the effort to make this a better place for those who are worse off than yourself.

In January 2019, let’s look back and see that we made some significant progress in making this a better place for all.