11/07/18 Shannon Riley

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Shannon Riley
Harm Reduction Coalition

Shannon Riley of Vancouver Coastal Health, Shiloh Murphy of Natl Drug Users Union, Lynell Clancy of Harm Reduction Svc, Elizabeth Macintosh of HIPS, Greg May of Indiana & Jasmine Budnella of Vocal NY. Recorded at Harm Reduction Conference New Orleans.

Audio file


NOVEMBER 7, 2018


DEAN BECKER: Hello folks, this is Cultural Baggage, and I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. We've got a lot of great stuff coming to you this week from New Orleans and the harm reduction conference. Let's go.

SHANNON RILEY: My name is Shannon Riley, the last name is Riley.

DEAN BECKER: And, you're here representing Insite, which as I understand it is a Canadian harm reduction outfit that allows for safe injection and safe consumption. I understand that they've gone beyond just injection at this point. Correct?

SHANNON RILEY: That's right, and just a little correction. So, I work for Vancouver Coastal Health, and there's two organizations that work with Insite, and that's the Portland Hotel Society and Vancouver Coastal Health, they collaborate with Insite. And so I was front line at Insite a few years ago, and currently I'm working more on expansion of places to consume drugs.

And so yeah, it has changed from only injection, and it's not only injection anymore. We allow oral and snorting, which is still not addressing the need for all the people that are smoking. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well, now, you know, I find it interesting that you guys have been in existence since, for how long now?

SHANNON RILEY: Well, Insite's having its fifteenth anniversary this year. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: And, thus far, there's been how many overdose deaths in the facility?




DEAN BECKER: Okeh. And tell us why that is, what's -- what makes the difference?

SHANNON RILEY: You know, it really is having people there to observe you, right when you use. Right? Just to see that exact moment of use, because people can overdose within seconds.


SHANNON RILEY: And so, to have someone to observe you when you're using prevents death. It's that simple.

DEAN BECKER: Well now, here in the United States, we've had cities, Ithaca, New York, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and even my city of Houston has dabbled in the idea of a safe consumption facility. Thus far, everybody's afraid of the federal government coming down upon them. From my perspective, it seems that it is a lack of compassion that's preventing us here. What is your thought in that regard?

SHANNON RILEY: Compassion? I'm not -- you know, I don't know if it's -- I don't know what my thoughts are on compassion, but I would say, in our overdose emergency, we've been able to expand our supervised consumption spaces because of the emergency.

We have been able to use our provincial emergency to open up spaces that we now call overdose prevention sites, which essentially provides a space for people to be observed, and it doesn't have all the regulations that a federal exemption requires, like Insite, or the other ones that are called basically supervised consumption spaces.

Those are federally exempted sites, and so, now we have a lot of overdose prevention sites across the country, which, honestly, doesn't even have to have a sink. It just has to be a room, it has to be a place where people can come to to be observed and not be in the alley, and to have somebody there to watch them and to be able to respond with either naloxone or oxygen if they're to overdose.

So we have so many of those, and we have actually, in Vancouver, we have 22 in housing. Yeah. It's incredible.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that is something. Now, my recollection of Insite, it was a fairly large space with several cubicles, very clean, sterile looking, and then I guess a couple of observation rooms where they could see all of this going on. Right?

SHANNON RILEY: Yeah, that's true. Great lighting, it's a really -- it's a really established space, and it's really medicalized, and that works for some people, but not all people, and all the overdose prevention sites that we have are non-medical, so they are run by people with lived experience or current lived experience. So it's nice to have a variety of different models to appeal to people that need different things.



DEAN BECKER: Now, you know, it's been my hope over the now decades that the United States would recognize what you guys have done at Insite, what has been accomplished, the saving I guess of thousands of potential lives over those decades.

SHANNON RILEY: Yeah, you know, when Insite won its victory against the Supreme Court in 2003, I thought it was going to happen really fast, too. In Canada, I thought it was just going to blow up and we were going to have so many sites, and it took at least another ten years to have one more.

And now we're growing, so this is many years later for Canada to even like establish more, since that hearing, so I don't expect the States to be on it as fast as that. But I hope that with all of the movement in Canada that it will eventually just have to happen. Right? But, it has been slow, it really has been slower than I thought. It has been slower than I thought, considering how advanced Europe is in this area.

DEAN BECKER: Right, and let's address that for a second. I spent part of this year in Lisbon and Bern, in Switzerland, and, I talked to the drug czar of Portugal.


DEAN BECKER: He seemed to so open to this need for respect to drug users.


DEAN BECKER: To not push them further underground, so to speak, and that's what we do in the United States, is disrespect people who use drugs, to consider their lives less than worthy. Your thought there.

SHANNON RILEY: Yeah, there's so much work we have to do on stigma, and valuing the lives of people that are using illicit substances, and considering that treating medical needs that are not being treated by the system that we currently have. So, we have so much work to do in that area. But I think stigma and I think that is -- that is where the work is.

DEAN BECKER: All right, once again we've been speaking with Shannon Riley, she works with Vancouver Coastal Health and supports the Insite safe consumption facility up there. Any closing thoughts, a website you might want to share, Shannon?

SHANNON RILEY: You know, I think the things that I would share are some of the work that I'm specifically doing, is working on safer washrooms. People die in washrooms all the time, and we've developed a checksheet that can really help people assess the safety of their washroom.

And that's available online, if you just search Vancouver Coastal Health and washroom checklist or checksheet, you'll find this checklist, and it will help you make some simple decisions, just even by getting a master key that's available for all of your staff, or even the way your doors swing for your bathroom stalls. If they swing in, then someone can fall against that door and can delay response time if someone's overdosed.

So, check out that sheet for, you know, the other space where people are using now, you know, especially when they don't have other options.

DEAN BECKER: All right, I'm here at the harm reduction conference. They tell me there's two thousand people, and I'm not meeting too many that I know as of yet, but I just ran into one I certainly have known for years now, Mister Shiloh Murphy. How are you doing?

SHILOH MURPHY: Hi. I'm doing great.

DEAN BECKER: Shiloh, you're based in Seattle, right?

SHILOH MURPHY: Yeah, I'm based in Seattle, but I work a national drug user union that's all over the country. I'm with the Urban Survivors Union, and they do -- and they have chapters in Seattle, San Francisco, Greensboro, and affiliates all over the country.

DEAN BECKER: And we're hoping someday you guys can come to Houston and help us down there, because we sure need the help. Something just happened in San Francisco, where they were going to open up a safe consumption room, basically, and the governor shut it down because he was afraid of the feds. Your thoughts in that regard, please.

SHILOH MURPHY: Well, I am really disappointed, and I feel like he had an opportunity to save the lives of his citizens, and he's chosen not to, and I think, to be perfectly honest, every single death of overdose that happens from here until now, until they open, it's really on Jerry Brown's head.

And I think, you know, I congratulate San Francisco and I congratulate many other cities who've stepped out and said, you know, what we want, we really want to do these things. We need to save lives, and these are based on science, and, you know, I really get frustrated with people who are just, bigotry, anti-science, when it comes to saving people's lives.

And these, because these are people's mothers, their daughters, they're their brothers, they're their uncles, and these lives matter. And 72,000 people died last year, you know, and we go on and on about how bad the Vietnam War was and the death toll, but, you know, we're ignoring people in our own country that are like right here now.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and talk about a drug war, that's a lot of damned casualties, isn't it?

SHILOH MURPHY: Yeah, and it's -- it's a war that was declared on its own citizens. I mean, think about that. I think people don't really take that into consideration. We declared war on Americans. You know, we talk about how much we didn't want the war in Afghanistan, or how much it costs, the war in Iraq, but, you know, we declared war on ourselves. Right?

These are people who no longer are going to be able to, they've died, they went to prison, they can't be part of our society. They won't be the artists, the engineers of tomorrow, because we've declared war on them.

We're doing everything we can to destroy our own country, and our own spirit, and I feel like it's the most anti-American thing you could ever do.

DEAN BECKER: No, I, you nailed it, buddy. I tell you what, we have here these two thousand people that we're attending this conference with. Hope. We've got a chance to change this, do we not?

SHILOH MURPHY: Yeah, I think we have to change it, and I think it's really going to be around building people's self worth. And I think we need to start talking to people in our community, and we need to stop the shaming, and we need to start reminding people that we love them, and we care for them, and we want the best for them.

And we really need to stop talking about how people should go to treatment, and start building those treatment centers and start building those access points for folks, and we need to get away from the old system of, you know, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, because that doesn't necessarily work for folks, because if you're caught in so much trauma and you create this cycle of trauma, you know.

And I also think, you know, this is something that I've been really hitting more and more, is, a lot of people in legal states of marijuana have been using marijuana to get off opiates, and using like dabs, specifically, for folks who are smoking heroin, to slowly detox off of heroin, and it's been really successful. And I think we need to start investing in any possible treatment for folks.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I've been speaking with Mister Shiloh Murphy, based in Seattle but going national with his efforts. Shiloh, a website you might want to recommend?

SHILOH MURPHY: I would say, the PeoplesHarmReductionAlliance.org, is the organization that's in the northwest and, I think the Harm Reduction Coalition has a great website, but if you really want to fight and make real change, there's the Drug Policy Alliance website, and they are really, really stepping up and fighting the great fights.

LYNELL CLANCY: It's Lynell Clancy, like the author, with no money. I work for an organization called Harm Reduction Services, and I volunteer with a needle exchange called Safer Alternatives Through Networking And Education.

DEAN BECKER: And, you told me you're based in Sacramento?

LYNELL CLANCY: Yes, Sacramento, California.

DEAN BECKER: So much variance in what's actually being done for drug users around the country, would you agree with that thought?

LYNELL CLANCY: I agree with that thought, but that's what harm reduction is, it's helping each person reduce their own harm, which there's no cookie cutter model for. Different in different states, cities, counties, it's what works from where you are.

DEAN BECKER: Right, but then, we have states like Texas, where they voted in a needle exchange program, but then the mayor of the city where it was going to be allowed said hell, not in my back yard, and it's just never happened as of yet.

We do have some underground, if you will, needle exchanges going on in the big cities, but it's not given the same largess, it's not giving the -- given the respect, and utilization, like in cities like yours.

LYNELL CLANCY: Well, we ran an underground needle exchange for, it's been going now for 25 years and most of it was underground. We just now, in the state of California, in the actually the capitol of the state of California, we just a few days ago made it, or they voted to make it legal in the county. It's been legal in the city for years, but it just now became legal in the county of Sacramento.

DEAN BECKER: So I guess that underscores what I was saying, you never know.

LYNELL CLANCY: We did it anyway.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and, that's the hell of it is, I think very few politicians, very few officials, are willing to be that ogre, to be that monster that would stop such an effort. What's your thought there.

LYNELL CLANCY: Oh, that's *****. They don't mind being that at all. They, especially in our state capitol, we have a lot of Republicans, and they're -- and they really don't give a **** one way or another. Promotes drug use is the way that they state it.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, and again, I've got a daytime show, most of this, or those words will not make it. But -- no, it's good to express yourself, I do appreciate that, I often wish I could use those words on air, to be honest.

LYNELL CLANCY: Part of who I am.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. No, no, I understand. Now, you've been doing this work for how long?

LYNELL CLANCY: Twenty-five years.

DEAN BECKER: Twenty-five years. And tell us about the progress that was made over those 25 years, what was it like in the beginning. What caused the change, what enabled you to move further?

LYNELL CLANCY: Well, at the beginning, we were told point blank that if we were caught doing syringe exchange, we would be arrested, we would be prosecuted, and we would be put in jail.


LYNELL CLANCY: And, actually that did happen.


LYNELL CLANCY: But, what we did was we started a model that got the syringes out in the same network that the drugs got out, and that's how we -- we work from a model where we distribute to people who distribute syringes to people that they know. We have to visit less people. We train the people that we exchange with on many different harm reduction items, I guess you could say.

And that's how our model works, and it's different than other people's models, different models work in different areas.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Like, my city of Houston, I'm aware of a couple of drop offs, or whatever you want to call it, where they show up, under a bridge, under an overpass, to make those needle exchanges, and the cops look the other way. They really don't want to interfere. The word is getting out that it is of benefit.

LYNELL CLANCY: It's definite -- you're going to spend a couple of cents on a syringe, and you're going to save thousands and thousands of dollars on people not transmitting hepatitis C or HIV. You can pay for it up front, or you can pay for it at the back.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. All right, well, I'll tell you what, I do appreciate you taking time to talk with us. Is there a website, some closing thoughts you'd want to relay?

LYNELL CLANCY: You can go to HarmReductionServices.org, and you can see we do quite a few different things. You can -- you can go to Sacramento needle exchange, and both sites will come up because one of them is a site base, where people come onto them, and then we have our mobile, where we go out and -- people call us and we go out and we exchange with them and with their friends. So, different models. In the same city.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Frequent, prolonged, or bothersome erections, birth defects, enlarged genitals, premature pubic hair, increased libido, aggressive behavior, male pattern baldness, increased acne, prostate cancer, and, time's up! The answer, from Cerner Multum Incorporated: Axiron, for muscle gain and boners.

ELIZABETH MACINTOSH: Elizabeth Macintosh.

DEAN BECKER: Elizabeth, who do you work for, what brings you to this conference?

ELIZABETH MACINTOSH: I work for HIPS in Washington, DC. We started as a sex worker outreach organization in 1993. Since then we evolved to work with everybody involved in street economies, so people who trade sex, people who use and sell drugs, even that guy at the intersection selling DVDs and oils. Anybody who may need our help.

We were one of the first harm reduction agencies in DC, and we've been coming to this conference since the beginning, for years and years and years.

DEAN BECKER: No, I've seen you guys's booth, and probably had an interview or two over those years I've been, I don't know, it's my seventh or eighth conference. You know, it occurs to me that many times, drug users are compelled to become sex workers, and or the reverse of that. It just seems to coincide many times over. Would you agree with that thought?

ELIZABETH MACINTOSH: I definitely agree, and, you know, that's one of the reasons why we put street economies in our mission statement. A lot of the people we see don't identify as sex workers or drug users, they're just saying they've got to do what they've got to do to survive.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And that's becoming more contagious, or certainly happening more these days, with, you know, the fat cats are getting richer but the rest of us are not really doing that well. Your thought there, please.

ELIZABETH MACINTOSH: I agree, and we're definitely seeing that in Washington, DC, especially, I don't know, I've been in DC now for 15 years. DC is now more white than black. It's more affluent, young white people moving in, and the people of color, specifically the black people, are getting pushed out. They've been there for generations and generations and you can't afford to live there anymore.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that's becoming, even my city of Houston, you know, the, my house has damn near doubled in value in the last ten years, not that I did any improvements, mind you, but it's just the way it's going. People are being priced out of the economy.

ELIZABETH MACINTOSH: They're being priced out, and they're also being politically pushed out. A lot of these people moving into DC are not from DC. They're not part of the culture. As they're moving in, a lot of the corner stores, family owned businesses, are shutting down, and it's just -- it's a different place. It's a different place that's pushing our population out.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Elizabeth, we've got two thousand people here. What has been the response during this conference to your efforts? What are you hearing from folks?

ELIZABETH MACINTOSH: I mean, HIPS has been coming to these conferences since the beginning. We're seeing a lot of people that we've been seeing for the last 25 years. This conference in particular, we're seeing a lot more younger people, a lot more people doing research, a lot more people doing community organizing and advocacy, so it's been interesting to kind of see the harm reduction world evolve.

DEAN BECKER: Right. All right, well, let's close it out here. What would you like to relay, is there a website you'd want to point folks toward?

ELIZABETH MACINTOSH: Yeah, definitely. If you want to learn more about HIPS, you should go to www.HIPS.org, or you can join us on Facebook, facebook.com/ILoveHIPS, and my final words to people out there are to be nice to sex workers and be nice to drug users.

GREG MAY: Greg May. It's my first harm reduction conference, I'm just here to see what I can learn and take back to Indiana and share with folks at the county government, and then, I work for a community mental health center, so see how we can better integrate harm reduction practices into the day to day work.

DEAN BECKER: Well, tell me about the work you do there, sir.

GREG MAY: So, I have two roles. One role is I'm a commissioner on the opioid awareness commission, which is a commission that was created in the county that I live in by county commissioners to like bring a plan of action to help address the opioid issue in our community.

And then I'm the director of administration for Centerstone, which is a community mental health center, providing services to adults with severe and chronic mental illness and substance use disorders. So, we just provide all kinds of services related to that.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that's a very worthy endeavor to be involved in. I see it like this, that we have drugs that are not what they are purported to be, you know, heroin's not even heroin anymore, the opiates are quite often these days fentanyl, carfentanyl, even more deadly. Have you encountered that situation?

GREG MAY: I've heard of those situations in our community, where people think they're buying something, they use it, and then they find out that it's something else.

DEAN BECKER: Do you find that the drugs are a complicator of the mental health disturbance?

GREG MAY: I think it depends on the condition. I think if it's more of an organic psychiatric condition that may have been there, I think drugs certainly exacerbate it, but then I think there are times where people take some kind of synthetic drug that's been mixed with something, they don't know what it is, and then it creates a psychosis that they usually have to live with it for the rest of their life, because it typically -- it's not resolving in most cases.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I know, it's no probably your bailiwick, but in Houston, where I'm from, they have large problems with this stuff called synthetic marijuana, has nothing to do with marijuana, but it causes them to pass out. Some of them get paralyzed and a few have even died. Do you run into that in your environs?

GREG MAY: Yeah, in our community it's called Spice, and it was probably two years ago, it was a big problem in the downtown area, and people were, like, overdosing and passing out, and vomiting, and it -- yeah. So, we've seen that.

DEAN BECKER: Did you see that the current methodology, this belief in drug war, is it helping your efforts or is it hindering your efforts?

GREG MAY: I think that it hinders the efforts, because the attention becomes on the drug war and not getting people access to care and getting them connected to the things that would allow them to live their life differently, should they want to.

DEAN BECKER: Advice you might give to parents?

GREG MAY: I think the advice is to remember that at the end of the day, they're your kid, and this is a, you know, medical condition that people need treatment for, and there's treatment that works, and, you know, hate the disease, not the person.

JASMINE BUDNELLA: Jasmine Budnella from VOCAL New York.

DEAN BECKER: Now, we've talked in the past on the Drug Truth Network about your efforts up that way. What is this year bringing, what's unfolding as we speak?

JASMINE BUDNELLA: So, we are still waiting for the governor to sign off on the overdose prevention center pilots, so, we have been signaled that that would happen after the elections, and now that it's right around the corner, we're really looking forward to either continuing the pressure or moving forward on the pilots.

Another thing that we're really working on this year is, we, are the End Overdose New York Coalition, so we want to look at all the different ways that we can end overdose. So now that we have a pilot program perhaps coming out, with the governor signing off, hopefully, we are also looking at expanding universal access to medication assisted treatment.

And so we're looking at multiple different access points where folks can get involved in medication assisted treatment. So one thing we're pushing this year with our colleagues at Drug Policy Alliance is medication assisted treatment in prisons and jails throughout the state.

One thing we're really excited to work with one of our council members in New York City, is getting buprenorphine providers and linkage to methadone clinics in New York City shelters across the city. Overdose is the leading cause of death for people who live in shelters, so this will be a really great opportunity to engage folks.

And then the other thing that we're looking at is like how to model really great models of buprenorphine providers that are throughout the state. So there's this wonderful model in Ithaca, run by Doctor Justine Waldman, who's doing really great, so we're looking at if there's a regulatory, a financial, or a legislative change or shift that we need to do that we can expand access all across the state.

DEAN BECKER: We've both heard the sad news coming out of California, Governor Brown in essence vetoed the safe consumption facility, for fear of federal interference. But I hear good things coming out of Ithaca, in particular that they -- they're standing boldly as they possibly can. What's happening there? Any chance of that safe consumption room occurring there?

JASMINE BUDNELLA: Yes, both Ithaca's mayor and New York City's mayor, both have said we continue to stand in support of these, and we continue to want to move this forward. I think what -- the devastating news of Governor Brown kind of signaled that, one, he is not standing up against Trump for drug users, and so here, we're really looking at Governor Cuomo, who, in his debate against Cynthia Nixon, continually repeated that he would always stand up to Trump, and Trump's policies.

So now we're saying, you're going to stand up to Trump and Trump's policies, and you have to do it and make it inclusive, including the lives and voices of drug users.

DEAN BECKER: You know, it's, statistics, 72,000 dead last year, that seems to be awakening our, swinging that cat, so to speak, somehow, that people are more willing to get off the high center that they once occupied and to begin at least discussing the possibility for change. Your thought there, please.

JASMINE BUDNELLA: Yeah, I think it's more of a wake up call that we're losing somebody every eight minutes and it's devastating. I think that now we're opening conversations of what that looks like today. CNN, as I was getting ready this morning, there was a poll of how many Americans believe that safer consumption spaces should be implemented, and I believe it was like 76 percent or 78 percent, and obviously it was a quick Tweet poll, but it's opening conversation.

I think now, especially with midterms coming up and elections next year, is that we have an opportunity as a movement to really push electeds as well as candidates to say that if you're going to come out as somebody who is supposedly going to help shape our nation, either our city or country, you know, or state, then you are not going to get elected unless you make that -- unless you make the overdose crisis a priority.

And so we have an opportunity to do that. The political will of the movement is there, the energy of the movement is there, the political will of some of our ally electeds. I think right now it's our opportunity to really shape that narrative, and put the pressure on.

DEAN BECKER: I considered going before my city council, my county commissioners, to, not pressure them, but just to awaken them to this need for change, that this change is happening, and that history will not be kind to those who waited too long to begin to recognize those possibilities. Your thought.

JASMINE BUDNELLA: Yeah, that's exactly right. That is exactly right, and VOCAL New York, you know, we're a membership led organization, so, we have our users union, and we're angry. Like, we cannot wait any longer, and you're right that history will not be kind to those folks.

And so what we're saying now, as a users union, as VOCAL New York, as Drug Policy Alliance, Harm Reduction Coalition, you know, all of our allies, is that we are literally taking it to their offices and we will do whatever it takes. I think we have the great legacy and we're kind of standing on the shoulders of AIDS activism, and what happened there, and now we can utilize strategies and wisdom from a lot of folks who are still here who were in ACT UP!, to see like how they did it, but also, you know, revolutionize kind of the way we talk about it when we go to electeds offices.

And like, we cannot be kind anymore, like, we need to be aggressive in really, exactly what you said, that history will not be kind, and no moments we can spare. Like, we have to do this now, and we have to be aggressive. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we've been speaking with Jasmine Budnella of VOCAL New York. Any closing thoughts, a website you might want to share?

JASMINE BUDNELLA: Yeah, just follow us on Twitter, and sending a lot of love and hugs to everybody, and keep up the good fight.

DEAN BECKER: It was a sad tale on election night, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Cruz and Beto going head to head again for president in 2020, and again I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.