Monthly Archives: January 2016

Did You Know: Drug Poisoning in Alabama

A very common but devastating outcome of significant drug use is drug poisoning (the scientific name for a drug overdose). Sometimes a drug overdose can cause death but other times it causes a state of unconsciousness that the user may come out of.

This detailed map on drug poisoning mortality shows the rates in which people in the United States have experienced drug overdose deaths based on race, geographic location, and age through 2002-2014. [Full map found at http://blogs.cdc.gov/nchs-data-visualization/drug-poisoning-mortality/]

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Did you know that in 2002, the state of Alabama experienced one of the lowest amounts of calculated deaths, which was about 5 per 100,000 people? In 2014, less than 15 years later, that number rose to an average 15 deaths per 100,000 residents. Jefferson County was found to have one of the highest death rates in our state. We have been able to see this statistic first hand over the past few years.

What we have realized is that the city of Birmingham is seeing a drastic shift in drug usage and location. Typically, people would assume to find drugs in inner city Birmingham, but in recent years we have consistently worked with addicts from Over the Mountain areas such as Mountain Brook, Homewood, Hoover, Pelham and Vestavia. Now, the drug scene is more spread out than ever throughout our city and we cannot ignore this fact. We’ve seen that drug use is not always based off of where you grow up or how you grow up- it’s because all people are broken and in search of healing; some of our pursuits of healing just manifest themselves in more outwardly destructive ways.

Over the next few weeks we will further dig into the demographics behind drug use in our city and how it has affected the men and women we’re working with.

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Stories That Shape Us: Our People

A little over a year ago we did a series called “Stories That Have Shaped Us” and we recounted some of the stories from early in the ministry that shaped us and how we approach what we do. We’re going to put a little different spin on it and tell you all some stories about the people we work with. Sometimes it will be an encouraging story, sometimes it will be a rough set of circumstances, and sometimes it will be about a tough decision we’re facing in how to best help them. We want you to see beyond the circumstances that are present on the surface. We want you to see the personal side of things.

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Yesterday we got to spend a good chunk of the day with one of our guys that’s been in a recovery program for 5 weeks. He’s the young man we talked about in our previous blog about The Urban Purpose Safe House.

The program is about 45 minutes outside of Birmingham. We picked him up, took him to a doctor’s appointment, had lunch, filled a prescription, and then grabbed a cup of coffee before we headed back.

Another one of our guys that has been clean for over two years had a meeting at the coffee shop we were at with a financial planner we put him in contact with (how cool is it that he’s in a spot where meeting with a financial counselor is even a necessity?!?). He got to the meeting early and sat down and had coffee with us while he waited for his meeting.

It was so cool to listen to him share some advice and words of wisdom with the guy that is just beginning his journey towards recovery. And it was neat to see how encouraged the guy that’s early in the recovery process was. It was uplifting for him to just hear from someone that has been through what he’s dealing with and has accomplished so much.

When we got in the car to head back, it was awesome to hear how excited about he is right now and how he’s even more excited about his future. He’s not naïve though, he knows he has a long road ahead of him. But he knows that when he is done with the program he has safe people and a safe place to come back to. Please be praying for him and the remaining 11 weeks he has in the program.

Yesterday was a good day.

 

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The Urban Purpose Safe House

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A few months ago we set out to change the way drug addicts handle the time they are on a waiting list to get into a recovery program.

Here’s how this process regularly goes:

An addict finally comes to the point where they want to get help. They take the necessary step to put in an application at a local recovery program. Next, they’re put on a waiting list that routinely lasts anywhere from 2-4 weeks. This isn’t the recovery programs’ fault. They’re at max capacity. Most programs ask applicants to regularly check in with them during the waiting list period. This helps them know who is serious and still interested in being a part of their program. So, the addict waits. And waits. And what do you think happens in the meantime? They don’t have a place to go to break the nasty routine they’ve found themselves in. They’re still surrounded by the same people, places, and things that have played a role in ruining their lives. Some of them make it to the program, but many of them don’t. The desire so many of them had to change when they put in the application fades and they go right back to their normal routine.

Our desire is to change this process. We want to fill the void that’s out there during the waiting list period and help keep the desire to change alive. This has led us to create our very first Men’s Safe House. We’re in the early stages of this process, but so far we’ve seen God do some great things.

During the first week of December 2015, we moved our first person into the new Safe House. The amazing thing about this space is that it’s so much more than just a roof over someone’s head. We intentionally partner with local businesses that give employment opportunities to these men while they’re in the Safe House. We also partner with a local gym that gives them a place to regularly exercise. These partnerships have been made to provide the men with good, productive, and meaningful ways to occupy their time. Also, we have partnered with a local micro-church community whose people play an instrumental role in building relationships with the men in the Safe House. Two men from this community live in the Safe House full-time to provide encouragement, oversight, and accountability. In addition to all of this, Urban Purpose provides oversight and accountability to everyone involved in the process.

On December 22nd we dropped a young man that had been in our Safe House for three weeks off at a recovery program. Instead of aimlessly wandering through life for the three weeks he was on the waiting list, he worked, exercised, went to dinner with safe, healthy people, and was randomly drug tested. He was loved really well by a lot of people. For three weeks he was literally never alone. And so, when the call came that a spot was available for him, he was willing and ready to go. He was in a good place heading into the next four months that he’ll spend in the recovery program.

Most importantly, he was encouraged that he had safe people and safe places to come back to when he’s done. He was shown that he doesn’t have to do this by himself. The program he is in is about 45 minutes from Birmingham and he can have visitors on Sunday afternoons. One of the guys he lived with in the Safe House has made the trip to visit him and so has the boss he worked for during his three week stay. You see, we aren’t doing this just to be a part of someone’s life for a short time. We’re ready and excited about being a part of his life while he’s in the program and when he finishes it.  These few weeks have laid a critical foundation for the future.

This was our first run at our crisis-housing model. We know it won’t go this smoothly every time. But we’re excited and confident that this is a direction God is leading us. Right now we have one men’s crisis house open and will have a female house open in the first quarter of this year. We’re looking to do this on a small scale during 2016, learn through the process, make necessary adjustments, and add additional homes in 2017 and beyond. We would love your prayers as we move forward in this process and learn what God has in store for us.

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