On Thursday, two visitors from Philadelphia FIGHT came to talk to the class: Akia Feggans, the Director of Behavioral Health at the Diana Baldwin Clinic, and her coworker Karen Shible, a therapist at the Teach Recovery Education Empowerment intensive outpatient program. The pair discussed their experiences treating low-income people in Philadelphia who have substance use disorders and are HIV positive.

The Diana Baldwin Clinic provides different types of therapy for people who are HIV positive and struggle with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. TREE is an IOP program for people living with HIV/AIDS. The organizations both fall under Philadelphia FIGHT, a community center for people who are HIV positive.

Feggans said the center’s clients are an “underserved group of people,” including homeless people, people without insurance and low-income people.

Feggans said although she has seen the effects of the opioid epidemic for years, the media and decision makers have only started paying attention recently.

“When the government starts to feel like it’s an epidemic, it’s usually when it starts affecting upper class, white people,” she said.

Shible said the most difficult part of her job is helping her clients learn who they are after they enter recovery. For many people with substance use disorders, she said, their emotional growth and development is stunted when they begin using drugs. She said she must work with clients in order to help them “find” themselves and learn about their interests, whether they’re the same as before the client started using drugs or entirely new.

“You’re not meant to be the person you were 15 years ago, you’re meant to be who you are now,” she said.