By Danielle Nick

On Thursday, March 2, 2017, we heard from Akia Feggans, the Director of Behavioral Health at the Diana Baldwin Clinic and her co-worker Karen Shible. Shible is a therapist at TREE, an intensive outpatient program. The Diana Baldwin Clinic and TREE are two of the three health centers that comprise Philadelphia FIGHT. Feggans explained that Philadelphia FIGHT is no longer just an HIV center. About two years ago, Philadelphia FIGHT obtained the title Federally Qualified Health Center. With this change in title came an increase in resources. Currently, the centers serve solely people that are HIV positive, but Feggans predicts this will change soon. Regardless of the changes to come, Philadelphia FIGHT will continue to help those in need. This population includes the homeless and people without private insurance. As Feggans said, “Our population is a very underserved group of people.”

After breaking down the fundamentals of Philadelphia FIGHT, Feggans and Shible asked our class why this epidemic is so evident now. The opioid crisis is a trending topic in the media, but this epidemic is not new. Feggans explained, “When the government starts to feel like it’s an epidemic, it’s usually when it starts affecting upper class, white people.” For Feggans and Shible, this drug crisis is old news, a problem they have been tackling for years. However, Feggans and Shible are happy that they finally have decision makers’ attention, despite how long it took. Feggans explained that we should take advantage of this rare time when the government is listening. This is our opportunity to spread awareness about the national opioid epidemic and find solutions.

According to Feggans, helping to get patients clean is the easiest part of what Philadelphia FIGHT does. The most challenging aspect of her job is helping people to understand who they are and who they aspire to be after getting off drugs. Feggans explained how alcohol/ substance abuse has the ability to stunt intellectual and emotional growth. People who get clean are not miraculously cured of the disease. After getting clean, the real challenge starts. People are forced to find themselves, though the disease may have distorted who they once were. Feggans explained what she tells people struggling to come to terms with their new reality. “You’re not meant to be the person you were 15 years ago, you’re meant to be who you are now,” Fegans said. Feggans and Shible are motivated to work on their patients’ confidence, as this is a key component in re-entering society. According to Shible, success is a relative term. It might take someone just one time in rehab to stay clean, but another person might need five times before they commit to their recovery. Everybody is different, and certain solutions work for some people and not for others. As Shible eloquently said, “Success is measured in the person’s efforts and the quality of life that they have.”