Philadelphia FIGHT is a service organization designed to provide primary care, advocacy, education and research on potential treatments for people living with HIV or AIDS. As a part of Philadelphia FIGHT, the Diana Baldwin Clinic and the Teach Recovery Education Empowerment (TREE) intensive outpatient program specializes in treating HIV/AIDS positive patients who also have a substance use disorder.
“Our population is a very underserved group of people,” said Akia Feggans, the Director of Behavioral Health at the Diana Baldwin Clinic.
The majority of people seeking help from Philadelphia FIGHT community center are homeless or without private health insurance. Karen Shible, a therapist for the TREE intensive outpatient program, said she is very motivated to foster her patients’ confidence, as this is key for helping them re-enter society. Shible added that recovery is different for everyone, and some people may need to stay in rehab multiple times before they become truly committed to their recovery.
Two years ago, Philadelphia FIGHT became a federally qualified health center. As a result of this change, the Philadelphia FIGHT community health centers received more government funding and resources for their programs and employees. In the future, this increase in federal funds may allow the community centers to start treating everyone in need of health services – not just those diagnosed with HIV or AIDs.
For Feggans and the rest of the Philadelphia FIGHT organization, the opioid epidemic is not new. However, for the media and the federal government, the opioid epidemic began “when it started affecting upper class, white people.”
Feggans said people in power ignored the opioid epidemic until white, upper class people started to die from overdoses caused by substance use disorders. Before this, when the epidemic was predominantly hurting African American populations, the government failed to provide recovery services, and instead promoted the idea of abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
Promoting abstinence of anything rarely keeps people from doing whatever it is trying to be prevented. For example, it has been proven that abstinence only sexual health programs do not work, but sexual health programs that educate the public about condoms, birth control and other forms of safe sex do work.
The new United States administration worries Feggans and Shible. Some of the administration members on the far right seem to be keen on promoting more abstinence based programs in schools instead of funding treatment centers for recovery. The administration could also cut back on the resources they provide Philadelphia FIGHT with. However, Feggans believes the issue of addiction crosses party lines, and politicians from both parties will want to stop the rise of drug-related deaths in America.