On Monday, a Liberation Programs “Mobile Wellness Van” was showcased outside town hall.
The van will begin making weekly visits in Greenwich on September 14 from 10:00am -12:00 noon, at the Horseneck Commuter Lot.
Demetria Nelson from the Greenwich Human Service Dept said she was grateful for the services Liberation Programs provides in helping people with substance use disorders and their family members, as well as the work they do related to prevention.
“With Liberation Programs, we are looking to de-stigmatize substance use disorders and bring treatment and services closer to those who need them,” she said.
“I can go (on the van) to hot spots, and just sit there. Before you know it, I have 10 or 12 people at the van.”– Henry Webb, Recovery Coach, Liberation Programs
Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo said he was happy about the town’s partnership with Liberation Programs.
“The good news is that we talk about it, and we’re more open about it now. That’s a good thing,” he said about substance use disorders.
John Hamilton, CEO of Liberation Programs said the opioid epidemic worsened during the pandemic.
“Addiction is an equal opportunity disease,” Hamilton said. “It affects all ages, all socio-economic classes, both genders, sadly, the same way. We’re here to meet people where they are in Greenwich.”
“That means that for some, this may be the year of recovery,” he said. “We can start their recovery process, but we also know that this may not be the year of recovery, but our goal is to keep people alive to continue to engage them.”
“We have prescribers on the van,” Hamilton continued. “We may give people harm reduction efforts: Narcan to revive someone who may be in the throes of addiction. Fentanyl strips to have someone test their drugs to make sure they’re not taking poisonous Fentanyl and keep them alive. And just by meeting them where they are, and treating them with dignity and respect, we hope that people will come around and find their path to recovery, if not now, then sometime soon.”
On each van is both a medical prescriber and a recovery coach. They can provide treatment referrals and prescriptions.
Longtime Liberation Program recovery coaches Henry Webb and Glennard Brown, both clean and sober themselves for well over 20 years, talked about the pride they take in helping others work toward recovery.
“I can go (on the van) to hot spots, and just sit there. Before you know it, I have 10 or 12 people at the van,” said recovery coach Henry Webb.
Hot spots are outdoor spaces where people gather to do drugs.
“Before you know it, they tell everybody else. Some of the time, it’s the same people coming back. Sometimes we get someone for the first time,” Webb said.
“One time I did a needle exchange and got 600 dirty needles and gave them 600 back. We ask for them back, but if we don’t get them back, we still give,” Brown said.
Webb said in Stamford there has been a collaboration with Stamford Police
“They meet us at the hot spot, and there’s a lot of Latinos who don’t have documents. They’re in the streets, so we try to help them.”
“We meet them where they’re at, but at the same time, the most important thing is trust and having conversation,” Brown said. “If he came to the van and said he needed help, we would call detox and do a screening, and if they say there’s a bed available, we’ll take them right here.”
“And once he goes there, if he wants to do four months as an in-patient, we’ll set him up to go upstairs for four months,” Brown added. “We do harm reduction, but at the same time we try to engage.”
Mr. Brown said he was glad to have helped a homeless man in Bridgeport who had been sleeping on the street.
“He had nowhere to go, but we made it possible to bring him in. I’ve been with Liberation for 24 years. I’ve seen people die right in front of me. I’ve seen people lose loved ones who they couldn’t talk to, but I came up to them and started talking to them and let them know there is hope.”
He said there are people he has helped over his decades with Liberation Programs that he now sees clean and sober. “When you see somebody change their life and do better, it makes you feel so proud,” he said.
As for “harm reduction,” the Rover includes smoke kit, vitamin C, Fentanyl testing, condoms, ointments, water, bandaids, syringes and Narcan.
“Even if someone is using cocaine or smoking, we still ask them if they want Narcan, because they may have a friend and they need to save their life if they’re overdosing,” Brown said.
“We try to show them safety,” Webb added. “The first thing is to make sure they’re safe, because of the environment they’re in. We already know they’re in a bad environment. We provide services to assist them and keep them alive.”
The Mobile Wellness Van will begin making weekly visits in Greenwich on September 14 from 10:00am -12:00 noon, at the Horseneck Commuter Lot.