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Which Would You Choose?

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

By Jamelia Hand, MHS CADC CODP

Presented by Omni-University

When it comes down to making risk assessments, It is harder for some than for others  to make them, especially when the choices are between: (1) the current Opioid epidemic (2) the COVID-19 Pandemic (3) the public health crisis of police-related deaths of unarmed Black people; and/or (4) participating in the current movement to end the injustices inherent in all of these major causes of death in the Black community.  People who are suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the effects of those drugs on pulmonary and respiratory health. Additionally, Black people with substance use disorders are more likely to experience incarceration than whites. Thus, the problem is exacerbated because incarceration and drug-related circumstances have been shown to pose unique healthcare challenges regarding transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.  This period in our nation's history has dramatically increased the vulnerabilities of those who are in recovery from drugs/alcohol or who are seeking to recover from their effects. As is much of the population during this Pandemic, they, too, are isolated and stressed. Therefore, they are likely to be triggered or reminded of the temporary comfort that substances have offered, as a means of managing or alleviating discomfort and/ or negative feelings, in the past. Those in recovery are facing stressors and heightened urges to drink or to use substances. This ,in turn, puts them at greater risk of relapse or overdose because of their decreased ability to tolerate stress. Friends, family members, and substance-use treatment providers should be aware of this probability.  However, it is our elders who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. The website, CMS.gov, recently released federal data which found that Black seniors were around four times (4X's) as likely as White seniors to be hospitalized due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and that Latino seniors were more than twice (2X's) as likely to be hospitalized. The effects of the COVID-19 and opioid deaths have been equally devastating for communities of color which were already facing declining health outcomes for chronic illnesses before the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, the Pandemic  has heightened our awareness of the disparities. Research has shown that Black people constitute seventy per cent (70%) of COVID-19 deaths. Severely limited access to health care, in Black communities across our nation, has placed Black people with healthcare issues at greater risk for many illnesses. When clinics or hospitals are not available, or are already at capacity, it is a certainty that Black people—who are often stigmatized and underserved by the healthcare system—will experience even greater barriers to treatment for and recovery from COVID-19. Our current public health message, which is  to isolate, intensifies a problem that already exists for underserved Black communities, for not only are they living in areas that have few resources to support a healthy life-style, many are less likely to seek help outside of their communities. This reluctance is fueled by negative social determinants such as: economic inequality and inequity, food insecurity, inadequate educational resources, unsafe living and travel conditions, and structural racism. Each of these, in its own way, undermines the trust in existing social systems. And, invariably, the unjust, criminal "justice" system is at the helm.  Considering all of the foregoing risks, there are still those who are inclined to ask why Black people are protesting during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The answer is simple: It is because there appears to be little difference between what we are undergoing in our struggle to live, our premature deaths by alcohol/drugs, COVID-19, or police-related causes . Even when we do what we're "supposed to do", we still die. The grief and pain that is experienced because of death, which is the result of the unprovoked misuse of law enforcement, "seems" more devastating than the trauma and devastation caused by drug overdose and COVID-19.  The recent, tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmud Arbery, Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and so on-  the list keeps growing-continues to deepen our distrust of systems that claim to be there to "serve and protect" us. THIS is why we march.


To dream the impossible dream To fight the unbeatable foe To bear with unbearable sorrow To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong To love pure and chaste from afar To try when your arms are too weary To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest, to follow that star No matter how hopeless, no matter how far To fight for the right Without question or pause To be willing to march Into hell for a heavenly cause...

"The Impossible Dream"


Below please enjoy, "Reframing Opioid Addiction" on Omni-U Presents: The H3O/Art of Life television show, featuring today's blog writer and Omni-U faculty member Jamelia Hand.



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