Central City Concern

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Black History Month: Q&A with Linda Hudson (Part 1)

Feb 09, 2016

We continue our Black History Month series introducing the Central City Concern Imani Center with a two-part Q&A with Linda Hudson, CCC’s Director of African American Services. Last week’s post introduced the roots of the Imani Center. In part one of our interview, Linda shares more about the unique experiences many African Americans encounter in mainstream treatment programs, how the Imani Center breaks through them to enhance their clients’ chances of recovery success, and more. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Part of the purpose of the Imani Center was to provide services that address barriers “uniquely experienced by African Americans in mainstream [treatment] programs.” Can you talk a little bit more about those barriers are?
One of the main things we see is the effect of treatment curriculum taught in many traditional programs, which has been created and maintained from the viewpoint of the dominant culture. So when an African American patient comes in with different experiences and different perspectives, and they try to fit the client into that curriculum, there’s often some tension there. If it doesn’t relate to the individual, or if they have a difficult time understanding it, they get labeled as “resistant” or “not a good fit.”

Or if an African American person enters treatment with a background of trauma—and so many African Americans carry the trauma of discrimination and racism—it’s easy to get triggered. A lot of those curricula and even treatment staff don’t have that cultural lens to understand that the client has had some horrible history that they may continue to carry every single day. So a person with consistent trauma can get triggered very easily.

An African American client might enter a treatment program, perhaps loud and boisterous with a lot of PTSD and trauma, and they’ll probably make people in the group uncomfortable. They’ll get labeled as aggressive, so they don’t do well in treatment. Black people in treatment get kicked out of programs more often and they don’t graduate as often. Many African Americans encounter this in traditional, predominantly white, treatment programs.

How does the Imani Center avoid those barriers?
A lot of our clients have never been able to sit in a treatment program and really be themselves: say the things that they would love to say the way they want to express it. At the Imani Center, clients don’t have to feel like they need to use the perfect vernacular, to choose their words. Here, they can say things the way they want to, and we can understand it and work with them. And of course, we can work on refining some things to get their needs met if they want that.

At the Imani Center, clients are allowed to be who they are in a safe place. They get to talk about racism and discrimination, and they’re talking with staff who understand what they’re talking about. We’ve been there ourselves. We know how it goes and we know how it feels. And we the staff are in position to share how we have gone through and gotten to where we are; we can share with clients how they might be able to navigate it and better themselves to get to where they want to get to.

And I want to be clear that traditional programs are in no way bad. They are absolutely necessary. But some of our people just haven’t been set up for success in those environments, and we’re hoping to change some of that and help them heal in ways that they can start getting their needs met in an appropriate manner and understand how to navigate through the system.

Who are the faces behind the Imani Center?
I’m the director of African American services. Joanna Smith is our lead mental health counselor. JoAnna and I are the only Qualified Mental Health Professionals (QMHP) at this time. We have recently hired another QMHP who will be on board soon. Yvette Davis is an Addiction and Mental Health Counselor, and Jammie Trimble is a Mental Health Counselor. Walter Bailey, Bonnie Johnson, and Richie Denson are our three peer support specialists. Karen Fahie, the Imani Center Office Manager, keeps everything organized and running smoothly.

We heard from Sonja Ervin in last week’s post that during the planning process, the African American community voiced that they greatly valued Black leadership and Black individuals who have the credentials behind the work they do. Aside from the lived experiences, there is a high level of education under the Imani Center roof. What message does that send? How does that aid in what the Imani Center hopes to be?
Yeah, people sure do want those credentials behind your name! [laughs]

Joanna, Yvette, and I all have Master of Social Work degrees. Joanna and I are Qualified Mental Health Professionals (QMHP), which means we can do mental health assessments and diagnose. Yvette is also a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor which means she is credentialed to perform alcohol and drug assessments. I’m dually credentialed, which means I can do both mental health and addiction assessments. Jammie and Yvette both are Qualified Mental Health Associates, which means they can work with mental health clients, but not diagnose. Jammie will be taking the Oregon Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) test shortly.

The three peers support specialists have gone through the extensive Certified Recovery Mentor training. Walter and Bonnie are former counselors. Walter is also a Qualified Mental Health Associate (QMHA) and Bonnie, a CADC l. Richie is currently enrolled in an A&D counseling program. And they all have firsthand experience to varying extents with addictions and mental health struggles.

My goal is to get everyone dually credentialed. Nowadays you don’t find many people struggling with just one disorder. They’re so often co-occurring: mental health and addictions. Most mental health clients use drugs to self-medicate; most people who use drugs develop mental health disorders. We have to be able to work with both at the same time. You can’t work with one and then the other. It’s called integrated treatment. And along with our CCC primary care clinic, most of our clients are getting the best of the best care.

As treatment program staff, we need to be at our best so we can best help those we’re serving. I encourage our staff to take care of themselves. Stay home if you’re sick. Take time off when you need it. Working with our clients is challenging. The disease of addiction and mental health disorders are so complex and we need to be at our best.

That’s why I’m so grateful that we were able to create the Imani Center. It’s not a traditional program. We do individualized treatment. We do it according to what the client needs. What does he need? Oh, he needs to be in the MH group and the criminality group. What does she need? She needs to be in the women’s group and the relapse prevention group. All based on their needs and history.

Aside from not having had success in traditional treatment programs, is there a “typical” profile of a person coming to Imani? What makes someone a good fit for Imani?
I don’t know how to answer that… there are so many types of people who come here!

The big thing is if they are willing and able to show up and do the work. We don’t sugarcoat anything here. We’re going to do work here. This is an alcohol and drug addiction and mental health clinic. Someone who is tired of doing things the way they’ve normally done because it’s not working for them. Let us show you a different way of getting your needs met. You also need to be able to get along with others. We have a complex group of people. We empower and encourage people to monitor themselves.

Many years ago when I started in this field, the word “manipulation” would be thrown around so much about clients. “They’re manipulative. They’re manipulating.” But if I needed to get my needs met, I need to get my needs met! Addiction is a very selfish disease and in many ways, mental health issues are not far from that. And if you constantly label people manipulative, you can’t empower them to be better.

So we do not use that word as it pertains to clients here. Instead, I encourage my staff to think of people trying to get their needs met the best way they know how until they learn how to do it differently! That means they have to unlearn all the things that they have learned on the streets and through criminality, and then learn a different way. And that takes a long time to do.

But if you’re willing and able and you and show up and get along with others, then we can work with you.

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Part two of the Q&A with Linda Hudson will be posted on Thursday.



Black History Month: The Roots of Imani

Feb 01, 2016


February is Black History Month, and Central City Concern is excited to celebrate this important and valuable observance. Last year on the blog, we featured several reflections on the equity and culturally specific work taking place at CCC. This year, we are thrilled to honor Black History Month by introducing you to the Imani Center, a new CCC program that offers African American-centered mental health and addictions services. Each week throughout the month we’ll share a different facet of the Imani Center’s story. Our first post comes from Sonja Ervin, our Director of Cultural Equity, who shares why and how the Imani Center came to be.

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We wanted to do more. We wanted to do better.

Central City Concern demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that everyone we serve through our addiction treatment, healthcare, housing, and employment services feels a part of the CCC community. We also recognize that we can and should strive to do better. That desire to do and be better resides at all levels of the CCC community; just as importantly, CCC recognizes that authentic change and improvement must be driven by those who “own the experience.”

People of color face stunning disparities in health and socioeconomic wellness in Multnomah County as reported upon last year in the Report Card on Racial and Ethnic Disparities. Central City Concern wants to play a role in addressing such disparities.

With the desire to do better, and the wisdom to understand that those who own the experience must drive the process, in fall 2014, CCC’s Executive Director asked a group of our African American staff and community members (many who have lived experience in poverty, homelessness, addictions and treatment) to come together to talk about how CCC can do more and do better for those we serve from the African American community.

We got together and talked about experiences, opportunities and challenges. We looked at what was offered—at CCC and in the community—and where the gaps were. What do we as the African American community need? How should it be provided?

What did we hear? Essentially, our community was seeking culturally specific leadership, treatment, and support services that address the barriers that are uniquely experienced by African Americans in mainstream programs.

One meeting led into months of work to develop recommendations, a plan and a proposal to combine current programs with expanded resources to create a comprehensive program for African Americans by African Americans.

Between the experience, knowledge, and wisdom of the African American community, the agency’s commitment to listening to and serving the community better, and the support of partners like Multnomah County, an idea—now fully realized as Central City Concern’s Imani Center—took root and began to grow.

In August 2015, Linda Hudson, a longtime CCC employee with deep experience in behavioral health service, as well as culturally specific programs serving the African-American community such as The Real Program, African American Health Coalition and the OHSU Avel Gordly Center for Healing, was selected as the Director of African American Services and hiring of staff began.

The Imani Center has been serving clients experiencing disproportionate barriers to reaching a higher potential since November 16, 2015. The Imani Center has already seen the culturally specific approach to addiction and behavioral health treatment make a difference in those being served.

The program name “Imani” means “faith” in Swahili. This name was chosen to provide participants and CCC with a foundation of faith—faith in our services and our agency, and for the participants’ faith in themselves. We look forward to continuing the work of empowering and supporting the needs of the African American community.

 



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: January 2016 Edition

Jan 28, 2016

After a brief hiatus, Central City Concern’s Monthly Volunteer Spotlight makes its return in 2016! This month, meet Scott McKnight, the first on-call volunteer to be featured on the blog! Read on to learn more about his many roles and why he enjoys volunteering with CCC.

• • •

Name: Scott McKnight

Position: On-call volunteer

What have some of your volunteer projects been?
Let’s see… I went down into the basement of one of the buildings which I was told was part of the old tunnel system in Portland to fold some donated clothing and linens. It was strange but it was definitely interesting! I did some childcare with toddlers at one of the family housing sites to free up moms to attend a support meeting. I helped serve Thanksgiving dinner at one of the housing buildings. One of the most satisfying things I did was help put together overdose kits for Old Town Clinic.

What do you enjoy about the flexibility of the on-call position?
I like to do different volunteer jobs. I like it for the social aspects, too; I always meet nice people. I haven’t really done volunteering exactly like this, so it’s a bit different from what I’ve done. And I’ve done something different almost every time.

Why is volunteering important to you?
It lifts you up to go and volunteer for somebody else. It’s something I enjoy doing. I like helping out where I can. It makes me feel good.

I think it’s just part of my duty as a citizen. I feel really fortunate to have been raised in a middle-class family and now I’m part of that middle class. I set my own work hours so that allows me to get out and do some volunteering. I feel that if you can give back, then that’s something you should be doing.

What drew you to CCC?
Actually, I had never even heard of CCC before volunteering. I was searching for something work-related but then I came across CCC in the search results. I must’ve just clicked a link to send an email to Eric, the volunteer coordinator, and here we are.

But now when I come into downtown, I always see a CCC truck or a van.

What, if anything, have you learned so far?
It’s a great mission to try to get people off the streets and help them manage their addictions. We’re facing massive issues of homelessness and substance abuse and to try to just help that, to break the chain of substance abuse and poverty, is worthwhile.

Is there a particular volunteer experience that sticks with you?
Serving a Thanksgiving meal hit home. It was emotional to see all those people there. For one thing, doing that made me feel really fortunate.

The most emotional story from that day for me was talking with a woman having a meal. She said she couldn’t have her kids there because they weren’t able to stop using drugs long enough to come down and visit her. It was upsetting to hear that her past substance use had been passed on to the next generation. She had thankfully put in the work to escape it but her children had fallen into it.

Just being there and being with the actual people who were being helped by Central City Concern was meaningful. This might surprise people, but the residents just looked like everyday people, like me and you.

What would you say to someone who was on the fence about volunteerism?
Just try it. See what people you meet and see how you feel afterward.

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We’re grateful for on-call volunteers like Scott, who often respond to needs on short-notice and always show up with a fantastic attitude and a willingness to do work that helps our programs serve the needs of our clients and patients better.

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering with Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Eric Reynolds, CCC’s Volunteer Coordinator, at eric.reynolds@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.

 



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Volunteer Spotlights

What motivates CCC volunteers? What do they do when they volunteer? Why do they choose to give their time to those we serve? Find out by checking our Monthly Volunteer Spotlight! Learn more »

Central City Coffee

Through craft roasting coffee in Portland, OR, Central City Coffee supports the clients and mission of Central City Concern. Available at local retailers and as office coffee! Learn more »