In October 2020, Patrick Bebie joined the Community Opioid Response Program as an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Colorado Health Network in Pueblo, CO. Patrick was kind enough to sit down with Jack Patterson (Programs and Administrative Assistant) and Kristine Rubio (AmeriCorps Program Manager) to answer some questions about themselves and their service. Read a few of these questions below and the entire interview on our website by clicking the link below.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm from Cleveland Ohio, I grew up westside suburbs of Cleveland. The area I grew up in was almost all catholic. Went through catholic schools. When I walked out of it for the first time, I started to realize how different it was back home. I had an ideal upbringing with 2 sisters, a black lab, a labradoodle, and a small dog.
I have passion for harm reduction and the way drug control policy has been done in the past in the last 7 decades. The current situation with the levels of overdose is an unprecedented product of these past policies. I wrote my thesis on US drug policy, and in doing so I grew frustrated with the policies and how they have been implemented. Drug companies have been allowed to do so much and we have serious issues with criminalization. I wanted to do something about it. We are trying to prevent people from dying versus trying to make a drug-free society.
I’ve always been politically minded and want to become involved in policy creation. I want to address needs in a more impactful way with sustainable methods. I am attracted to non-profit work and much less to corporate work. I want to find out what the community wants versus what a textbook tells you.
How did you get into volunteering?
I was raised catholic and went to catholic schools. Service was this weird thing that was highly encouraged but, in my experience, was this kind of pat on the back thing you did. It was nothing like VISTA. I’ve had some corporate internships, but that was an end to a means. I find undoing some of the wrongs done in the past very worthwhile. When I go to work every day, when I don’t have enough to do I get frustrated because I want to do more. Much better fit than any corporate job.
What advice would you give people considering going into service?
Find something you're passionate in. If you’re just going to serve it will just become a job. I think about my work all the time, it's in my brain.
If you could visit one place, anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I would love to go to Havana, Cuba. I like the aspect of it being forbidden.
What is one item you cannot live without?
Phone, Coffee Maker, Bluetooth Speaker, being able to listen to music.
What is your favorite hobby?
Video games have been essential during the pandemic, lately I’ve also been doing a lot of skiing.
Tell us about your host site. How do you, as a CORP member, fit into their vision of supporting communities?
I am serving with Colorado Heath Network Pueblo. Our site, for as much as we do, is rather limited as there are only five of us. The site's primary role is to operate a needle exchange. We serve 150 people a day. A lot of the folks we see have had bad experiences with the medical community and we provide something different.
We are always trying to expand and create new programs. How do we support folks who are not injecting? How do we implement harm reduction techniques? I’m working on developing a homeless outreach project which is in its infancy stage. We want to help people who don’t have a means of transportation or may have disabilities that affect their capacity to participate. We would like to make a larger Hep C initiative where we will draw blood and provide confirmation tests. We would like to do this biannually onsite at these camps.
What attracted you most to work with CORP?
After writing my thesis and diving deeply into how disturbing US drug policy has been and, in my personal experience, hearing people saying "let drug users die". People saying “Why are we providing naloxone? We should let junkies die”. I’m motivated by people talking so poorly of people who use drugs, and the callousness of just saying let them die. A lot of these people have jobs, they work, they are members of our community, but we treat them like they are not. We treat them as outsiders. What really attracted me to CORP is that it was addressing this problem. That these massive stigmas do exist, and people are not getting the help they need and are dying every year.
What programs/projects are you currently working on?
How can we increase access to Prep and Pep (Post and pre-exposure treatment for HIV)? Making sure pharmacists are aware of the new law, how do we create new avenues for people to access the medication
Also, with the new paraphernalia laws, I would like to see Fentanyl test kits sold with other paraphernalia. With an increase consumer power and the information that drug users and sellers have, the supply should clean itself up over time. We want to give people agency to take care of themselves. The stigma is people that are substance users are irrational and don’t want to take care of themselves. They do care.
What is the most rewarding aspect/proudest accomplishment of your work/position?
I sat down three years ago to plan to do something with my time after college and now I'm actually doing it. I graduated college in 3 years. If I had this extra year, I wanted to do something with it.