Patient Stories | Sahira P.
Sahira came to Susan’s Place for a simple check-up. However, she was also struggling with a serious percocet addiction. And although she’d been yearning to tell someone about her condition, the legitimate fear of being judged and stigmatized loomed large.
No more than 4 months ago, Sahira P. came to Care For the Homeless’ (CFH) Susan’s Place Health Center in the Bronx for a routine check-up. However, there was something else on her mind aside from taking her blood pressure and checking her resting heart rate.
It turned out she had been struggling with a Percocet addiction.
The Reality of Stigmatization
As is the case with many CFH patients, Sahira was (at first) apprehensive about telling her story, despite her intense desire to do so. “I was dying to tell somebody my story,” she commented. “But, I was afraid someone would judge me.”
Judgement is just one of the many legitimate concerns CFH patients have when seeking medical services. Negative past experiences and financial insecurities lead patients to believe that they’ll also be, either turned away by providers or treated poorly by them. These complex concerns yield a litany of negative consequences. Perhaps the most severe of which, is that individuals are discouraged from accessing care. Absence of care allows chronic conditions to fester and continue to cause irreparable damage.
Of the 300+ people who died experiencing homelessness in 2017, more than 80 came as the result of a drug overdose and more than three quarters of those ODs were opioid in origin. Prejudices and misconceptions about homelessness inflate this number, prolong an individual’s addiction, and potentially increase their chances of overdosing.
Thankfully, CFH provider Joy Favuzza, noticed Sahira’s concern and the two women immediately formed a relationship that allowed Sahira to take the initiative.
“I felt a vibe from Joy, so I opened up to her,” Sahira reminisced. “Joy didn’t judge me. She helped me and now I’m sober, living my best life.”
Sahira is just one patient CFH has administered care to in the past year through our Suboxone program. Suboxone is a prescription medication, used specifically to treat those who are addicted to opioids. This medication is revelatory for many recovering addicts, as it simultaneously curbs an individual’s desire to use and helps prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms.
The treatment of choice for many providers has historically been methadone. This drug has many of the same effects as suboxone. However, it has its own addictive properties and has been known to lead to overdoses. Fortunately, Suboxone has had a significant impact on the opioid crisis and the positive results yielded by our own programs reflect that.
Looking Toward the Future
Happily, these fears are mostly fading memories in the distance of Sahira’s rearview mirror. And even though the process isn’t quite complete, she’s now able to pursue a stable lifestyle. “I just had a job interview last week and got hired,” she reported. “I’m working at a phone store. It’s something we deal with every day, we always have our phones. I like helping people figure out what they want.”
Sahira’s new job also represents much more than a boost in self-assurance. It reflects that she’s now on the path to pursuing whatever her life’s ambitions may be. And she’s not the only one benefitting.
“My son Cameron is great too,” Sahira continued. “He’s in a really great daycare now. I’m a little concerned about his speech because he doesn’t know his ABCs, but I’m on that now and working with him all the time.”
Sahira’s brave choice illustrates the measurable impact CFH services can have.
“When I was using, I wouldn’t want to get up and go looking for a job,” said Sahira. “I would just think about getting high. I used to be lethargic all the time and spend all my money on drugs. When I didn’t have them, I’d be quick to frustration.”
The Unmistakable Merits of Trust
Of course, Sahira was excited to acknowledge Joy’s role in her journey. “Joy’s amazing,” she said. “She calls me to check in. She meditates with me. I don’t open up to anybody else the way I do with Joy. She really touches me, and I always cry with her. I feel like most people are out here to judge you and tell you what to do. My experience with Joy has been so much more genuine.”
Building strong relationships based on respect and fair treatment, is unequivocally instrumental in helping people walk confidently down the road to recovery. Sahira’s story is indicative of how following those principles works so well. Integrating medical, behavioral, and mental health care with each individual patient’s complex needs, sends the message that those experiencing homelessness are heard, believed, and supported.