Each election year at Unity Recovery we strive to help educate our broader community about candidates views on topics most important to us – substance use and mental health concerns, recovery, carceral system reform, harm reduction, and the broader array of drug policy positions. Each cycle, we work to gather this critical information to help inform our communities decisions on local elections that shape the communities we live, work, and thrive in.
The following are responses received (and listing of those candidates and campaigns who did not respond) to the 2023 Unity Recovery questionnaire. Questions are prepared by our staff with lived experience and our community stakeholders. In 2023, candidates were provided the survey questions on February 3rd and asked to return them by February 17th.
Survey Instructions and Questions
Our elected officials play an important role in setting the tone and tenor for policies that impact our community. At Unity Recovery, a recovery community organization based in Philadelphia, we work each election to gather important information for our community members about candidates’ perspectives and policy positions on topics related to substance use and mental health, recovery and wellness, harm reduction, housing, the carceral system, and more.
We are providing the following list of questions in the written form and requesting candidates provide answers that can then be shared with our stakeholders to inform their voting choices in this primary season. We ask that candidates review these questions thoughtfully and respond expansively for the benefit of our community to make informed decisions for topics that are very important to us.
Thank you for taking the time and attention to participate this year. Please return your responses to contact(at)unityrecovery.org by February 17th, 2023. We look forward to receiving your answers and engaging in ongoing dialogue about improving our communities.
1. Tell us what recovery means to you? What about harm reduction?
2. Will you approach substance use disorders and/or mental health concerns as a criminal justice issue or a health/public health issue? Why?
3. What steps will you take to ensure behavioral health – including community-based organizations providing recovery and harm reduction supports – is a funding priority? Will your proposed budgets (if not a mayoral candidate, will you support proposed budgets which) include increased spending in behavioral health evidence-based programs?
4. What are your priorities for how federal dollars and opioid settlement funds are used in Philadelphia?
5. How will you meaningful engage with the larger recovery community and harm reduction community if elected to office?
6. How will you support/advocate for families and loved ones impacted by substance use and mental health concerns?
7. BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ identifying individuals, and many other underseen communities with intersectional lived experiences of substance use and mental health concerns face additional barriers to long term recovery or wellness (i.e., carceral punishment, lack of economic opportunity, elevated overdose risk, etc.) What are your strategies and policy positions to improve the way in which access to behavioral health care, including community-based services, are available and efficacious for these communities?
8. As with many other cities in the United States, Philadelphia responded much differently to crack cocaine use than it has more recently to increases in opioid use. What would you say to community members, families, and other stakeholders – primarily from communities of color – negatively impacted by the punitive approach of addressing crack cocaine use, as opposed to recent efforts to address opioid use largely focused more on a public health framework?
9. What is your position on evidence-based programs primarily concerned with reducing the negative health events and impacts of drug use (i.e., harm reduction programs), such as overdose prevention sites (i.e., safe consumption sites), syringe service programs, legalization of sex work, etc.? How will you work to implement or prevent implementation of such programs, depending on your position?
10. Kensington is often highlighted locally and nationally as the epicenter of the opioid and overdose crisis in Philadelphia. There are differing opinions, perspectives, and requests for help from the varied stakeholders that live and visit this community. These include those who use drugs, those who live unhoused, local residents and business owners, and those organizations who provide services there. How will you work to address the differing needs of Kensington from the perspective of each of these stakeholder groups? How will you navigate compromise amongst the different groups? Please be specific.
11. What do you see as the role of law enforcement and the larger carceral system in addressing substance use and mental health concerns in Philadelphia?
12. What do you believe is most important thing you can do as an elected official for people with substance use and mental health concerns? What about their family members and loved ones? The communities impacted by these issues?
13. The behavioral health clinical treatment system, including state and local funded recovery housing options in Philadelphia, is complex and often associated with a lack of efficiency or employment of evidence-based practices. How will you work to evaluate our clinical system, including recovery housing programs in the city? What will you do to ensure access to quality, evidence-based treatment is available to all who want it?
14. The smoking ban implemented in Philadelphia at clinical treatment programs has been found to have caused direct and tertiary harm to those who were treatment seeking. What will you do once elected to ensure that policies such as the smoking ban are not implemented in such a way again? What will you do to right the harms caused by the smoking ban that was implemented in Philadelphia and then later rescinded?
15. How will you work to protect the rights and opportunities of those who use drugs, those who identify as in recovery, those who engage in sex work, those who live unhoused, and/or those with past justice system involvement?
1. As someone who personally knows people in recovery, recovery is a multifaceted approach that is different for each individual: from year to year, to month to month, to week to week, to day to day, to minute to minute. Additionally, harm reduction can be interpreted broadly and can be different for each person based on their stage of recovery.
2. Both substance use disorders and mental health concerns must principally be addressed as health and public health issues, because that is what they principally are. Assisting people in recovery to stay alive, stay safe, and have the opportunity to recover has to be at the center of any approach that seeks both dignity for everyone involved and long-term success.
3. As the longtime staff for Council’s Public Health Committee, then as a Councilmember, and as a parent of a child with autism, my professional and personal trajectories have been intertwined with the behavioral health system, in its successes, weaknesses, and absences. I have long advocated for treating the State and federal-funded programs–whose budgets amount to roughly the same as the City’s General Fund–with equal seriousness. The behavioral health budget needs to be reevaluated and rebalanced to focus on success and can be supplemented–both through additional outside grants and potentially municipal dollars–through the innovations and successes thereby achieved.
4. While much of the federal money currently available is more specifically earmarked–such as capital infrastructure–my priority for those dollars in the behavioral health space as well as from the opioid settlement funds is to make investments that will ameliorate underlying issues–such as inadequate, affordable housing and lack of available treatment–while providing opportunities, particularly jobs.
5. By regularly meeting with various organizations to understand their perspective and methodology to address this issue. As Mayor, I would form a commission/advisory board that seeks true input and utilizes this information to implement real strategies to aid this community.
6. As the father of a son on the Autism Spectrum, I will use my lived experience to develop a better understanding of these concerns and will use this background to become an advocate for this community.
7. By working with these communities, we will strive to revise policies that serve as a barrier for these services and will provide a way to hold City administrators accountable for not addressing this issue.
8. The abject inhumanity and obvious inequality that characterized the response to the crack cocaine epidemic demonstrates exactly how not to respond to any particular wave of substance use. The proof of that is in the outcome, much of which lingers on in our communities and in too many of our lives. Seeking recompense by treating similarly situated people with disordered use of opioids does nothing to reverse the prior injustice, while opening up some of the same populations and communities to the exact same injustices. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and repeating the mistakes of the past doesn’t reverse them, it compounds them.
9. While I am open to evidence-based programs, I don’t believe in applying simplified scientific conclusions outside the contexts in which they are successful. For instance, the City does not have the power to legalize sex work, which is a different policy stance than decriminalization, which could theoretically happen at the local level, but might also lead to greater danger for those affected. Similarly, opening one overdose prevention site is not comparable to a system of such facilities across a region that are largely funded by health payments from outside the city. We have to be thoughtful in using the right evidence to apply to the situation in which Philadelphia finds itself.
10. The core of my agenda–public safety, economic development, municipal reform–overlaps with the priorities of these groups, and to a certain extent, meeting each of their needs addresses all of their needs. But to the extent that the preferences of these stakeholders are in competition, the City has to work forward in trust-building efforts and backward from a shared vision of the outcome. Obviously, we aren’t going to get everyone on board, but to the extent that the City can balance meeting the priorities of each stakeholder, especially in ways that do not come at the direct expense of any other, we can start to reduce traumatic responses to a challenging environment and build, at best, community, but minimally, enough trust and mutual understanding that everyone can be bought-in on policy implementation.
11. Public safety is not just a buzzword, but a right that all members of our city should be able to take for granted. To the extent that members of any community are engaged in violent crime or possession of illegal guns, the priority must be on enforcing the laws against those things. At the same time, we have not done enough to provide alternative opportunities for jobs, housing, care, or other services. Law enforcement is not, however, a solution to substance use or mental health crises.
12. The most important thing for the Mayor to do is to continue to prioritize trust and community-building in tandem with implementing solutions. Because of the complexity, trauma, and intractable nature of inequality with which substance use and mental health issues are entangled, it is easier–and frankly, more welcome–for administrations to look elsewhere. Problems with our bureaucracies makes it that much easier to avoid turf wars and competitions for limited resources. Far easier are the short-sighted and politically expedient bandaids used to address these issues as their symptoms bubble up or their trauma spills into public view. But we see today the long-term cost of not having sustained, engaged leadership from the top of the city in resolving community conflict, investing in neighborhood priorities, being both open and candid about opportunities and limitations. As Mayor, I will rectify that lack of involvement.
13. Our treatment system is complex and the City has only so much power or capacity to manage it. But limited is not none, which makes it all the more necessary to do what we can to make these systems work. Broadly, we should be striving to make housing far more accessible to everyone in Philadelphia and empowering the community behavioral health experts within the city.
14. COVID has reminded us that public health involves relation with community input, not simple dictation of expertise to the public. Unfortunately, the smoking ban was decided for reasons that might generously be described as questionable and has had to be reversed. By elevating the voice of our public health experts and holding them accountable to working with stakeholders, I believe we can avoid foreseeable mistakes like the ban.
15. As Mayor, I will work to better educate our criminal justice partners of these challenges so that we can help people and not expand a pipeline into the criminal justice system.
1. From personal experience with family members, for me recovery is a journey that requires support. Our system has so many barriers that even when an individual is ready for treatment they are often unable to receive it. We have more information than ever about brain chemistry and the science of addiction, the effects of newer drugs such as fentanyl and now xylazine, and the destabilizing effects of poverty and environmental factors, and yet our systems have not evolved, so individuals pursuing recovery have the best chance of success when they have supportive networks who are there for them when they encounter these barriers and can help them navigate the bureaucracy of receiving care. To me, harm reduction means that people are more important than systems – it means not denying care to someone because of their substance use and not making a determination that inhumane conditions of living and existence are acceptable for an individual because of their substance use.
2. Substance use and mental health concerns are health issues, and I will treat them as such. Bringing a person experiencing addiction into the criminal justice system only worsens the destabilizing factors and lack of access to healthcare that perpetuate experiences of addiction.
3. Philadelphia’s behavioral health and welfare system have a combined budget of over $3.7 billion. Currently that funding is not being used effectively. I believe we need to completely realign our behavioral health spending and our special needs housing to better reach people and families who need assistance.
4. We have the opportunity with one-time federal funds to make bolder investments to have a lasting impact on our city. I am concerned that these funds will be frittered away and as Mayor I will work with community leaders and stakeholders to develop a public, transparent, and accountable plan for using these funds. This settlement was won on behalf of all Philadelphians who have suffered because of the opioid crisis and we must be accountable to the public. I will prioritize family stability, expansion of recovery housing, and no-barrier access to treatment.
5. I believe that harm reduction and recovery services should be available in every neighborhood so we can truly meet people where they are. I believe that these services should be walkable for the majority of their clients, and that we should have services spread more widely geographically, to support lower-volume services. As we realign our behavioral health spending I look forward to working with our partners to expand innovative models for what we can offer in recovery housing and expanded evidence based and patient-centered treatment models.
6. When my uncle who struggled with addiction decided he was ready for recovery, he wanted to go away but we weren’t able to get him a bed in a recovery facility. Instead, my aunt became his primary caretaker and we had to make improvements to the house, fixing up a separate bedroom and bathroom for him to give him a place to work through his cold turkey withdrawal and recovery process. Based on that experience, I believe we must do a much better job helping families who want to support their loved ones through recovery but need resources to make household improvements, cover transportation costs, and take time off of work to be caretakers.
7. Currently the City’s systems for supportive services do not fully take into account how being part of the LGBTQ community can impact a person’s ability to afford and access healthcare, housing, and other services, and that must change. We need to do a better job of meeting people where they are with outreach so they know their rights. We will expand access and utilization of municipal ID, which I insisted on creating without traditional gender/sex questions in order to be more accessible and useful to all communities. My administration will work closely with grassroots organizations in our neighborhoods and connect to LGBTQ-focused health organizations to facilitate both regular communication and referral to the Human Relations Commission when necessary.
Because of the importance of housing stability, I believe that in particular the City’s Office of Housing and Community Development must be better prepared to address the crisis of homelessness and housing precarity in the LGBTQ community, particularly for LGBTQ youth, those aging out of the foster system, and for Trans and nonbinary people who may face unique barriers if their documents don’t reflect their name.
8. I appreciate this question very much as this is exactly my lived experience. I grew up in Hunting Park during the crack epidemic and experienced the horror of the government trying to arrest its way out of that crisis. As we know, that didn’t work and every day we still pay the cost of destabilizing those families.
I think it would be very meaningful for the Mayor of Philadelphia to be someone who comes from these communities. As Mayor I would not be speaking to anyone for the first time – these are my neighbors, family, and friends. I am running for Mayor because I believe that we have the opportunity to invest in communities and in people in a restorative way. We can acknowledge the city’s role causing the prior decades of disinvestment, end the destructive policies that still disrupt families and punish people for being poor, and make new investments to improve the daily lives of the Philadelphians who have put in the sweat equity in making their communities better despite the damage that government policy has done.
9. I believe that generally speaking any program that’s coming into a neighborhood needs to be a good, engaged neighbor. As I was an early supporter of Prevention Point, I facilitated the extensive community outreach that was needed to move their services from a van, to a building, to a larger building. Regarding safe consumption sites and additional needle exchange programs, people who use substances live in every part of the city, and services should meet them where they are. I believe that these services should be provided in a medical setting, appropriately distributed throughout the city so they are low-volume and walkable for the majority of their patrons.
10. In my experience working in Kensington, there are many different experiences among the stakeholders but there is a great deal of agreement about what Kensington needs: less gun violence, more access to treatment, and cleaner streets that are well lit and safe so that children can walk out of their homes without being traumatized and endangered.
When I developed our Restore Kensington plan, it incorporated the perspectives and priorities of all of the stakeholder groups. Unfortunately my plan was not fully funded or implemented by the Kenney administration and the situation in Kensington, made much worse by the pandemic, has continued to worsen.
There is no Mayoral candidate who knows the complexities of this situation the way I do, and I have said publicly that Kensington is part of the reason I felt I had to run for Mayor. Kensington is my neighborhood. As Councilmember representing the 7th District I worked every day to address the short term crises and to bring long term investment in better quality of life. As Mayor I am committed to fully funding the community-led Restore Kensington plan and dedicate an interdepartmental effort to intervening in the ongoing public health and safety crisis in Kensington.
11. I believe we should work closely with state and federal law enforcement partners to address the international drug trade that causes as much as 70% of our gun violence and has perpetuated the open air drug markets which have concentrated a public health emergency in the streets of Kensington. State and federal agencies are better equipped to pursue the largest organizations and perpetrators. Furthermore, when larger jurisdictions take over the prosecution of cases, Philadelphia taxpayers pay much less of the cost. Individuals who are struggling with substance use and mental health concerns are much more likely to find a successful recovery if they are given access to treatment options rather than being incarcerated, so I highly support drug court and diversion/treatment programs to end incarceration of individuals because of their health issues.
12. The most important thing that the Mayor can do is lead a city government that works and provides timely services so that every Philadelphian, no matter their income or zip code, can live a life of dignity. My administration will prioritize accessibility for speakers of all languages and members of vulnerable communities, and we will reduce bureaucratic barriers, not only to accessing health services and treatment, but to accessing stable housing, affordable bills, good jobs and transit, and good public schools. As Mayor, I will invest in stabilizing families so they are better equipped to deal with the challenges they face.
13. It is a testament to our broken system that we have treatment beds sitting empty every day while we have individuals struggling to access treatment. I believe we must realign our behavioral health spending, expand models for recovery housing working with the state to eliminate abusive situations, and remove barriers to treatment related. We can create more innovative housing options including improved group housing, rooming houses, and other recovery housing options that are affordable while providing dignity and safety for individuals in recovery.
14. I was a vocal critic of the smoking ban as a Coucilmember. I believe it was condescending and serious misjudgement and as Mayor I will ensure that we do not erect additional barriers to treatment.
15. I will make sure that Philadelphia’s city government does not discriminate against residents because they are members of these more vulnerable constituencies. I believe there is a great deal more we can do to support Philadelphians with a criminal record who have served their sentence but are still sentenced to poverty, and will change policies that are unnecessarily punitive, carceral, and disruptive to families.
As Mayor, I will refocus our efforts to invest in people, not just in programs. By creating basic income and developing housing options that help stabilize families we can ensure that all Philadelphians, particularly members of vulnerable communities, can live with dignity.
1. Being in recovery means an individual is making an attempt to overcome an addiction or condition that is negatively affecting their health, well being and disrupting their daily lives and the lives of their family and community. Being in recovery is continual progression and individuals in recovery are not ever cured. Harm reduction is an acknowledgement that illicit drug use will continue to exist in our society and the steps taken to reduce the negative consequences associated with using drugs.
Harm reduction covers a wide range of strategies that are meant to improve the quality of life of the individual using drugs and can include safer use, managed use and other strategies to address the condition of the use of drugs and the use itself. Implementing harm reduction strategies means that entities provide services in a non judgemental or coercive way and prioritize the health of the individual seeking treatment rather than seeking to eliminate drug use.
2. For far too long those suffering from substance use disorder and individuals with mental health challenges have faced a heavy-handed, often punitive, law enforcement response to their struggles. We need an approach that is centered in compassion to address the needs of these individuals and under my administration that approach will be a public health approach. We absolutely need to hold the drug dealers and supplies and the pharmaceutical companies responsible for their contributions to the opioid epidemic in our city but we must provide those suffering with the care and treatment to help them stabilize their lives and get back on their feet. This means providing clear pathways to treatment, stable housing and consistent access to behavioral health services to address the underlying conditions contributing to their substance abuse [sic].
3. As a former budget director for the City of Philadelphia, I know better than any candidate running for Mayor the ins-and-outs of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS). The city spends over a billion dollars on the DBHIDS in combined local, state and federal money. As Controller, I directed my office to audit this spending and we found that the department lacked the proper internal controls to ensure that the public funds were being used properly and effectively. As Mayor, my administration will use data and metrics to track every department’s progress towards developed goals to best serve our residents. Specifically for DBHIDS we will also have metrics for our community based organizations to ensure they are providing the proper recovery and harm reduction supports to meet the needs of our residents. We will consistently evaluate these programs and the programs provided by the department. We will prioritize spending on evidence-based harm reduction programs and ensure that we are implementing those programs with the best practices.
4. The flow of federal dollars and opioid settlement funds will be essential to ending the poly substance crisis that has overtaken Kensington and had such a lasting negative impact on so many Philadelphia families. I released my plan on how a Rhynhart administration would approach the opioid crisis. Some of these funds can and will be used to provide more community responder teams, provide more consistent pathways to treatment and implement strategies to break up the open air drug market, but this plan is only the start. As Mayor, I will convene experts in the recovery field to discuss what best practices should be implemented to truly help individuals with substance use disorder. These funds represent a unique opportunity for our city to fund programs that we know work in other jurisdictions and help our residents in their battle with addiction. Working with experts and individuals working on the front lines in recovery, my administration will develop short term and long term programs for individuals with substance use disorder and I will prioritize using both the federal funds and money received from the opioid settlements to scale up those programs.
5. During my tenure as City Controller I convened and relied on experts to help my office develop recommendations and solutions to tackle our city’s most pressing problems. This meant utilizing subject matter experts during investigations and audits, creating and utilizing community councils to provide input for recommendations that impact their community and at times simply picking up the phone and asking for advice for professionals working in the field we were studying or auditing. As Mayor, I will continue that practice. The larger recovery and harm reduction communities will not only be partners while my administration crafts policies and implements strategies to address addiction in our city but also will be at the table while we develop solutions to challenges that affect those in recovery and suffering from substance use disorder. This includes policies involving the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, strategies to address homelessness and issues regarding public safety. Governing is most impactful when it is done with a diverse group of stakeholders, and the recovery and harm reduction communities must be a part of that group.
6. As Mayor I will direct the appropriate departments not only to center the experience of the individuals with substance use disorder or those with mental health concerns in our programming and implementation but also the lived experience of their loved ones. We can not simply ignore the trauma and hardship family members and loved ones experience as a result of the challenges individuals with substance use and mental health concerns face. In addition my administration will have specific programming, support groups and resources for the family members and loved ones of individuals with substance use disorder. We will not only holistically treat the individual with substance use disorder but we will support their loved ones and families as well.
7. I will always strive to center the experiences of those who haven’t historically been listened to or protected as we make policy. That means centering the needs of BIPOC, LGBTQ+ individuals as we address the key issues facing our city, including helping those with mental health challenges, those individuals who use drugs and those suffering from substance use disorder.
My administration will convene a diverse group of stakeholders to specifically examine the additional barriers to long term recovery or wellness that are faced by BIPOC LGBTQIA+ individuals and develop specific strategies to ensure that our services – whether they are provided by DBHIDS, Health or Homeless Services – are accessible to these specific communities. In addition, my administration will prioritize having BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ individuals at the table for policymaking and in senior positions implementing our programs and strategies in diverse communities.
8. As government leaders it is important that we not only acknowledge the harm that historically racist government policies have caused to our communities but also be intentional in the work that we do to rectify that harm. This is a thread that will run through all of the work I do if elected Mayor of Philadelphia. To the communities negatively impacted by the punitive approach used during the crack era, I would say though that my administration will work tirelessly to reduce the harm caused by policies driven by a racist agenda by investing in our communities and our residents, ensuring that the neighborhoods that were intentionally divested from are given the resources and attention needed to urgently improve the quality of life of all residents. This means providing more parks and recreation, library hours and programming. This means delivering world-class service to our residents, cleaning up the streets, towing abandoned cars and picking up trash on time. And perhaps most importantly it means creating pipelines to family-sustaining jobs and careers, both through providing high quality neighborhood public education and targeted, intentional workforce training opportunities. In the past our government chose to leave certain people behind and broke up families and neighborhoods through over policing. In a Rhynhart administration we will fix those neighborhoods and invest in those families to ensure that Philadelphian as an opportunity to thrive.
9. With over 1200 overdose deaths in 2021 and an entire community overtaken by an open air drug market, we need to do everything we can to reduce the harm caused by the poly substance epidemic fueled by opioids. There are far too many barriers to treatment for individuals with substance use disorder and a contaminated drug supply has caused an increase in overdoses and other medical concerns for those using substances. It is why as Mayor, a top priority of my administration will be to ensure individuals with substance use disorder have access to consistent pathways to receive the long-term treatment they need to get their lives back on track, including immediate rapid intake into treatment.
As Mayor, I will work with experts to develop solutions to solve our biggest problems, including reducing the number of accidental overdose deaths. Evaluating policy solutions presented by experts and learning from the best practices of other municipalities will set the blueprint for action made by my administration. With that blueprint, it is the responsibility of the mayoral administration to work with stakeholders (city council members, community leaders, other elected partners) to build support for the programs that will affect their neighborhoods and jurisdiction. As Mayor I will advocate for the best evidence based solutions and when appropriate, direct the operating departments to implement the programs.
10. When my office investigated the City’s response to the civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd, my team felt it was important to bring a diverse group of stakeholders together to give their input on what happened and what went wrong. At the time of George Floyd’s murder our residents’ views on policing became extremely polarizing. Our community council brought together residents who believed that our government should move to defund police with residents who were formerly police officers. It brought together business owners from center city who’s stores were looted with peaceful protesters who were unjustly tear gassed in West Philadelphia. We consistently convened meetings with this group of stakeholders and worked through ideological differences to create a guiding document. In my experience working with diverse groups, with differentiating opinions yields the best solutions for our most pressing problems. When navigating through these situations it is important to find the common goals shared by all the stakeholders involved. As Mayor I will have a dedicated team working with each group of stakeholders and work towards developing shared solutions. Once we develop the action that the varying groups of stakeholders agree to, we will work to build bridges between differing opinions and implement the strategies that are best for the health of the community.
11. Law Enforcement and the larger carceral system should have a limited role in addressing substance use and mental health concerns in Philadelphia. We should leverage the criminal justice system to go after the drug dealers, suppliers and pharmaceutical companies that profit off of the backs of individuals with substance use disorder. In terms of addressing the needs of those with substance use disorder or with mental health concerns, those needs should be addressed by behavioral health experts. If law enforcement officers are dispatched, they should be dispatched with community responder teams that include representatives from the health department, DBHIDS and homeless services. Finally in their limited role during non violent incidents, law enforcement should be diverting these individuals to programs and services to address their mental health, health and housing needs.
12. The most important thing an elected official can do for individuals with substance use and mental health concerns is centering their experience while making policy decisions, not just about treatment provided for them but for solutions to problems that affect them such as housing and homelessness. This means hearing directly from those individuals and working with their service providers to develop the best strategies and policy to make a meaningful impact on their lives. Similarly elected officials must center the lived experiences of their loved ones and family members. As elected officials we must listen to the family members and loved ones and be responsive to their needs. We can not ignore the pain and trauma they have experienced while their loved one has fought through substance use or mental health concerns.
The community impacted by these issues needs to be meaningfully engaged beyond just hosting community meetings. Leaders and advocates from the community need to be at the table for the policy discussion that will ultimately have an impact on their surrounding neighborhood. As a city we can not implement programs or solutions without getting input and buy in from the community.
13. Having a system that is inefficient and does not apply best practices is simply unacceptable. As a city we need to be providing the highest quality and levels of care. As Mayor I will order a comprehensive review of the system to identify weaknesses and opportunities to improve our quality of care and fill the gaps left by the current system. This review will be done in conjunction with experts who provide services, those in recovery and loved ones who have bore witness to the struggles of their family members in addiction. My administration will build a network of non profit, foundation and governmental partners to increase access to quality, evidence-based treatment. We must be able to provide people a bridge to long term treatment as soon as they are willing to receive it. By building a short term bridge we can minimize the time they have to wait and help more of our residents enter recovery.
14. As Mayor, DBHIDS will report directly to my cabinet and I will ensure that under my leadership policies that cause direct and tertiary harm to those seeking treatment are not implemented. I am not familiar with the exact harm that his ban caused but would meet with individuals who were harmed and the expert practitioners on the frontlines to learn what harm was caused and to learn the solutions that could right those harms.
15. We are all one city and as Mayor I will work tirelessly to uplift every resident of Philadelphia. This means ensuring that every resident has access to services, resources and programs that will improve their quality of life. My administration will also protect the rights of all of our residents and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve as Philadelphians and human beings. We will not tolerate any abuses of those rights and approach each issue centering compassionate care and pathways to both recovery and a more stable lifestyle.
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City Council Candidates
1. As a former Board member of Genesis II, I learned that recovery is a wholistic lifelong process that impacts people in recovery and their entire families and communities. Watching the impacts during the crack cocaine era to the use of prescription meds and now highly potent fentanyl, that we must take a wholistic approach which involves clinical therapy as well as addressing some of the causes of addiction, such as stabilized housing, jobs, and poverty. As a City Councilmember, I have fought for community courts which in many cases gave alternatives to arrests and incarcerations for people in need of intervention.
2. Recently, Councilmember Quetcy Lozada introduced the Kensington Marshal Plan in which components of the plan address health concerns, housing concerns, job concerns as opposed to attempting to arrest our way out of this problem.
3. As Chair of Appropriations for City Council, we recognize that the Department of Behavioral Health must be engaged, fortified and funded to address concerns and issues that for far too long we have placed in our policing and prison systems. We support grass roots boots on the ground neighborhood-based solutions.
4. I believe the federal and state reimbursements in the areas of behavioral health and recovery are woefully underfunded. Thus, contributing to our inability to bring good programs to scale where they can truly be impactful.
5. As Majority Leader for City Council, I have the abilities to be an Excifio member for the City Council Health & Human Services Committee. I hope to utilize the once in a lifetime $774M city surplus as well as the state of Pennsylvania’s $12B surplus in a strategically beneficial way.
6. In my previous answer, I recognized families and communities can be co-dependents. I have seen up close and personal the negative impacts that can mean to a wife, husband, child, mother or father. In addition, when a neighborhood resident is within their addiction, the community doesn’t stop caring for that individual and hopes and prays that we bring them back to the community fold.
7. I hope to listen and learn from these community’s life experiences. Working with my colleagues that are from these communities. I know what I don’t know and I am willing to learn.
8. Life is not fair. Equal is not always equitable. As a PA Human Relations Commissioner, we will examine the disparate impacts of these two narcotics that have very different social economic outcomes in criminal justice.
9. I am firm believer Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) is unfair. Contrary to popular beliefs, statistics show that addictions can come from all communities, all incomes. Therefore, we must be prepared to accept our responsibility for recovery. As I work with Parkside Recovery to negotiate good neighbor policies involving the Methadone Clinic, we must be prepared to take on recovery responsibilities citywide.
10. Please refer to the upcoming City Council hearing to discuss the Kensington Marshall Plan, which we hope will offer stakeholders an opportunity to look at the problem, look forward to solutions from their varied lenses. As we elect the city’s 100th Mayor, we will work with the community, the city, to restore Kensington. Until Kensington is safe and free, Philadelphia cannot be safe and free.
11. I separate drug dealers from individuals with drug addictions. Law enforcement should focus on those who supply and exploit individuals suffering from narcotic abuse. Health concerns, social concerns and medical concerns should apply to those individuals in need of assistance without the fear of incarceration.
12. Recovery and restoration doesn’t stop with the addicted individual it impacts – family, friends and community. Restoring a community is a wholistic endeavor that covers many aspects ranging from spirituality, to economic vitality and good health options.
13. A series of public hearings starting with the Kensington Marshal Plan will have impacts citywide.
14. I was unaware of the smoking ban’s impacts but will take a deeper diver into its unintended consequences to the recovery community going forward.
15. The best predictor of future performance is past performance. As a PA Human Relations Commissioner, I fight for the rights of marginalized people. As Co-chair of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee of City Council, I continue to fight for justice. These things I have based my career on.
1. The lessons of recovery shape my approach to life – how I live, how I treat others, and how I work to help others. Several years ago, I learned that – unknown to me – my husband had been struggling with alcoholism and addiction. It opened my eyes to the challenges that families face when trying to help their loved ones suffering from substance use while rebuilding their own lives at the same time.
This experience led me to where I am today. I feel compelled to step forward and be the strongest government advocate for policies that would help make treatment more accessible for both those struggling from substance use and also for the families who are struggling with them. In 2019, I was a candidate for this same position – City Council At-Large – and substance use disorder was my #1 issue. I have a record of working to bring attention to these issues and bringing people together to discuss our future policy and funding needs.
Ultimately, I’m running for office to fight for government policies that will make it easier for people and families to get the help they need, and to denounce systems that get in the way of our success. Philadelphia is falling short of its potential, and our city is missing opportunities to truly make a difference in people’s lives. I will challenge that if elected.
2. Having been through these issues with my family members, and friends, I know substance use disorder is a public health crisis, and we need to respond to it accordingly. I know it begins with emotional and behavioral signs that are either correctly recognized and diagnosed or, if left untreated, result in horrible outcomes for individuals and their families. The sooner we can diagnose substance use disorders and intervene on behalf of those who are suffering, the more people and families we can spare from a future of illness.
3. I will be the fervent advocate for investments in behavioral health that we currently lack at the local level here in Philadelphia. Funding the interventions that can meet those suffering from substance use where they are and prevent more people from entering into destructive practices is my priority. I’ll aim to work in collaboration with the federal, state, and local government along with any other stakeholders in this policy area, and will prioritize this issue in all my budgeting decisions.
4. First and foremost, we urgently need better quality treatment for those who are managing substance use and mental health issues. We are woefully underfunding the true needs of our patients, who are facing barriers that include access to care, cost of care, and finding facilities that provide the kind of care that’s necessary, just to name a few.
I also believe we need to address the damage that pharmaceutical companies have done to promote the use of their drugs without responsibly educating the medical field and patients as to the impact these drugs may have on a patient’s mental, emotional, and physical health. We must end all policies that have allowed prescriptions to be pushed without a full understanding of the dangers they pose.
Lastly, I believe we need to specifically focus on medication assisted treatment programs overseen by a medical professional to promote recovery. These are necessary options to maintain stability for a subset of individuals working towards full recovery.
5. I will engage with the larger recovery and harm reduction community as I have for years, with admiration and a willingness to get to work. While serving in the Chief of Staff role I previously held for a City Councilperson, I started a Kensington focused discussion that included government officials, recovery centers, hospital managers, doctors, community members, and recovery advocates. The goal was to focus on areas where we could prioritize resources to address emergent issues as well as near-term and long-term challenges. This work will continue if I am elected and will be my first priority on City Council.
6. Too many generations of families have suffered from the impact of substance use disorder and mental health challenges. These disorders and diseases have broken down our communities and families. Now, Philadelphia has found itself in the midst of yet another crisis – one that is killing thousands of Philadelphians, our children, our family members, our neighbors, and our friends. I will work with our Public Health Commissioner to ensure funding for family treatment is part of the standards of care we offer people as they come through our system looking for treatment options. I would not be in this position today had I not found the family support systems I needed to be well and to recover from my pain.
I have personally benefited from a family recovery model and will tirelessly fight to expand access to this treatment for every family that loves someone who is suffering from substance use and mental health disorders.
7. How we treat marginalized communities speaks to who we are as a city. I plan to meet people where they are and where they feel safe and comfortable in sharing their needs. As we develop future plans for the facilities, groups, and medical supports people require, I will be sure to include organizational leaders who specialize in these areas and promote the specialized care that those in the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and other marginalized communities need.
Furthermore, I am a board member at the Uplift Center for Grieving Children, where amazing clinicians provide free grief counseling to children. Here in Philadelphia, far too many of these children are navigating the loss of a loved one through violence, substance use and most recently Covid. We have established specialized peer support groups for our LGBTQIA+ community because the issues they face are even more complex within an already challenging healing process. These kinds of needs are always at the forefront of my work and experience in this area.
8. In my conversations, I have talked about this issue head on. An essential part of where we start in our advocacy for substance use disorder needs to begin with context-setting. First, we didn’t call it substance use disorder during the crack epidemic – we called it addiction and authorities depicted it as a drug of choice, insinuating that individuals had full control over their use. Our leaders established the “War on Drugs” and represented the crack epidemic as a battle of good vs. evil, then incarcerated Black Americans at massive rates – without focused treatment options or care for their emotional and physical needs. We taught people that those who were suffering from what we now know is an illness were less than people, and that their illness was what they deserved for their choices. Acknowledging that these policies had a massive and negative effect on Black Americans specifically, that they didn’t work to reduce drug use, caused decades of pain, and that they broke down generations of families must be our starting point for a conversation moving forward if we want to truly build trust and help heal the emotional scars from government’s past interventions.
9. I think that evidence-based programs need to move to the front of the line as we look to save lives on our streets and in our communities. We know that the distribution of clean syringes and the proper disposal of used syringes has helped immensely. My goal will always be to put health and safety of people first – for the individuals managing the substance use and for the family or community they impact.
I stand prepared to have a lengthy conversation with all stakeholders to determine what policies work best in each area of the city. If elected, I would propose mobile units that provide lifesaving medications and acute health care management for active. Mobile units are preferable because they adapt to changing conditions, including geographic concentrations of usage that shift over time, and the type of drug usage. All of this requires a flexible and varying set of interventions and I will engage with a strong network of individuals to help move solutions forward.
10. It is important to acknowledge everyone’s experience in Kensington. The policy of containment has been a painful one for the people living there and the organizations working there, and it is necessary to allow local leadership to speak on behalf of their constituencies and necessary for a broader group of government officials to not only listen, but to provide forums for all the stakeholders in Kensington’s community to come together and discuss different needs with them. When compromise is necessary, I’ll look to evidence to inform my solutions – and will always be happy to communicate the reasoning behind my decisions to community leaders, but my decisions won’t be a surprise because of the upfront collaborative work I’ll be focused on providing. What I won’t do is be inactive or indecisive. Everyone in Kensington deserves sustained action and the City’s support for the changes they’re working towards day in and day out.
11. Law enforcement has a clear role to play in the prevention of the mass distribution of illegal and dangerous drugs in our state and in our communities. We cannot allow this amount of product to continue to infiltrate Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. Continuing to strengthen partnerships and coordination between Philadelphia’s local law enforcement, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other local, municipal authorities, particularly in adjoining counties, to prevent drugs from entering our communities in the first place will be a top priority for me if I am elected.
Conversations between these partners also needs to include an approach to substance use as a public health crisis. As I have spoken with people managing hospital emergency rooms and leaders in the Police Department, DA’s Office, Courts, Probation, Attorney General’s Office, and even the ATF units, no one has been interested in carceral systems for people who clearly need a medical and public health care response. Helping to promote substance use and mental health court systems with trauma-informed personnel, including social workers, will be a feature of my work on this issue. We cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of our substance use and mental health care crisis. We must take new approaches in every area where government officials are confronting people with these challenges.
12. As an elected official my goal will be to dismantle the barriers to treatment for everyone. We must be resolute in our efforts to encourage people to get the help they desperately need, and then support them the moment they decide it’s necessary. I’ve also been a staunch supporter of family-based treatment models. It is the most effective way we can support the possibility of reconnecting families with their loved ones and give family members the treatment they need to maintain their own mental and emotional health. I had a chapel priest who supported recovery in my life who always said, “two sickies don’t make a wellie.” It always resonated with me because I knew from personal experience that if I hadn’t received the care I needed, I would’ve been doomed to continue my codependent behaviors, and stymied my own personal development and that of my children. Generational healing happens when we treat the entire family. That is a core belief I carry with me in my advocacy for these issues.
The communities, like Kensington and others who have been hit hardest by the public substance use and complex mental health care challenges need a stronger microphone at the table. We cannot ignore the people in the community who have been screaming on deaf ears for help. I will work to elevate their voices and concerns, but ultimately, I will stand with them until we remove the open-air drug market and dangerous substance use they’re constantly confronted with on a daily basis.
13. Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, medical experts, and the providers need to come together to develop standards of care in our treatment facilities. Certainly, it is imperative that we endorse and fund evidenced-based techniques for the physical care we provide, but also for the emotional or psychological guidance we offer. Substance use affects both the brain and the mind and treating these disorders from that perspective gets better results.
With regards to tracking systemwide performance and individual provider performance, it is essential that we understand a patient’s mental and physical state when they enter the system and their condition when they leave. Just as in any medical treatment option, we must provide a multitude of measures of success depending on the starting points for all the patients we treat and support, whether they receive short or long-term care.
14. When treating substance use disorder, it’s necessary to triage the most emergent issue before treating other issues a patient may have, such as nicotine addiction. Nicotine addiction is prominent among the substance use disorder population and we need to respect someone’s ability to first eliminate or manage their more life-threatening addiction issues first. I will not endorse any restrictions to care that involve abstinence from nicotine as a feature of treatment and would gladly talk to experts and community leaders about ways to right harms caused by the earlier smoking ban.
15. I want to be sure to provide faster pathways to the care people need to be well. That is my ultimate goal and mission when approaching these issues. We have watched, for decades, the harmful efforts to incarcerate people for their health related issues. It has especially done irreputable harm to our Black communities for generations. If we want to regain the trust of the people we represent, we need to truly meet people where they are, listen to them about the best ways to help them and their communities, and offer healthier pathways forward. Policies and programs should be built with intentional designs and understand that some will immediately choose a new path, while others will require consistent offerings of support. We cannot and will not incarcerate our way out of these problems so building alternative care models (treatment facilities and dignified short and long-term housing models) will be my approach going forward.
1. When I think of recovery I view it as a multifaceted process we all go through to reduce the harm we cause ourselves. Many humans turn to substances for relief and escape, especially those of us who have experienced life traumas, have or are currently fighting mental health disorders in a broken system, or have genetic/familial histories of addiction. As active and recovering addicts we are incredibly hard on ourselves: we judge ourselves, we often let fear guide us. We often think we are not worthy. We do this because we have been viewed, scrutinized, and conditioned by society. Our country views those facing addiction as 2nd class citizens. We are dealing with an issue we “chose” and not an issue of public health, mental health, or medicine in a humane fashion. By taking the steps to first choose sobriety (you cannot force an addict into recovery until THEY’RE ready) and getting the resources to heal from one’s past traumas, we are able to lead a safer, happier, and healthier life.
Harm reduction to me combines a multitude of systemic/policy changes, as well as stakeholders that are all affected by addiction in many ways. This includes: those actively experiencing addiction and are unhoused, programs serving the needs of those individuals, community members who live there, business owners, and schools. By using tangible, data driven policy, we can implement different harm reduction strategies and solutions that include ALL of those affected so that ALL of their needs and services are met. Ultimately, we can help to keep folks alive, if we meet people where they are at. By choosing to meet individuals where they are, we can create opportunities for people to select and engage in their healing process. Every aspect of addiction, recovery, and harm reduction can be attributed to public health & policy failure. We can and we must change that.
2. In my opinion, the only way to approach substance abuse [sic] is from a public health framework addressed through public policy and the city budget. Substance use should not be criminalized, and there is plenty of data to suggest that criminalizing drug use leads to a higher chance of recidivism among individuals. In most cases, criminalization makes their substance use worse and more unsafe.This is a result of a blatant failure of Public Policy that started with the failed War on Drugs. Richard Nixon wasn’t able to just lock up BIPOC folks and hippies without a reason, so a systemically racist criminal justice system was set up by the US Government garnering substance use and possession a crime with mandatory minimums. It is an admitted fact that Black and Brown neighborhoods were flooded with crack cocaine, heroin, and other substances in order to create large pockets of those deemed “undesirable” by the Nixon Administration. This act provided an excuse and covering to arrest, prosecute, and convict those who suffer. It is clear that we need a diligent and detailed plan that includes ALL stakeholders at the table to come to a concise decision to not lock folks up; we must use that table to LIFT folks up in order to succeed.
3. I will always fight with everything I have in me to bring more funding to the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS). It is a shame they have essentially not been financially set up to address the mass trauma and chronic stress across the city. Addiction and Mental Health are not mutually exclusive, and any proposed budget by the Mayor that does not include a sizable boost in revenue to DBHIDS is an absolute nonstarter for me. We have failed the citizens of the City of Philadelphia for too long by not having anything even close to adequate mental health and disAbility services, and, for too long, thousands suffered needlessly. There MUST be an increase in funding so that we can bring forth evidence and community stakeholder based programming and policy. I will advocate in Harrisburg for Mental Health Parity laws and work with our state elected officials and the governor to ensure this is a legislative priority.
4. The way I view my priorities for federal spending and opioid settlement funds is the same way I view my priorities for gun violence. We need a mixture of interventional, preventional and transformative programs so that we can tackle all the root causes of the issues in a data driven and equitable manner. I’d like 25% to go to programs to address trauma for families in neighborhoods that have been plagued with drug use, as well as funding for businesses affected in those same neighborhoods. (interventional) I’d like an additional 35% for people in active addiction for immediate bed expansion and getting people into programming (interventional). Another 25% for programming including things like free access to clean needle exchanges, fentanyl test strips, and STI testing. (preventional) This also includes Public Policy methods, driven by evidence based data, combined with input from every community stakeholder, that will help cut the snake off at the head before it bites. The remaining 15% will go to transformative programs such as safe consumption sites, re-entry and workforce development programming, and first time homeowner programs and grants.
5. For me, ‘putting my money where my mouth is’ is a mantra I live by, and if elected, I promise to fully immerse myself into both the larger recovery and harm reduction communities; as I am a one of its members. As a person in active recovery, I have a direct & unique perspective into this epidemic, and as an elected official I will bring a unique perspective to the conversation and Policy outcomes that will always make sure recovery and harm reduction are front and center issues.
6. The advocacy and support for families and loved ones impacted by substance abuse and mental health concerns will always be my priority. As I stated before, Public Policy that is centered around evidence based data, coupled with community stakeholder input, is how we put forward our best ideas and solutions: those stakeholders are made up families and loved ones affected by substance abuse and mental health concerns/issues. It is important that the budget, and the work of DBHIDS, adequately supports families impacted by issues of addiction.
7. The Cultural Disparities in Healthcare, especially among the BIPOC & LGBTQIA+ communities, is a gap so large compared to Cis-White Folks that it rivals the Grand Canyon. That gap can be closed by first passing a Mayoral budget that includes the maximum amount of dollars sent to our Department of Health/Behavioral Health. This policy is not only focused on having the necessary resources available, but that these resources are allocated in the most equitable way possible. My idea to achieve this is to have the Department of Health/Behavioral Health partner with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and respected, trusted Community Leaders, so that all voices are at the table to achieve true equitability in healthcare, workforce, and housing resources. This would include outreach teams of community members to engage folks and offer services and information pertaining to them, and they know it is trustworthy coming from community members. We need to expand gender affirming care and community health centers with accessibility to all who need it. We need to expand community behavioral health centers and create similar outreach teams of trusted individuals to engage with those who are experiencing mental health crises and connect them with services and information. Additionally, this would include funding for workforce development programs for these communities so that they are equipped with the skills to obtain good work, especially union work, to have wealth and make it generational. This can go hand-in-hand with first time homebuyer programs that would eventually lead to home ownership for folks.
8. Engaging these communities directly is truly important to me. First and foremost, by first listening to firsthand experiences directly from community members affected, I can go on to address those concerns and traumas. I believe it’s important to be very candid in these discussions because the trauma and damage caused by the failed War on Drugs is immeasurable. By acknowledging, discussing, and atoning for the damage the US Government did to communities of color by flooding their neighborhoods and cities with crack cocaine and heroin, we can move forward to solution oriented ideas. This was a deliberate, racist plan to criminalize drug use and thereby creating an endless system of addiction and incarceration in Black and Brown communities. Your communities were defamed and disparaged for the use of crack cocaine, were victims of mass arrests and mandatory minimums imposed by the government leading to recidivism and deeper addiction; while White folks openly did powder cocaine with no stigma attached. The same is true today: as soon as the rich, White folk’s kids in the counties started becoming addicted to opioids and heroin, it was and is viewed as a “Public Health Crisis.” While that is the appropriate way to approach this epidemic, that method was not applied in an equitable way in your community. When we create effective and equitable policy and budget that addresses the opioid crisis as a Public Health Crisis for ALL communities, we can make the access to treatment, therapy, and behavioral health services available to everyone, without stigma; all while holding those accountable who targeted your communities. This means we should up the investments for communities hit hardest and left out of funding considerations.
9. My position has been and always will be to be a fighter and proponent of evidence based programs for addiction and harm reduction that are effective and equitable for all in need of services, no matter your race, color, gender, religion, or creed. Programs such as supervised consumption sites, free and clean syringe exchanges, and advocating for the decriminalization of sex work and expanded access to free STI testing, condoms, and other needs and services. By approaching this with a Public Health lens coupled with evidence based, equitable policy we can be proactive instead of reactive, and save hundreds of thousands of Philadelphian’s lives.
10. I understand the need to address the differing needs of stakeholders in Kensington and the city at large. This includes those who use drugs, those who are unhoused and have additional needs, as well as local residents and business owners. To ensure that all voices are heard, I will start by engaging with each group and listening to their perspectives. I will then collaborate with community organizations and stakeholders to design programs and policies that meet their needs while also prioritizing harm reduction and public health.
For those who use drugs, this may include overdose prevention sites, syringe service programs, access to healthcare services, and wraparound support. For local residents and business owners, this could involve increasing public safety measures or investing in economic development initiatives.
Ultimately, compromise will be necessary if we are to find solutions that benefit everyone. As such, I am committed to bringing different groups together in order to develop policies that prioritize the health, safety, and wellbeing of all members of the community.
11. Law enforcement has no place in addressing substance abuse and mental health issues, as they are the ones who harass and arrest those facing addiction, and should only be used in life saving situations when necessary; i.e. closest individual to an overdose victim to administer Narcan. In all other cases, we need to recruit and train more Social Workers, Therapists, and Peer Community Counselors that have training and experience in de-escalating individuals in mental health crises or in need of other social services. The Peer Community Counselors should be from the community they are serving, as well as having firsthand experience with addiction and mental health counseling; this allows trust amongst community members and more effective communication to best serve their needs.
12. I believe it’s important to make sure people with substance use and mental health issues have access to comprehensive care and support services. This includes investing in evidence-based prevention, treatment, and recovery programs that focus on reducing harm and addressing the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness.
I also understand the importance of involving families and loved ones in the treatment process, so they can be educated about their loved one’s condition and given the necessary support. Furthermore, I’m committed to providing communities affected by these issues with adequate resources they need to tackle economic and housing instability that lead to substance use or mental health issues.
13. I will prioritize evaluating and improving the clinical treatment system and recovery housing options in Philadelphia. This includes consulting with experts to uncover any gaps in the current system and developing strategies to address them. Additionally, I’m committed to investing in evidence-based programs and services that have been shown to be successful for people with substance use and mental health concerns. My ultimate goal is to provide quality, evidence-based care and support services to all residents of Philadelphia, regardless of their financial situation.
14. I understand that the smoking ban in Philadelphia caused direct and indirect harm to those who were seeking treatment. To ensure this doesn’t happen again, I will commit to making sure that any policies related to substance use and mental health are developed in collaboration with the community and their voices are heard. Additionally, I will work to right any wrongs done by the smoking ban by investing in evidence-based programs and services that provide education and resources for people seeking treatment as well as supporting their recovery process.
15. I will prioritize protecting the rights and opportunities of all members of our community, including those who use drugs, are in recovery, engage in sex work, live unhoused, or have past justice system involvement. To do this, I will focus on implementing policies that prioritize harm reduction through programs such as access to clean syringes and overdose prevention. I will also work to eliminate discriminatory policies that target those with past justice system involvement, create employment opportunities and educational resources for those in need, ensure access to safe and affordable housing for all individuals regardless of their current living situation, and protect the rights of all individuals.
1. One’s ability to self-actualize through a process of change that is self driven and brings the individual to their full potential while understanding that relapse is a part of the recovery process. Harm reduction to me is meeting folks where they are while giving them the tools to ensure they can survive by reducing harm through education and providing lifesaving resources.
2. It is a public health issue. Prison does not stop drug use.
3. Provide contingency management as a financial incentive to promote good mental health
4. Establishing an OPC at a medical facility in the 7th district, to get unhoused citizens into temporary / permanent housing to provide stability for individuals enabling them to enter into treatment and recovery, while simultaneously improving the infrastructure of the 7th district to include using funds to improve training programs that pay a living wage.
5. I will engage both groups by bringing them into the process and seeking their advice on best practices and policies that will support all harm reduction efforts in the city.
6. I will be accessible to all of the community and will be pushing for bringing jobs to the 7th district.
7. In the 7th district there are 2 things that hinder people’s ability to get help for mental health issues. (1) poverty doesn’t allow for people to miss work, get the kids to where they need to be or move as freely as a person living in more affluent parts of the city. Poor people con not afford to stray from what is keeping food on the table because they are living in extreme poverty (2) there is also the cultural aspect of how families deal with mental health issues. Along with the community Id like to establish resource centers in each ward that would connect folks to what they need.
8. Many community members are upset because of the lack of care the city officials have had in places like Kensington, fairhill and harrowgate. I grew up in Kensington during the “War on Drugs” I don’t believe the community really wants to return to that, but they do want for something to be done. I know that things will change once we have an OPC and there’s no one using out in the open, giving community members freedom of movement in the business corridor of Kensington.
9. I am for any tool that keeps people alive and promotes the health of all the community. I am a Harm Reductionist these are all programs that work.
10. I am from Kensington born and raised. I know that the community just wants something to be done. My compromise would be not to have an OPC on Kensington Ave, but instead have it on the campus of episcopal hospital. A OPC would need to have a supporting organization that would allow for temporary housing for individuals to have some type of stability to begin their recovery when they are ready.
11. The role of law enforcement would be to ensure people were directed to the OPC or to temporary housing organizations.
12. One of the most important things for families who deal with substance abuse in the family is education. If a family has the right tools to deal with what addiction I know there would be less stigma. I will ensure that these facilities are accessible for families.
13. I will seek out those organizations who are using evidence-based programs for recovery and use them as a template for other organizations in the 7th district and Philadelphia.
14. I will as an elected official push to make all treatment in the city low to no barriers for anyone who wants to get into treatment or to have a place to sleep at night. I will always advocate for people who use drugs and for the unhoused.
15. I will have them at the table. We know that the reason why policies are bad when they are “trying to help” is because poli;cians assume. I will not be assuming; my policies will be guided by the folks they would affect.
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