The Addiction is a Healthcare Issue event was co-sponsored by Put People First! PA and The Center county DSA. This event was focused not around blaming or shaming addicts, but around education and life saving knowledge. We 1st spoke about the social conditions that contribute to addiction and the forces traumatizing our friends, family members and neighbors. Then Adrienne Standley (Philadelphia) who is certified to train others on how and when to administer Narcan, and trained all of us in attendance. The event was live streamed on The Put People First Altoona HRC page and a video is still available to watch there (link here). Here is Altoona Healthcare Rights Committee Coordinator Jennina’s opening speech:
Good evening and welcome to our Addiction is a Healthcare Issue event.
My name is Jennina Gorman, I am a member of Put People First PA and The Poor Peoples Campaign here in PA.
Put People 1st PA is a grassroots, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization fighting for healthcare for all and for all of our human rights all across PA. We define our human rights as anything we need to survive: The right to healthcare, the right to food, housing, clean air and water, and jobs that pay a living wage- these are our human rights. We believe everybody has a right to live.
Today we are here to learn about addiction. I myself came from 2 alcoholic parents, and 3 generations of alcoholics and addicts on either side. From this experience, I can assure you, nobody ever sets out to be a junkie. No child aspires to be a fall-down, black-out drunk when they grow up. So why are addiction and alcoholism rates so high?
It is a widely accepted idea, that trauma is the highest common factor in those suffering from addiction issues. What then, is traumitizing our friends, family members and neighbors?
Job loss, family separation, automation of jobs that used to pay good wages, lack of healthcare, and mental illness are all often factors. Here in Blair county, for example, in the last year alone, we lost 300 jobs at Norfolk Southern (good paying railroad jobs), North American Communications closed, costing 270 jobs, and its been reported that Since 2001, manufacturing employment in Pennsylvania has declined by 24.3 percent, a loss of 207,300 jobs.
Simultaneously, big corporations like UPMC which ransoms our healthcare for profit, are buying all the hospitals in an area, closing all but 1, and then buying up all the commercial property in the area as well.
The result is a mass gentrification process where landlords buy and maket properties, hiking rent prices specificly geared towards high paying medical workers, those of us in the working class now have to work 2-3 jobs just to keep roofs over our heads. Also in Altoona a 10-day eviction process has now been legalized. You can walk down almost any street and see commercial dumpsters filled with Peoples whole lives, because they lost their homes and then couldn’t afford to move.
A recent study shows that in America today “Suicides are at their highest rate since World War II; one child in seven is living with a parent suffering from substance abuse; a baby is born every 15 minutes after prenatal exposure to opioids…. ”
We believe all of these issues are connected. We also believe strongly that those who are most affected by these issues are also the most effective in solving them. Nobody is going to save us, we need to unite together and organize against the systems and forces that are oppressing and killing us.
Put People 1st PA now has a Healthcare Rights committee here in Altoona. We are working to develop a permanently organized group that provides support and community for those that otherwise may not have support or community. We invite you all to join us in strengthening our community together. More information and a sign up sheet are available on the table.
In this spirit of uniting our community and helping our neighbors we are proud to sponsor this event, I will now introduce you to Adrienne Standley who came all the way from Philadelphia to be here with us today –
Video link here: