Tag Archive | "Lincoln Hospital"

Bronx acupuncture center for addiction fighting to survive

In a dimly lit room at Lincoln Recovery Center in the South Bronx one September morning, six middle-aged men were sound asleep, five needles poking out each of their ears. Meditation music played from a 1990s cassette recorder.

This was acupuncture therapy, the first on the center’s agenda every weekday at the East 142nd drug treatment location. Next comes group therapy and reiki sessions.

Nearly a decade ago this center was a thriving community service hub and a crucial therapeutic refuge for those afflicted by rampaging heroin addiction in the South Bronx.

But two weeks ago, a dozen chairs in the acupuncture room remained empty. Apart from the occasional banter between patients, the waiting room was eerily quiet throughout the day.

“The center used to be more community-based,” said Angela Torres, the clinic’s supervisor and senior addiction counselor. She has been working for the program for 24 years. “We tried to keep it in the community, but there have been more regulations from the hospital.”

Lincoln Recovery Center began as a grassroots organization, developing into a core neighbourhood service treating drug addiction with experimental holistic methods. But, the treatment center has since disappeared from the heart of the community, and its patient census continues to decline.

In December 2011, Lincoln Hospital administrators relocated the center from a four-story building on East 140th Street, to the basement of the Segundo Ruiz Treatment Center half a mile away. Since then, the center has seen fewer patients every year. This current August, clinicians had 21 patients, less than a quarter of its monthly average of approximately 120 before the move.

Yet, opioid overdose rates have been increasing over the last decade, particularly in the South Bronx, which has become the epicenter of a growing supply of prescription opioid drugs.

In 2018, the borough had the highest rate of overdose rates in New York City. Nearly 400 residents died, up 9% from the previous year, according to a recent report by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Mott Haven-Hunts Point had the second highest rates in the borough.

Lincoln Recovery Center was established as part of a community activism in the 1970s to combat an epidemic of drug addiction in the area. At the time, the New York Times reported 20,000 drug addicts were roaming the streets of the South Bronx. Activist and militant groups like the Young Lords and the Black Panthers made headlines by marching into Lincoln hospital and taking over the sixth floor to implement a drug program that became known as “Lincoln Detox.”

“The detoxification program came out of desperation because the healthcare was substandard and there were no drug programs to help addicts in the Bronx,” said Carlos Alvarez, who started working for the program when it began.

Activists began treating patients with holistic practices and methadone, a synthetic opioid receptor that is prominently used today in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms. Concerned about the addictive nature of methadone, counselors began to experiment with acupuncture after hearing about the work of Dr. H.L Wen in Hong Kong, who found that acupuncture combined with electrical stimulation could relieve opioid withdrawal signs in addicts.

Conflicts between the program and hospital administration resulted in the unit being shut down in 1978 by city hospital officials from NYC Health and Hospitals, led by then-Mayor Ed Koch. It was then relocated to an abandoned 21,000 square-foot building on East 140th Street, which the corporation bought for one dollar.

A patient receiving the standard NADA protocol at Lincoln Recovery

Acupuncture became the center’s main treatment method, pioneered by Dr. Michael Smith, founder of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA). The association set the protocol known as “acudetox,” a non-verbal therapy approach, often set in a group setting that involves the gentle placement of five small, sterilized, disposable needles into specific sites in the ear.

The acupuncture association estimates that approximately 25,000 people have since been trained in this method worldwide, which continues to expand as a modality within addiction and behavioral health treatment, including prisons, military medicine and disaster relief.

Nancy Smalls began working from the program in 1973.“It was like a big family affair, it was wonderful,” she said. The center had a game room, a big backyard and would run weekly activities and trips.  “We had clients coming out of the woodwork. The acupuncture had to be doing something.” 

Smalls also launched the Maternal Substance Abuse program as part of the centre’s services in 1987. “No one was handling the drug treatment of women,” she said. “We found out that acupuncture worked even better for pregnant women who were withdrawing. It removed the want to get high.”

Studies on the science behind acupuncture remain varied and often inconclusive.

“Acupuncture can be helpful to any type of withdrawal, simply because it calms the sympathetic nervous system related to the fight or flight response,” said Pooja Shah, doctor of integrative and family medicine and a licensed acupuncturist. “It’s hard to research the effects, because there is a lot of variability that can change the outcome, such as the group dynamics and the relationship between the patient and the practitioner.”

A 2012 systematic review concluded that after 35 years of research by both Asian and Western scientists, the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of opiate addiction had not been established. A 2017 study on NADA protocol states that is not a standalone intervention as a treatment for substance abuse.

Research into acupuncture’s mechanisms is currently being conducted in Brigham Young University. “Right now it can only be used as an adjunct therapy, but it has potential,” said Scott Steffensen, professor of cognitive and behavioral neuroscience. “If you activate certain receptors in the body without using drugs, you can modify the whole nervous system in a way that it could be used to reverse the craving associated with opioid withdrawal.”

The relocation of the Lincoln Recovery Center in 2011 came as a shock to the local community and former employees. The building has been abandoned since then but is still under the ownership of NYC Health and Hospitals. 

“They said the rent was too high,” said Angela Torres. “We could all have chipped in to pay a dollar.” 

After the women’s program was closed down in 2013, Nancy Smalls retired. “Everybody we serviced, we made a difference in their lives,” she said. “I just don’t understand why they are not using that building. The city did a huge disservice to the population when they got rid of Dr. Smith.”

Numerous attempts to reach the communications department at Lincoln Hospital in person and by phone were unsuccessful.

Currently, 22 recovery services across New York offer acupuncture, according to the 2019 National Directory of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatment Facilities.  Lincoln Recovery Center is the only facility listed in the Bronx.

The unveiling of the mural at September 7 event

Activist group South Bronx Unite has since been campaigning for the hospital agency to hand the building over to the local community. On September 7, plans were showcased to transform it into a H.E.A.R.T (Health, Education and the Arts) Center to house local non-profit organizations and a mural was unveiled on the side of the building.

The Lincoln Recovery Center has changed from a community hub to a more structured medical service.

“It used to give people somewhere to be, it had a homey kind of atmosphere,” said Dorine Seabrook. “Now it’s much more appointment driven, we are required to people in and out of treatment faster.” 

Patients at the Lincoln Recovery Center are now referred by the Consult for Addiction and Care Team in Hospitals team (CATCH) at Lincoln hospital, the courts, or by the city’s Human Resources Administration.

Dr. Mark Sinclair is Medical Director of the CATCH program and the Lincoln Recovery Center. “We try to encourage patients who need treatment to go there,” he said. “The services at the Lincoln Recovery are great but they need to be more integrated here in Lincoln Hospital with the other patient’s healthcare needs.”

Patients are referred depending on their needs, either using the center as their sole service or on top of their methadone program.

But employees cite the location as the main reason for the lack of patients and their frustration with the administration.

“Our biggest problem is that the program is a mile away from Lincoln hospital,” said Program Director Christina Laboy. “I have pushed to set up a transportation service. People don’t end up coming here.”

“We need exposure,” said Serge Ernandez, the licensed acupuncturist at the center. “No one knows we exist here anymore.”

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Morris Heights double shooting leaves 20-year-old dead, NY1

Police responded to a 911 call just before 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning in Morris Heights, finding 20-year-old John Vasquez and a 56-year-old with gunshot wounds, reports NY1. Vasquez was pronounced dead. The 56-year-old, as yet unidentified, is in stable condition at Lincoln Hospital.

The shooting occurred at the intersection of Cedar and Sedgwick Avenues. Police are investigating.

 

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16-year-old fatally shot in the Bronx, reported by the New York Post

Thursday night a young Bronx man was walking his girlfriend home when he was fatally shot. The New York Post, on September 16, reported that Jose Webster, age 16, was walking down Teller Avenue when two men approached him and picked a fight. The fight resulted in a shot to Webster’s chest. Webster’s girlfriend, Aniik Wallace, crouched over his body and begged him to stay with her, witnesses said.  Webster died at Lincoln hospital. His mother and Wallace are planning a candlelight vigil for Webster this Sunday at the basketball court on Webster Avenue at 169th Street in the Bronx.

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Community in Disbelief After 9-month-old Baby’s Brutal Death

Neveah Jackson Article pic

The parents of murdered nine-month-old Neveah Jackson are being questioned by police. (Courtesy of NY Daily News)

The familiar sounds of 9-month-old Neveah Jackson playing and making noise in apartment 6B at 521 E. 145th St. in the Bronx could not be heard on Monday afternoon. Her father, Eric Jackson, who had been unable to contain his excitement when he found out he would be a dad, was completely out of sight. Neveah’s 19-year-old mother, Jennifer Brito, who was often seen by neighbors dropping her wide-eyed baby with curly dark brown hair and caramel skin at Jackson’s apartment did not bump into anyone on her way back to her nearby home.

The weekend’s events had changed these three lives forever.

The police responded on Saturday to Neveah Jackson’s Mott Haven home to a call just after 11p.m. of a baby not breathing. After traveling to the sixth-floor flat, they found Neveah unconscious.

Neveah was evacuated by emergency medical services and rushed to Lincoln Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. She died of skull fractures and brain injuries, medical examiners determined Sunday.

According to the Daily News, Neveah’s father, who hasn’t been charged, told investigators that he had been downloading music on his computer with his daughter on his lap moments before the accident. When he leaned forward, he said, she fell and hit her head on a desk.

Neveah’s family is skeptical about Jackson’s story. On Monday, Jackson’s aunt Darlene, who declined to give her last name, spoke to The Bronx Ink while walking to the apartment Jackson shares with his mother. Darlene was on her way to visit her sister, Jackson’s mother, for the first time since finding out through Channel 12 on television that Neveah had been beaten to death.

“If she fell that wouldn’t have killed her,” Darlene said. “Someone must have bashed her head.”

A medical examiner ruled Neveah’s death homicide.

Darlene who lives in the building next to Jackson, last saw Neveah the day of her death. She desperately wanted to know what had happened.

But no one at the apartment answered Darlene’s frantic knocking Monday afternoon. She stood teary eyed before walking over to the neighbor’s door and knocking.

Joey Cappas, 26, has lived in Jackson’s building at number 6A for the last six years. He doubted that Neveah died the way her father said she did but did not think the man his nephews liked so much was capable of hurting his own daughter.

“I’m surprised what happened — it has to be an accident,” Cappas said standing by his door after opening it for Darlene. “He used to spoil her and would carry her around a lot. He never would be abusive – never.”

Neveah’s father was used to looking after children. Cappas said Jackson had worked for a few years in a company that recruits young people to work with handicapped children. When Jackson stopped working there, he collected unemployment benefits, which helped pay for all the food Cappas recalled that Neveah loved to eat.

Investigators from the 40th Precinct questioned both parents but Neveah’s mother Brito was eventually released.

The investigation continues.

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