Two others testified in favor --a parent testified, as well as a peer in recovery. Avery Road had brought a van of peers holding signs about how ARTC had saved their lives. Following the testimonies of those in favor, the Avery Road crowd clapped and cheered.
The testimony from the peer in recovery told his story about recovering at Avery Road after being a given a 2nd chance in lieu of jail --he was recently married with his first child and a good job. Inspirational. Compelling. If he could do it --then those who went back out and used and died, made a poor choice. Avery Road cannot be held responsible. George Leventhal and other Council members smiled and nodded.
Afterward, I spoke with a girl outside. I thought about a young man whose girlfriend had called me just yesterday --who had been on the waiting list for two weeks, but had missed calling at 11:00 for just one day and had been bounced to the back of the waiting list. I asked the girl about him. She said that Avery Road only lets in "those who really want it --who are really serious." She should know, she says --she has been to ARTC nine times. "If you are really serious --you will not miss an 11:00 call."
I looked at all the hopeful freshly recovered faces around me, signs in support of ARTC under their arms. I asked them about the success rate of Avery Road. "Only 10%" offered one. When I pointed out that those who get into a halfway house and stay for 3 months have a success rate of 30% to 50%, and asked him why Avery Road discharges to homeless shelters instead of halfway houses, he told me that "people who really work at finding halfway houses get help".
These were the strong swimmers. The ones who had made it through the myriad of barriers and swam the gauntlet. The ones to be cheered and patted. The ones to receive the prize of recovery.
I spoke today for the weaker swimmers. The ones to be shunned and forgotten by their peers because they were not strong enough swimmers to make it. The one who was passed out at 11:00. The one that was too depressed to try again. The one who was lost to the streets of Baltimore --all family contacts severed and bridges burned. The one who shoots dope to stop the voices in their head --the voices they are too scared to talk about. The one who can't go back to rehab for the ninth time and instead buys a gun.
I spoke for the 129 across our nation who died today. The weak ones.
The ones that might have survived had Avery Road simply called them. The ones that might have survived had they been discharged to a halfway house, rather than a homeless shelter. The ones that might have survived had they received family counseling. The ones who might have survived had they not been kicked out prematurely. The ones who might have survived had their mental health issues been addressed. The ones who might have survived had they not been too disorganized, or too immature, or too depressed, or too sick, or too confused, or too battered, or too hopeless.
I spoke for them today and I was alone.