ST. PETERSBURG –During the recent rededication of Jordan Park, I had the opportunity to ask Mayor Kriseman what he was doing about the drug and alcohol problem in St. Petersburg. I informed him that what was happening presently in St. Pete is the same thing that happened in Baltimore in the 60s and 70s that led to Baltimore becoming one of the cities in America with the highest opioid addiction and homicide rate.
Two weeks later, Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin called me stating that the mayor wanted me to put together a Drug Task Force for the city. This is a God-sent blessing that will positively affect every aspect of our community and give hope to many who suffer from the disease of addiction, especially seniors.
More than 14,000 people age 45 and older died from an opioid overdose in 2015—42 percent of all such deaths in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last month, AARP revealed, “The actual number is likely much higher. Overdoses in older people are often mislabeled as heart failure or falls.”
However, there are untold numbers of youths, young adults and adults who suffer from the disease of addiction in silence, as I note in my recent book “The Pipe and the Pulpit.”
In attempting to develop a strategy and garner the support of the entire community, Mayor Kriseman has Cliff Smith, social services manager at City of St. Petersburg, and me working together to be proactive in addressing this problem. We met with the mayor to discuss process and funding for this tremendous undertaking.
We need sincerely, interested persons from the following categories to volunteer for the Drug Task Force: Youth, parents, the business community, media, schools, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement, the faith-based community, fraternities/sororities, civic and volunteer groups, health care professionals, state and local agencies with substance abuse expertise and other organizations involved in reducing substance abuse.
Dr. William Barnes, a clinical psychologist and owner of Barnes Holistic Counseling Therapies Institute, LLC, has agreed to be a part of the Task Force.
“I have witnessed the social, emotional, psychological, intellectual, moral and spiritual degradation a city undergoes as drugs possess like a cancer and transforms a city and communities into an undesirable place to live,” stated Dr. Barnes. “I am ecstatic that Mayor Kriseman and the deputy mayor have recognized the need to become fully engaged in addressing the drug and alcohol problems here in St. Petersburg.”
Another friend of mine, Rev. Robert Pearcy, senior pastor of Lakewood United Methodist Church, has agreed to serve on the Task Force.
“As both a pastor and recovering person, I have long witnessed the destruction that addiction has on individuals, families and communities,” said Rev. Pearcy. “Today we are witnessing not only the persistent continuation with alcohol and street drugs but now we are seeing a national epidemic of opioid addiction, much of which is being supported by misuse and abuse. It is a positive step forward for St. Petersburg to create a Task Force to deal with this struggle.”
Another area activist who has agreed to serve as time allows is Pastor Clarence Williams of Greater Mt. Zion AME Church and the president of The Gathering of Pastors. We meet every Saturday for prayer at various churches to address the spiritual and social needs of the wider community. He promised to share this opportunity for faith-based leaders at our next business meeting.
We have met with Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health, who also asked me to be a part of the drug task force that he is forming for Pinellas County. He has requested to be a part of the city’s task force and for us to work together for the betterment of the entire community. We have agreed that we will be creative and intentionally, openly address the needs of people suffering from the disease of addiction.
Dr. Basha Jordan, Jr.
As a person who was delivered from a 30-year drug and alcohol addiction in 1988, ran a Men’s Recovery House in Baltimore for more than 14 years, served on the board of directors of the National Council On Drugs and Alcohol and the Tuerk House Treatment Center in Baltimore, been a licensed clinician for more than 15 years and have a 25 year recovery radio broadcast, God has allowed me to live on both sides of addiction.
There are too many people dying, families being destroyed and too many incarcerated who need hope. Together we will make a difference. Interested persons may contact me at ProphetBasha@aol.com, log onto HopeAliveMinistry.org or call 443-250-9635. You can also write to me Hope Alive Outreach, Inc., P.O. Box 35427, St. Pete, FL 33712.