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for_kindness

This site is devoted to sharing pictures, letters  and poems of Sean Blake. He was a young man who loved kindness.  He enjoyed giving and receiving love. A gifted poet and writer. He was an amazing chess and card player.  Sean showed his love by cooking for family, friends and strangers alike.  You may have seen him reading palms on Church St. in Burlington, VT.  He touched many lives with his wit, charisma and love of life.

The site is maintained by Sean’ s family. We hope to show that Sean was more than his disease. We share our stories and many stories of families affected by substance use disorder. We hope there will be less stigma and shame with mental illness and substance use disorder. We hope to raise awareness of the dangers of opiates and risk of death from their use. We advocate for compassionate treatment and harm reduction.

As anyone reading this can understand, Sean wanted to live, he wanted sobriety. It takes only one moment of  weakness with an opiate to cause serious consequences. The message is don’t start. No one intends to grow up to be a slave to a substance.

Sean initially began with high dose THC products, this caused mania, psychosis and even a suicide attempt. It ended his career in the Navy.  Unfortunately, he developed polysubstance use disorder. He began use of opiates in addition to cocaine and marijuana. Sean used Oxycontin and eventually heroin.  Sadly, he transitioned from opiates to marijuana. He attempted to treat his OUD with marijuana and alcohol. While he survived five years after his OUD was “in remission”, he eventually, used something that turned out to be fentanyl. We aren’t sure if he had any idea what he was using. He still, at times, when manic,he used cocaine. However, he did have needles in his bag and we can’t say for sure what was in his mind.  He was impaired with marijuana and alcohol in addition to the small amount of fentanyl.  I wish he had been on some type of MAT, instead of trying to self-medicate.

The poems and letters were written, mostly during periods of good health.  The writings and posts chronicle his struggles with love, bipolar disorder, substance use and life.  Hopefully,  what he has left behind will help another to choose life over addiction or at least show more kindness to those struggling with this disease.

SB died at age 27 from an overdose of alcohol and fentanyl, combined with marijuana.

We will miss him forever.

Univision

Rehab story now in Spanish, click the link below.

Vox story

Appreciate the translation of the Vox story into Spanish. Sean was close to many whose first language is Spanish. Friends from high school, friends in the Bronx..

Sean’s trip to Chile, after high school graduation. Sean befriended Victor and Christian when they were working here in Vermont as students. Sean saved for and paid for the trip on his own. He was graciously hosted by his friend’s families. Here are a few photos from the trip.

Criminal Justice or is it?

So often, the frustration of dealing with the courts remains my biggest regret.

We tried to get charges we had filed (mistaking the charge we thought we weren’t filing for a more serious one actually ..)

I wrote, with no success to explain the situation. My pleas fell on deaf ears.

In the end, as one of Sean’s friends said ” I could never understand what that kid was in jail for..”

State’s Attorney Office

32 Cherry St.

Burlington, VT 05401

October 18, 2015

Justin Jiron, Esq.:

In November of 2014 I made a request to Edward Sutton Esq, stating that I would like to drop charges in the two alleged burglary incidents at my home on August 17th and 18th. These charges are against my son Sean Blake. I would like to reiterate that is still my opinion nearly one year later.

As I mentioned in my previous letter, I was frustrated with Sean’s coming into our home. He didn’t think I was home and intended to retrieve some personal items. I was home with my younger son, my husband was teaching away for the semester. I was worried he was going to steal from us. I asked the police to press charges, as I thought I was enforcing a no-trespass order. Unfortunately, that order had not yet been served. I did not intend to press charges for burglary. I thought he might get a warning or minor offense ticket.

After reviewing all of Sean’s charges, I would like to reiterate my request to drop all charges related to those incidents on August 17 and 18.

I feel strongly that Sean needs more treatment and less incarceration. In jail he has not received the treatment he needs to recover fully.

I have confidence in Sean’s ability to improve and become a productive member of society. I think this is more likely to occur if he receives treatment.

I hope Sean can continue treatment as part of sentencing for his offenses.

Sincerely,

Kimberly D. Blake

Incarceration, where is the “care”?

Some of the most difficult memories are those of jail, incarceration was a constant threat for Sean, whether in the Navy, during a relapse or even in his home state of  Vermont.

As I write this I keep misspelling incarceration, I keep trying to put “care” in there. No, there isn’t “care” in incarceration…

This is one of Sean’s first letters from Riker’s island. His life was saved here, an abscess in his ankle was treated. At the time of his arrest, he could barely walk. He was caught stealing soap and toothpaste from a Walgreen’s in midtown. He couldn’t run due to the condition of his leg. Sadly, instead of being sent to a hospital, he was sent to jail. Detoxing on the cold floor of the Manhattan holding center. When he got to Riker’s he did receive methadone and treatment for his abscess. I just have to wonder if, life might have been better if he was able to go to a hospital and treatment instead. As a family, we tried to get him to treatment, however, the DA would only allow transfer to a six month 50,000.00 facility, which we couldn’t afford…

July  from Riker’s Island

Hey Mom:

Well, this sucks a little bit. I don’t understand why this happened yet. Maybe, I’m not supposed to but, after I do my time, will get most of the Fall to hike together and get ready for ski season. Train with Ned, find a job, start contributing a paycheck to my family, rather than stealing your time, love and money.

Maybe, I can learn to give a little bit.

I’m going to miss you. I hope my cases in the Bronx hold a lighter sentence. If all goes well, I will be ready for detox in 50 days. I am going to try to get off the methadone. I only got it to make the hell of jail a little easier.

Whatever happens I know will have Christmas together. Somehow, I just know. We might miss Five Guys day, if I get more time but, I’d like to go to lunch with you on October22nd. I’ll put it in my DAY PLANNER.

After, I make a DAYPLANNER, something to count down the days.

I’m sorry I’m putting you through this. I’m sorry for everything right now.

Love, Seanner T

Many of Sean’s writings are lost. I have many cards, and many letters from jail….Seanrikersjulypg1Seanrikersjulypg1Seanrikersjulypg2

Recovery Advocacy Project

RAP_vermont_FB

From Recovery Advocacy Project:

“Congratulations!

You have been selected as a volunteer State Lead of the Recovery Advocacy Project (RAP)! Many states have a team of Leads and we will be sure to introduce you to your other State Leads in separate communications.

We are in a very exciting time in the recovery advocacy movement and are encouraged that you will be an integral part of that.

The application process was very competitive and we are happy to be working with you moving forward to build a foundation to support recovery grassroots advocates all across the country. We are confident in your ability and we will be providing ongoing trainings to you to instill a Leaderful Recovery Movement that is working cohesively to think and act locally towards community and legislative solutions. “

I am grateful to have this opportunity, meeting many of the other participants at Mobilize recovery was so inspiring.  I don’t have much experience but, I am so grateful for the calls and emails of support from people with experience, reaching out, wanting to help. So, Vermont, we will get ready for our next steps, people in recovery and people who love them, families of loss, concerned professionals we will all need to work together to obtain recognition and respect.

#StandUp4Recovery

Take the pledge at

https://actionnetwork.org/forms/this-recoverymonth-i-pledge?source=direct_link&

Thank you:  Kim Blake

Time for a change.. MAT in corrections.. SAMHSA blog post

For persons with an opioid use disorder who are in the criminal justice system, the process of transitioning from jail or prison back to the community can be overwhelming. Within three months of release from custody, 75 percent of people who were in prison or jail with an opioid use disorder experience a relapse to opioid use. It is also alarming that incarcerated persons who are released to the community are between 10 and 40 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than the general American population—especially within a few weeks after reentering society. As we observe March as National Criminal Justice Month, I’d like to call attention to SAMHSA resources and grant programs that are tackling this issue head-on.

As a society, we face the difficult challenge of preventing people with opioid use disorder reentering the community from relapsing and overdosing on opioids. However, it is possible through the use of medication-assisted treatment within the fabric of the criminal justice system. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder that uses FDA-approved pharmacotherapy in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders. Jails and prisons have been slow to offer this form of treatment, despite the overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of MAT. However, in reaction to the current opioid epidemic, the criminal justice system is increasingly considering the use of MAT in drug courts, incarceration, reentry, and community corrections.  

For the past decade, SAMHSA has supported MAT and other forms of treatment for mental and substance use disorders, and trauma-related issues for people involved in the criminal justice system through discretionary grants, programs and resources. SAMHSA recently published two new guides, “Medication-Assisted Treatment in the Criminal Justice System: Brief Guidance to States” and “Principles of Community-based Behavioral Health Services for Justice-involved Individuals: A Research-based Guide.”

The SAMHSA brief, “Medication-Assisted Treatment in the Criminal Justice System: Brief Guidance to the States provides guidance to state governments on increasing the availability of MAT in criminal justice settings. By including the criminal justice system as a path to treatment, states may see an increase in access to and maintenance in treatment, and lower rates of overdoses, re-offending, and re-incarcerations. In this brief, states are provided an overview of the issue, the challenges to incorporating MAT, key considerations for establishing MAT in criminal justice settings, and existing standards and guidelines.

SAMHSA’s “Principles of Community-based Behavioral Health Services for Justice-involved Individuals:  A Research-based Guide” aims to assist community-based providers in their clinical and case management practice with the justice-involved population.  Intended for direct service providers, agency leaders and program developers, the principles articulated in this guide provide a foundation for achieving a quality, community-based behavioral health treatment system that is responsive to this population.  Eight key principles – reached by consensus – are described, followed by frequently asked questions, a table of evidence-based practices for substance use treatment for justice-involved individuals, and key resource materials. 

During fiscal year 2019, SAMHSA also funded 43 adult drug court grants, 12 family drug court grants and two reentry program grants and encouraged these programs to utilize MAT, as appropriate, with their program participants.  

It is always encouraging to hear personal success stories from SAMHSA grantees. Such an example was provided by a Project Director of a SAMHSA-funded drug court in Arizona. She recently shared the story of Patrick, one of her program graduates, who is now successfully working as a recovery support specialist for their MAT service provider. Patrick described his early struggles with anxiety and depression, becoming addicted to prescription drugs and later, heroin.  His addiction led him to several stays in jail and ultimately was sentenced to state prison. After release and new charges, Patrick was eligible for, entered and graduated from a drug court program. He offered that the source of his success was being able to participate in substance use treatment, and addressing his mental health issues through intensive counseling, job training, and receipt of MAT, which Patrick says “allowed the obsession for heroin to be lifted from the nooks-and crannies of my mind, heart, and soul.”

Treatment works and recovery from opioid use disorder is possible. If you or someone you know is looking for an opioid treatment program, visit

Purdue Pharma and other drug cartels..In Vermont

As a physician in the 1990’s in Vermont, I heard the sales pitch for Oxy Contin. I am an Ob/Gyn and didn’t think the medication applied to my patients. It seemed like a strong drug for patients dying of cancer. I never wrote a prescription for it.

I did note that many colleagues wrote for it, as well as, many other opioids.  I would hear of people going home with 40 oxycodone pills for a wisdom tooth extraction. A fellow Ob/Gyn, was chastised for crusading against over prescribing. People were given pain meds for headaches, menstrual cramps.  A local physician was known for just writing a script for the most minor complaints, mostly to poor patients who didn’t have access to yoga, massage or physical therapy.

I trained in an urban center, Buffalo, NY.  Many rotations were at the ECMC trauma center. Physicians there warned me of the risks of opioid pain medications. Oxycodone for back pain was just going to create a worse situation, it might be great for a few days but, in the long run the price was too high.. I often thought, we are creating use disorder for the patients being prescribed. What I never saw coming, was that the medicine cabinets in Vermont would be filled with these powerful dangerous drugs, often just kept on hand, just in case. That the victims, would actually be, the curious adolescents in the home.

My husband broke his ankle in 2010. It was pretty bad, he needed surgery. My husband was given three large prescriptions for a powerful opioid, #120 pills , three separate doctors wrote prescriptions. He took one tablet, and threw the rest away.

After all, our son struggled with substance use disorder and was fighting hard to stay sober at that time.  He ended up relapsing, not on any of the medication my husband was given (we kept it in a safe), just knowing the pills were in the house triggered him. He stole a bank card and ran away. he went missing for several weeks. We didn’t prosecute him, we offered treatment instead. It was one of the happiest days of my life, flying home from Minnesota, with Sean safely enrolled in a inpatient treatment program.

Sadly, most people I know with SUD have started with oral pain meds, prescribed sometimes, sometimes taken at a party.

The research by Sam Quninones for “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” is an excellent resource for the absolute, reckless marketing of the new “pain vital sign” and ensuing campaign to coerce physicians into prescribing these dangerous drugs, all the while telling us they weren’t addictive.

I am grateful, I didn’t write for this medicine. I just wish my colleagues would have been more judicious. They wrote the scripts that are killing our kids. Most didn’t mean to create an epidemic. They just believed what they were told by the marketing campaign. Then, there are a few who knew darn well what they were doing and created the pill mills that added fuel to the fire.

There are complex issues at hand, reasons people become dependent, of course.  Many pharmaceutical companies do develop useful drugs for cancer, or heart disease. I just have to wonder how differently the situation might be if we didn’t have massive flooding of our communities by a pharmaceutical companies looking to make a buck, or a few billion