The Quad Cities is home to my busy family -- my veterinarian husband, two teenage grandsons, and two dogs and a cat. But there will always be someone missing in our house. My son, Andy, died on May 25, 2011, at age 33, of a heroin overdose.
I almost went crazy with grief, but I wanted to do something to help make sure other parents never have to go through this tragedy. As an RN, I know that death from overdose, as well as HIV, Hepatitis C, and other harm that can be experienced by people who use drugs, are entirely preventable.
At Quad-Cities Harm Reduction, we provide front-line public health services to those who need them the most.
Unfortunately, Davenport’s new zoning law might push us to the sidelines and slow down our life-saving work.
Last year, we provided direct services to hundreds of people in the Quad Cities of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds -- veterans, people living with disabilities, the homeless, and people who use drugs.
We distributed 1,258 kits of naloxone, a generic, safe medication that literally can bring people back to life after an overdose incident. We received 252 reports of lives saved using these kits, and undoubtedly many more lives saved went unreported. We work closely with the local health department and with other health, HIV, and service agencies in our area.
We do this by meeting people who need our help where they are, and we mean this literally. Without the funds to access public transportation, or the ability to afford a car, many of our clients are in the downtown area, close to other social services that they need. But the new zoning law being considered by the Davenport City Council places our current, and future, work in jeopardy.
Our current operations might be "grandfathered" in at our current location and allowed to continue, but any future changes to our services according to this proposed zoning ordinance will revoke our "grandfather" status. If our "grandfather" status is revoked the city zoning ordinance will force us to move to a location that does not meet the needs of those we serve.
One of the services we plan to offer, for example, is a needle exchange program, a proven way to prevent the transmission of HIV and other illnesses from shared use of needles.
To be effective, front-line health services must be delivered on the front lines. We have to reach people who need our services where they are if our services are to help them.
We urge the Davenport City Council to make sure the zoning laws don’t push essential services out to where people cannot reach them. The new law should expressly permit community, social and needle exchange services to be provided in the downtown commercial zones now and into the future.
The City Council can act now to do the right thing. If they do, they can ensure that the life of my son, Andy, and the lives of so many other Iowans, will not have been lost in vain.