Women and crack: Responding to need

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Began working with Women Crack-cocaine users
 in East Ham Newham, London UK

The story of my experience of working with Women Crack-Cocaine users began in March 1991.
I did not choose to work with these women they chose me
I went to work in a drugs service as a volunteer, as part of the requirement of the counselling course I was attending.
But in come a woman user ;she was a 24/7 user; whom everyone ran from, so I offered to see her and when she returned a couple of days later as I had asked her too, my boss was in shock and asked how I did it. I was offered a job immediately :)
Here I am at the front proud of the team I worked with.
The first AGM I organised
I was asked to organise the AGM and did fine doing so, here is a photo of ,I'm in the black t shirt
After the first client many more came in asking for 'Lou', there were no services providing for Crack /Cocaine users at the time, drug services were not very well funded, monies mainly came for working with Heroin users which then the policy was methadone reduction programmes.

Workers felt threatened by Crack users because of the media hype and also because without a carrot like a prescription of methadone to keep clients returning and also giving them power over that client they felt inadequate.
Crack users didn't therefore come to services and drug services didn't go out to find them, and funding wasn't available so the users stayed ignored, when funders were approached for money by some they were told no the Crack problem isn't big, why they had asked drug services of the demands from crack users for help and they were told they don't come into services and therefore concluded there was not a need.
Workers didn't want them and funders didn't want to give money for, so denial was the order of the day.

I meanwhile did my best to understand those coming to me and meet their needs. It did work somewhat in my favor for I was therefore free to develop services/treatment how I wished for no service guidelines existed that i had to follow.

Media got wind of the service and so approached asking for interviews, saying I was the EXPERT ,hahahha I thought no I am not but it seems I best try, I then learnt how media twist and play with all I said to fit their agenda.

I will make a photo album of the journalist /articles I spoke in...here is one to mark the link to,,,,I will add the album to this post soon.
nb . In this article they used image of a Black Woman piping pregnant, so emotive and also helping to create prejudice that it was a Black drug problem, meanwhile it was an equal ops drug and was not predominantly used by Black people but they were the media target, helping to Create racist attitudes and also leaving racist thinkers to believe it wasn't a problem for their race. As I learnt of how they twisted my words in earlier media interviews and therefore made things very clear before I even agreed to speak to a journalist they still then showed me how I needed to cover every aspect even the images they used.
On initial entry into the drugs field I wanted to raise awareness of Lesbians drug use needing to be addressed. I could see so much drug and alcohol use amongst the community and so little evidence of them using services.

I gave workshops on the issues and attempted to create a directory of Lesbian drug counsellor that were currently already working within the drugs field. But services being very much funder led and a pull for me to become a specialist and development worker for Women Crack users, resulted in this only being a vision.

Later by the mid 90's 2 innovative young people set up a voluntary outreach service to Gay people, and I therefore joined the management committee of; 'Project LSD'.

This was very successful but the funding climate by 1996 insisted on small services merging with larger service provides. Although I voted against such I was out numbered by the Management committee members and so merger took place. I believe to the detriment of the project. I am not aware as to whether it still exists.

This merging experience taught me exactly why I would not be creating a Charity when I founded my own service for Women Crack users, for it was through seeing this process orcastrated by the big guys that I too could set up my own service to be a charity, but therefore requiring a management committee that could choose then to replace me with an employee, so it served as a very good lesson in bureaucracy.

These photo's I add here are :-

* An annual report regarding my inital days in the drugs field.

* A fun profile of me in one of Project LSD's newsletters.
I was approached by 'Women's Health' magazine/newsletter to write an article focusing on the health aspects of women Crack-cocaine users. Here is the article I wrote. (published May 1994)
Later in 1994 (Sept) I offered the first one day training on Crack users in Britain, to Women working with Women crack users.
It was fully booked and received well.

Click here to edit text

The conference was a success I was approached after my speech by someone high in prison services. In my speech I pointed out how users were being given Chlorpromazine to calm them down in prison, this drug makes users like zombies,,,,the woman who approached me asked what should we do instead?.
I answered give acupunture.
My friend who organised the conference told me my answer was too idealistic, but I see any opportunity to share what i truly believe as rare so always speak up and say what I believe.
Soon after acupuncture was offered in prisons.

Here is some write up on me regarding the conference by Sarah Goode, sociology dept, Warick university, 'Women who (don't) use heroin. also an outline of my work.
Soon after I gave my speech on Women Crack users,,,'Run around can't get a rehab' at the 'Women and Drugs' conference 1995, Release, part of S.C.O.D.A. approached me for the 'paper' I had presented,,but I had spoken with only a loose outline on run around's case, so I quickly wrote my speech as a Paper and it was published soon after by them.

I am uploading it here, but it is also available on line at 'Drug text' an international web site on drugs,,,
http://www.drugtext.org/... See More
Soon after I gave my speech on Women Crack users,,,'Run around can't get a rehab' at the 'Women and Drugs' conference 1995, Release, part of S.C.O.D.A. approached me for the 'paper' I had presented,,but I had spoken with only a loose outline on run around's case, so I quickly wrote my speech as a Paper and it was published soon after by them.

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I am uploading it here, but it is also available on line at 'Drug text' an international web site on drugs,,,
http://www.drugtext.org/Cocaine-crack-and-base/women-crack-users.html

Where I'm rated 2nd on the list for articles on Crack, Cocaine and Base, http://www.drugtext.org/Table/Cocaine-crack-and-base/
This is good considering that 10/15 years ago this article was all over the net translated into many languages, and found only by searching my name with Crack. Now only one site exists and only in English.

I add also soon after my speech John Major, our Priminister at the time put up £16 million to offer services to Crack users, whereas before my speech Government would not recognize there was a Crack Cocaine problem, as they stated services are not reporting crack users as coming into services; which I explain why in the speech/paper. The denial by services was soon gone once monies were made available to bid for.
I ran a group made up of Women users and partners of users to put together informative cards that was created by users/partners for users/partners.
It was no easy task due to the nature of users and the group dynamics but after 3 years we achieved it.
These are the final product, they were printed on high quality card silk finish.
This is a article I wrote for the Black Drug Workers Forum news letter in 1996
D.A.W.N conference 1996 I spoke on Women Rock and Violence


Updated about a minute ago · Taken at In 1996 I spoke at D.A.W.N.s conference 'Women Violence and Substance use, I addressed Women crack and violence. Here is the days program and related write ups on the day.
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.451191191681041.1073741838.409561569177337&type=3
The conference was held jointly by D.A.W.N and Women's Aid, to address Women, violence and substance Use. I was asked to speak on Women and Crack,,,,
there is no papers to give the outline of my speech so I will try to recall here
Continuing on with my journey developing services for Women Crack users in Britain, I return to the D.A.W.N. conference I spoke at https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=451191245014369&set=pb.409561569177337.-2207520000.1399282870.&type=3&theater
The conference was held jointly by D.A.W.N and Women's Aid, to address Women, violence and substance Use. I was asked to speak on Women and Crack,,,,
there is no papers to give the outline of my speech so I will try to recall here
Here is the draft of a paper I never got to finish that I presented at the conference held by D.A.W.N. and Women's Aid,1996 ,on Women Violence and Substance use, my speech was 'Women, Rock and Violence'
Although these documents were produced in 1998,,,the policy changes were being brought in around 1996,,,and were not conducive to my ways of practicing.
Data had to be gathered on clients to justify spending public monies, so the Health Authorities were requiring 'Outcomes and assessments' ,,,meaning each client was to be given a questionaire interview on first visit,,,,,to assess their needs.
Many personal questions were included, and meanwhile Women were using crack or cocaine and so not only very wary but also rightfully so for often they were mothers,,,not wanting social services involvement in their lifes.
We were told the info wouldn't be shared but I doubted this would remain so,,,plus in truth i had witnessed how funders like probation for instance would insist sometimes where a client was placed when requesting monies for rehab,,,,,and yes their choice was not always the best for each client, but I was told i had to use the rehab they insisted on because they were our funders.

I did not want to put my clients at risk so had concerns re filling the questionaires out, I aired them and was told if i don't like a question just write 'don't know. So i wrote Don't know to every question. I was aware I could not continue doing this for too long, but didn't trust the reasons as also each service wrote their own questionaire,,so it couldn't be compared and contrasted with others, and much of the questions were steered towards the heroin users assessable qualities, which are completely different from stimulant users, eg, no physical addiction, no prescribed alternative drug.

I uploaded these documents so you can see the policies for then, plus i have left my notes scribbled on pages to share my views at the time.
This was the plan which to me was clearly not going to work, but I believe it was based on American policies and also I have since learnt that this structure was being implimented throughout all voluntary sector services and was also a European policy being brought in in 1996.

Also C.D.T. structure was changing.

Here are both documents along with my notes written at the time.
meanwhile my employers had made a worker whom was uneducated and rude, my supervisor,,,and although i wasn't suppose to know a college told me the supervisor had confided in her that she had been told to get ride of me anyway she could..the work environment was not good, it was becoming unsafe for Women clients in my opinion and so she started piling on heroin using clients into my diary. I did not take heroin using clients as a rule for they needed regular appointment to receive prescriptions for methadone, and I specialised in working with crack users and did not prescribe medication as treatment so my diary was more flexible to meet their needs, but due to her placing more and more fixed appointments into my diary it became impossible for me to have the flexibility. I informed her superiors but of course they said i needed to explain this to her,,,which I did try but no.......Therefore one day i said to her,,no do not give me anymore clients , my diary was fall. I worked 21 hours a week and had 48 clients. She then gave me a letter for me to be disapplined for refusing to have more clients. I joined a Union; which was not approved of within the service. I had the hearing demonstrated how I already had 48 clients and how the Heroin using clients made the crack users service I ran inflexible which is not good for Crack users.
It was decided at the hearing that she didn't understand how my service needed to operate and that I should write out how the crack service ran. It was also decided that I should do as i was instructed in future but for now I would only receive a caution.

I knowing I couldn't continue filling out forms 'Don't Know' and also knowing she had been told to get me out. Plus many other things, like that CDT's were closing down. I had to find another way to do my work.
I therefore studied laws around running my own service and what structure I could have so as to remain independent.
I had a plan to sell training to professionals working with crack users and a friend run a community centre and was willing to give me free use of to run my service from. I could self fund by training to earn money and then offer my skills and service for free.

I had put a business plan together earlier in the year but banks refused the start up loan. But now push was coming to shove. So prior to the hearing i wrote my resignation and at the end of the hearing they asked was the rulings ok. I said yes, left the room and placed my resignation letter in my supervisors and her superiors pigeon holes,,,he watched me from across the room.

I had also prior to the meeting booked my annual leave of the last 2 weeks notice to start my new service in.
I had therefore 2 week to tell my clients where i would be found. I had no money, no job and no sales for training, but I did have faith and freedom. So I also had a party ..................
I set up my own independent drug service offering free counselling, support and advice primarily for Women Crack Cocaine users 'Higher Insight' in Stratford ,East London.
I did apply for funding from independent trusts, but quickly discovered that they themselves only funded organizations that fitted into the Government guidelines, so would not fund my service as I worked outside those guidelines by refusing to share data on my clients.
Thus in order to offer women the confidentiality they required I had to self fund.
I started working for care agencies, as a locum, in hostals and childrens homes etc, but since leaving my employment within the drug service my hip had started to cause me pain. I took pain killers; which I would normally refrain from doing, and continued to work as a locum but the pain got progressively worse.

I then was given agency work at a leading drug service providers rehab. The clients welcomed my knowledge that i shared with them. Then another locum whom was employed by them asked me was I THE LOUISE CLARKE, I said yes. next the director arrived and asked me to consider applying to be a locum worker for them. I was reluctant to be employed again but agreed and filled out the application form. I was quickly interviewed by him, meanwhile other staff there remarked on how I had kept my application low profile, so confidentiality was not the order of the day.
I never heard anymore from them, nor did I receive anymore shifts at their rehab, and also my other shifts elsewhere seemed to dry up.

In 1998 my spine collapsed completely and i was admitted to hospital and told I needed spinal surgery, which i refused. Unable to walk my torso was put in plaster caste and I was sent home with crutches with intent to heal myself.

Here is the flyer I used to promote my in-house training on offer to services. I was no longer able to walk but did counsel over the phone best I could.
Just before my spine collapsed I was approached by a journalist asking me for my views on the new Government white paper on drugs, that I have uploaded on this page with my notes written on when I first saw it.

Apparently no drug service worker was willing to speak out against it. There was no doubt in my mind as to why; to me it was clearly due to fear of losing their funding. I self funded and out spoken agreed to an interview, wherein you can see the journalist then could approach others whom dismissed my views.

The photograph was taken of me at my work place and yes holding myself up at the counter as standing was too painful.
Male workers complained that they wanted to attend and told me I was being sexist. So I addressed this matter but organizing and devising one day training for professionals in contact with male users. And wrote a book to accompany the training.

This training was also received well.
even psychiatrists attended to gain understanding.

All my training has evaluation forms for attendees to feedback on and all feedback is positive.

I also would like to point out that even though I set up my counseling service for Women, I still offered help to men but required they had appointments in order to make space safe for Women
So training was selling well,,,and all looked good,,,
I had a call from a guy who run a service for Crack users saying he could help me get funding,,,,but i said no I did not want funding if it required that I gave away details on my client in return for,,,,he said no I would only need to give their post codes; and for those reading who are not British I will state a post code tells you someones address give or take a few choices on the house number. So I said, no.

Then i had people phone to offer themselves as volunteers but I said no, I already had my few volunteers thank you.

Then a Woman from 'The Users voice' approached me, asked me my thoughts on my last employer and other high profile people in the drugs field.

I submitted a article 'Putting Women first on the agenda' to her newsletter for users, which was published.
Was on line until recently, as I had a link to on my website, but today I looked and it appears now to have been removed.

So I will place it here. It was a organization set up by users for users but yes once funded independents seems to go out the window...
Then a client made contact whom I had previously worked with whilst teaching weight training primarily to Crack users, in a day care service.
She hadn't been a crack user at that time, but since then (1996) she had recorded another chart song; (she was a professional singer), started touring and was supplied Crack by her new partner. Then gave birth to their daughter whom was taken into care until she cleaned up from Crack, she agreed to this voluntarily as she knew she needed to get the father out of her life to get free and so proceeded to try,,,,,,

but the day care service failed her and meanwhile Social services et al,,,pushed hard for custody of the child until soon they were given the care order and the child was up for adoption.

It was in the court that she asked for more time to sort out her life, Due to catchment areas a client is required to only attend services within their borough; and that being so only the service she had been attending and receiving poor help from,,,,and mine existed.

Her barrister had found my service and asked she could attend, Social services were given the care order, but somehow she was misled into believing she had 6 months to get clean. She asked the day care service about my service and they told her I wouldn't be able to help her.

The day care service I would like to add was the service I used to work for and thus i had trained the staff there and they knew me very well and my capabilities. After the court case they would not let her back into their service, they told her at the door ' no one can help you here'......

She knew me as LOU,,,,and so when given the contact details for my service she was told Louise Clarke ,,,,when she arrived and saw it was ME,,,,she was overjoyed and filled with hope.

She told me 'they have got my daughter,,,,I need to get her back',,,,,,
I sort a solicitor immediately,,,,and she instantly stopped using,,,,

so the journey begun,,,,,,and what a journey.....here is a blog of it,,,,,which come to teach me how corrupt and nasty the whole system really is,,,,,
http://higherinsight.blogspot.co.uk/
I continued to try and run my service but I was self funded as I didn't want to share data on the women who attended, i wanted to offer a confidential service. The funding structure of Britain is that to receive funding the service has to fit into Government guidelines, and the new guidelines were that in order to receive funding/public monies there has to be evidence; that services must provide outcomes and assessments, of all clients whom they see. Thus confidentiality it not the case.

I raised my money through training other professionals who worked with Crack users, but it was after I attended a conference for Black Drug Workers, in London. in 2000, that I think I may of upset someone in authority.

At this drugs conference research results were presented. The research was on why is it that Black people don't attend services in proportion to their percentage of need.

(this is all from memory for i don't still have the paper worker on.)

The results were that Black peoples needs were not monitored etc,,,basically the conclusion was ,,,,they need to monitor Black peoples needs.

This annoyed me somewhat, for I had seen the same practice go down in the general drug services provided; that is that monitoring was introduced, 'Outcomes and Assessments', and what that resulted in beyond the client loosing confidentiality was that they now on first attending instead of being giving immediate help and direction they were asked so many unnecessary questions about the ins and outs of their personal life.

I waited until people in the audience had had the opportunity to ask questions and then posed my concerns.

I expressed to whom I believed to be the Government minister on Health; a member on the panel taking questions my concerns. Stating that it sounds similar to what had be done with drug services generally and that although these matters need monitoring it resulted in even more paperwork to fill the clients session with and not therefore benefiting the client.

Plus i added that I was a specialist in working with crack cocaine users and had seen how in the general drug service that the introduction of monitoring clients had been tackled poorly and that each service had created their own questionaire regarding 'Outcome and Assessment', and that this was not a scientific way to gather data, for there could be no room for 'compare and contrast' of services.

His response was that yes in Health services they do have unified questionaires for that reason.

I said 'precisely'.

i then added that due to the fact that to Assess a Crack users and measure outcomes was very different to Assessing say a Heroin user, and that the questionaires i had seen did not fit to Crack users I had written to Mike Trace , deputy UK Anti - Drugs co-ordinator, offering to meet to discuss ways to address the Crack users needs.
but he declined. ,(see below. I'm sorry I can't find that letter sent at the moment)

I was then asked what was my name and where did i work

I answered Louise Clarke , and that my services was called Higher Insight,
I Explained this was why I had to self fund to provide appropriate care for women and ran my own service, to not partake in the data collection.
A member of the panel told me it was law that i had to collect the data. I knew it was not, but only a government guideline, but to avoid further trouble I refrained from stating this.

Following this they said no more questions lets take a break.
The audience mainly Black workers showed support towards my comments, by noises of agreement, and as I left come and asked for more details.

It was after this conference that some workers whom had previously paid for attendance to my next training contacted me and told me they could no longer come. All those that withdrew from the training cheques were holding the health Authorities banking.
Hence i was struggling to sell training after this event.
Meanwhile even though I was being squashed out by England,,,Scotland Government workers came forwards and asked for me to attend their
Scottish Advisory Committee On Drug Misuse,,,I declined as I was not in a position to go to Scotland, but I advised best I could over the phone, and well I am pleased to say they listened to all I suggested and didn't twist my words one bit,,,,but published my advise in their publication of their report and findings:-

Scottish Advisory Committee On Drug Misuse:
Psychostimulant Working Group Report

Case study of a service for women stimulant users

7.14 Louise Clarke of Higher Insight has worked with
women crack users in the East of London over the
past 10 years. In developing services for women she
argues that service providers must take into account
women's need for anonymity and confidentiality and
their need for childcare support, particularly when
attending services. Women may prefer to work with a
female drugs worker. She also notes that setting up a
drug project at a venue like a community centre where
child care provision is already established can overcome
some of the fears women have about attending a service
that is labelled as a 'drug project'.
So I stopped setting up training but now have updated and published the book I wrote to accompany the training to professionals in contact with Women Crack/Cocaine users, on how to work with this client group.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Women-Crack-Responding-addiction-crack-cocaine/dp/1494301652
               Sodexo's Bronzefield prison, failings regarding Women Crack/Drug users/ my offer of solutions