Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lack of identification a barrier to care for many addicts

The Lancaster County Drug & Alcohol Commission helps provide counseling and rehabilitation services to those with life-disrupting addictions to substances like heroin or amphetamines.

At their quarterly Advisory Board meeting on April 28, Rick Kastner, Executive Director of the Lancaster County Drug & Alcohol Commission, explained, "A lot of our clients, they live on the streets; they don't have any of the records that we have at home in our safety deposit boxes."

"They don't have a permanent address and can't get government documents [like birth certificates and social security cards]... and so it's just this endless cycle of things getting in their way," added Dr. Lisa Koogle, Chair of the Board.

"It can be really daunting," said Kastner. "Because you simply can't go in and say, I'm Rick Kastner, give me a [Medicaid] card. You have to prove that I AM Rick Kastner and this is where I was born and you have to prove that."

He added that "with the need to know who's who, with Homeland Security and everything, getting a valid ID card is a lot harder than it was before 2001."

"And also most jobs nowadays, you have to bring in your birth certificate or driver's license or something," Kastner said. "Because they don't want to hire someone and then find out that they're an illegal alien or a terrorist or whatever."

"If you don't have those legal documents to go grab and use, you're stuck. It's like you're caught between a rock and a hard place," he concluded.

Kastner explained how his agency tries to assist clients, many of whom are homeless, to establish their identity. He cited one case where a social worker voluntarily accompanied a client to Harrisburg and guided the client through various agencies in order to establish positive identity so that the person could report to a new job.