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In Memory of Paul Yabor

Yesterday, Paul Cherashore shared a beautiful piece Jose de Marco wrote about Paul Yabor. Harm Reduction Coalition connected with Jose who agreed to sharing his thoughts on our blog:

 

Those of us that have known Paul for nearly two decades are in a strange state of disbelief. We worked with him at Prevention Point and distributed syringes together. The day before he was anticipating leaving the recovery house he was living in and moving to his new fancy digs! He was very unhappy with the restrictions that limited his activism and travel.

I have chatted with many people in active addiction and some have turned down housing because they were afraid to live and get high alone in case they accidentally overdosed. Many people in recovery and those that have relapsed have said many people are afraid of success and will deliberately sabotage their recovery.

We flood the “tracks” with Narcan/Naloxone and do daily training on how to reverse overdoses. I have been to the tracks and it is a community of people that look out for each other. Why there was no one around to reverse Paul’s overdose is extremely troubling to us at Prevention Point.

All of the syringe exchange staff were warning people about the deadly bags of drugs that hit the streets. The bags of drugs were named “Grey Phantom”, “Final Fantasy,” and ” C.O.D”. Very sick and twisted dealers.

As Paul and I distributed syringes we gave a warning with each bag of supplies. “test before you fly”. The drug was so potent the free samples were causing overdoses, which makes people even more excited to buy it expecting a great high.

Tuesday morning the day Paul passed the staff reversed an overdose on the steps of Prevention Point before we were even open. This is becoming an everyday occurrence at Prevention Point. Whether it’s outside on the street or in our bathrooms.

While we NEVER encourage drug use in our building or tolerate using in our building we are a safe injection site. There are always people around with Naloxone to reverse overdosing syringe exchange participants.

The drugs on the street are not dope. (heroin). It is Fentanyl in a pure form that is killing people. We are reversing overdoses daily. The drug is so strong that the muscles freeze up and we literally had to pry apart someones mouth to administer mouth to mouth. It took three applications of naloxone to bring them back when it normally takes one or two.

Women using alone are at risk of being sexually assaulted if they are unconscious or too out of it to defend themselves, and many women have been assaulted.

I do not know if Paul was in addiction again or not. Honestly it was none of my business or anyone else’s if Paul did not want to divulge his drug use. I do know Paul was a harm reduction specialist and used safely for decades even if he was alone. Fentanyl is the problem. The dealers are the problem. Poverty is the problem. People have been using dope and accidentally overdosing for years but this Fentanyl is killing so many people so quickly. I have been around syringe exchange for many years and have never witnessed anything like this. Paul Yabor’s advocacy will be sorely missed. He was a champion for the IDU community and his absence will be deeply felt in many ways.

If you have the time please come to Prevention Point and be trained how to reverse an overdose. Sam and I can do that at an meeting and pass out Narcan if we have extra to distribute. Consider volunteering at PP in memory of Paul. His death gave fierce legitimacy to that Safe Injection Sites must happen.

 

Paul Yabor passed away last week in Philadelphia at the age of 55.  Paul was an HIV activist who spent much of his time helping people who inject drugs and advocating safe spaces for our community.   He created Philadelphia Harm Reduction Coalition – PHRC and Philadelphia Overdose Prevention Initative POPI.

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