Nothing so virulently plagues African America as chemical dependency. It destroys individuals and families across class, whether the sufferer’s a street drunk or junkie, white collar professional or even, as history notes, a metropolitan mayor. Accordingly, lifesaving institution Turning Point, Inc. is a vital community resource.
This month’s Honors Gala, therefore, is more than the organization patting itself on the back. The celebration observes contributions by individuals to the success of an ongoing commitment to the community.
It was in that spirit, long before cultural competence became a buzzword, in 1976, that Turning Point was founded as a halfway house to help chemically dependent African Americans with a basic, crucial concern mainstream establishments could not.
Vincent “Peter” Hayden, Ph. D, who is himself in recovery, originated the organization where he now is president. He recalled, “I wanted to change my life and sober up so badly, [but] realized everything I was doing was not Afro-centric but Euro-centric. Everybody doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to become somebody else in order to stay sober. Why should they act like another culture? Why should they lose who they are?”
It goes without saying, such an ordeal can compound the problem, leaving clients with a new issue to resolve where they might well head back down the road to active substance abuse in order to self-medicate.
“If I stay sober and lose who I am, that’s not good either,” said Dr. Hayden. In that regard, Turning Point prevails owing to principles that have kept all its programs, initiatives, and projects rooted in cultural integrity. Turning Point has been impacting chemical dependence, collateral consequence, and such directly related maladies as homelessness, mental illness and HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Hayden also brings attention to a crisis the country has characteristically swept under the rug as long as it only eroded the fabric of Black society: opioid overdose.
Now that opioid overdose ravages White populations, particularly the middle class, even political rivals like Congressmen Democrat Patrick Kennedy and Republican Newt Gingrich set aside their differences last June for their joint project, Advocates for Opioid Recovery.
The prevailing attitude toward crack cocaine, perceived as a Black problem, remains in the archaic idiom of Nancy Regan: “Just say no.”
Turing Point has long addressed opioid addiction. In its March newsletter, Dr. Hayden wrote, “The opioid epidemic has been emphasized in the predominant community, but are we doing enough in the African American community? African Americans are now dying at the same rates as White Americans were in 2014. This is a public health crisis in the main communities but are we treating it as such in our own communities?”
Suffice to say, Turning Point is strongly dedicated to solving a serious problem. Dr. Hayden readily acknowledges that his aren’t the only shoulders to bear the burden of keeping Turning Point alive and thriving these past 45 years. Pointing to Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Reed, who receives the President’s Award, he stated, “Turning could not happen without her. My expertise is the area of counseling for our clients. But, over time, she has held down the business end.”
True enough, as invaluable and well-intended a resource as Turning Point is, it’s paying the bills that keep the doors open. Reed, who has a background in human resources and marketing, responded, “I feel I have been able to work on developing strong teams and making sure the members of our team feel they are valued, respected and are part of the decision-making process. Also, with the marketing and sales skills, I was able to help in the branding of Turning Point as a world-class human services organization right in the North Side.
“I also was able to help to make sure our outcomes reflected our quality of services and that we have an effective communication stream that was able to spread that word out to the community and the funders of our services.”
Dr. Hayden is grateful, as well, for the work of Outreach Coordinator Patricia Carter, who’s honored as Employee of the Year. “She left for a while to take another position. We were so glad when she came back.”
As the bottom line, it’s about those whom Turning Point serves. Dr. Hayden pointed to Marvin Clark, Client of the Year, and his 23 years of sobriety: “Marvin is a prime example. [He] shouldn’t have to change who he is.” He added, “[Clark] now works for Emerge and is the same person. He didn’t have to change. We made sure he knew what [his] positives and negatives were. So that he could go on and [get better].”
U.S. Representative Keith Ellison is singled out as Person of the Year for his unstinting aid to Turning Point during his years as a practicing attorney when he provided representation pro bono through his career in politics.
Ultimately, the event will be an opportunity to acknowledge how one can make a change to believe in. The 6th Annual Turning Point Honors Gala will take place on Friday, April 20, from 6 to 8 pm at Earl Brown Heritage Center, 6155 Earle Brown Drive, Brooklyn Center.
— For more information, contact Turning Point at the website www.ourturningpoint.org or call 612-520-4004.