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An Interview with Erica Foltz, A Passionate Social Worker
Interview By Clayton Ruley

Editor's Note: When you meet Erica Foltz you can tell she is focused on her craft. Regularly checking on the latest resources and dealing with her clients in a personable manner seems to come natural to Erica. Erica has a love for helping those in need. We need more people like Erica doing social work.

GeoClan.com (GC): What's your name, where are you from and what brought you to Philadelphia?

 

Erica Foltz (EF): My name is Erica Foltz. I grew up in Lancaster, PA. I came to Philly in 1999 to go to Temple University.

GC: What do you do now and how did you end up there?

 

EF: I work for Prevention Point Philadelphia (PPP) as a case manager and counselor. We’re a multi-service public health organization, offering free services like syringe exchange, case management, HIV testing, legal aid, and acute medical care. I actually volunteered for PPP’s mobile syringe exchange while I was in college and absolutely loved it. I was inspired by organization’s connection to the community and the down-and-dirty community health care services they provided.

 

Before I came to PPP, I worked for Philadelphia FIGHT’s Youth Health Empowerment Project as a HIV program coordinator. I used to network a bunch with Prevention Point because I coordinated a program that was geared toward very high risk youth that aimed to increase their knowledge and skills around harm reduction.

 

GC: Is there anything difficult for you to deal with as a social worker working with this population?

 

EF: Wow, that’s a loaded question! There are many things that are difficult. We work with a very marginalized population and often times our consumers have burned out many of the social service organizations in the city.

 

There are so many barriers for people that want to get into drug treatment when they don’t have ID and insurance. It’s really frustrating and heartbreaking when someone comes into our drop-in center off the street and is not well, needs to get into drug treatment, and has no ID. They need to go through the whole process of obtaining an ID before even accessing treatment. That’s hard to do if you’re homeless and don’t have any of your legal documents like a birth certificate and social security card. Obtaining all that stuff in order to get your ID takes time and money and it’s hard to turn people away from services when they lack those documents.

GC: Do you have an example of your typical workday and what you are asked to do for the client?

 

EF: Every work day is different and that’s why I love working here. Some days I am in the office and help consumers who come to our drop-in center. One day a week I work with our low-threshold pilot Suboxone program and that is really rewarding. I also go to our mobile syringe exchange sites throughout the week to provide case management services on the street.

 

As for what I am asked to do for the client…it really varies. I feel like my biggest role is that of an advocate. I help people by providing referrals for food and clothing, drug treatment, shelter and recovery houses, behavioral health, and legal aid. When people request help getting into drug treatment, I sit down with them and talk to them about their service options.

 

Other days I just like to hangout in our drop-in and just chat with people. So you see—every day is something different.

 

GC: What's one or some of the biggest misconceptions of this population?

 

EF: A misconception is that folks who shoot drugs are scary. I’ve met some of the nicest and down to earth people while working at PPP. Another misconception that people have is regarding syringe exchange—some people think that syringe exchanges promote drug use. However, we offer all sorts of tools and education that minimize the harm of using drugs and the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C.

GC: How do you get your information on Drug and Alcohol related issues? Can you give a few resources for the people?

 

EF: I love the Harm Reduction Coalition’s website (www.harmreduction.org). The organization holds a bunch of great trainings and conferences. Prevention Point is a harm reduction organization so we follow the philosophy that the HRC practices. They have really great articles on their site about hepatitis C, overdose prevention, and syringe exchange.

 

Another good general resource I use is phillysos.org. It’s an online resource guide of Philly social services.

GC: How does one spend time away from work to relax?

 

EF: I just joined a gym and that is pretty fun. I also play softball for the City of Brotherly Love Softball League. We play out in Fairmount Park every Sunday starting in April and it’s hilarious.

GC: Do you often take the work home and if not how do you release?

 

EF: I never take any of my files home with me—but I think about our consumers all the time. I think it just comes with this job. People who we work with make an impact on our lives and we can’t help but think about them when it’s really cold outside, when it’s pouring down rain.

GC: Any other causes you are interested in and anything you are working on?

 

EF: I do outreach for Project Safe whenever I have a free night. Project Safe does outreach and advocacy for women who are trading sex. I also help to fundraise for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk. My softball team raises money for our involvement in the three-day walk every year.

GC: What's "Harm Reduction" mean to you?

 

EF: Simply, it means “meeting people where they are at.” If you talk to me about your drug use, I won’t assign my own values to your life. I’m not going to tell you what you “should do” or “need to” do. I’m going to listen to you and talk to you about all the avenues you can travel down in order to be safe. Basically, my role here at PPP is to be a non-judgmental source of information and support.


GC
: What's does the word "Change" mean to you?

 

EF: In our current political climate, “change” means hope.

Send any comments to community@geoclan.com



Erica Foltz

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