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.
(GC): What's your name, where are you
from and what brought you to Philadelphia?
Foltz (EF): My name is Erica Foltz. I
grew up in Lancaster, PA. I came to Philly
in 1999 to go to Temple University.
What do you do now and how did you end
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.
I came to PPP, I worked for Philadelphia
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.
Is there anything difficult for you to
deal with as a social worker working
with this population?
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.
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.
Do you have an example of your typical
workday and what you are asked to do
for the client?
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.
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
Other days I just
like to hangout in our drop-in and just chat with people.
So you see—every day is something
one or some of the biggest misconceptions
of this population?
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.
How do you get your information on Drug
and Alcohol related issues? Can you give
a few resources for the people?
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
It’s an online
resource guide of Philly social services.
How does one spend time away from work
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.
Do you often take the work home and if
not how do you release?
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.
Any other causes you are interested in
and anything you are working on?
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
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
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