02/12/20 Richard Andrews

Doctor Richard Andrews discusses needle exchange, safe consumption, opioids, overdose, Hep C & his run for Senate, Dist 13 in Texas + "Chief" Clarence Bradford & UH Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson discuss bail bond & protections against arrest

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Guest: 
Richard Andrews
Organization: 
Andrews for Senate
Doctor Richard Andrews
Download: Audio icon FDBCB021220.mp3
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TRANSCRIPT

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

FEBRUARY 12, 2020

DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars who support the drug war which empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent U.S. gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

This is Cultural Baggage and I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. I have a wonderful show lined up for you. Put your ears on.

MALE VOICE: I am Dr. Richard Andrews. I am a Houston-based family doctor but at this point I mostly treat Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C and I am moving in to the treatment of opioid addiction.

DEAN BECKER: This is a necessary thing in this day and age to move in to the opioid addiction. I certainly want to get in to that here in just a moment. You are also running for office here in the state of Texas.

DR. RICHARD ANDREWS: I do happen to be running for office. I decided that since there are a number of what I would call public health crisis in Texas based on what I think is inappropriate policy – sometimes policy can be the thing that is hurting us – and I decided with so many people having medical issues driven by or at least affected by policy that I needed to step outside of the exam room and see if I could have an impact on how policy is made in Texas.

DEAN BECKER: I was lucky that I went to your office and took the test and it was determined that I don’t have Hepatitis C, but a lot of us Boomer’s (I guess that’s what we are) experimented back in the 60s and 70s and many of us had the likelihood of contracting Hepatitis C. It would be a good idea for folks to at least find out, wouldn’t it?

DR. RICHARD ANDREWS: It sure would, especially these days. We have had the ability for several years now since the 1990s at least to cure Hepatitis C but the drugs that were previously used while sometimes effective, they were usually not effective and required very lengthy therapy – sometimes as long as a year. You may not know until the end of that therapy whether you were one of the lucky ones who was able to be cured. The real problem with those drugs apart from what I mentioned is that the side effects were usually terrible and although a number of people were cured a larger number of people suffered severe side effects and were still not cured. Nowadays we have excellent drugs that are much better at curing the infection and for most patients will only take two or three months with minimal side effects with just a single pill a day in some cases three pills a day. Once you are cured of Hepatitis C unless you re-expose yourself the infection will not come back by itself.

DEAN BECKER: Again, we are talking with Dr. Richard Andrews who specializes in this arena. I am sure there are dozens to hundreds of doctors in Houston that could help you in that regard in you were to ask.

I went to Europe a couple of years back and I have been to Bolivia, Canada, and Mexico. I have toured 30 of these United States doing seminars trying to educate myself insofar as drug policy with regard to what is new and what is happening on the horizon and what we need to do to adapt and adopt. You have done much of the same. You had a fairly recent trip to Canada. Tell us about that, would you please?

DR. RICHARD ANDREWS: Sure. That was in September of 2019, and that was in connection with a conference that I discovered a few years ago and which I now attend every year and the organization that puts on the conference is called The International Network of Hepatitis and Substance Users Conference or INHSU for anybody who wants to look that up. There are conferences that focus only on Hepatitis and there are other conferences that focus on the illnesses associated with Substance Use Disorder, or addiction. This is the only conference that I know of at the international level that focuses specifically on Hepatitis and substance users – mostly Hepatitis C, but Hepatitis B is also an issue.

DEAN BECKER: Dr. Andrews, one of the things that I have had on the back burner and wanted to put on the front burner is to emulate or copy what they have done in certain cities there in Canada. I first went to Vancouver to the InSite facility there where they have a safe injection facility, safe consumption facility they are wanting to use these days to take away some of the oneness. I learned there that they have saved thousands of lives and never lost one overdose to these new opioid products. We have between 68,000 and 69,000 deaths from these opioid drugs and you and I want to do something about this here in Houston, don’t we?

DR. RICHARD ANDREWS: We sure do. There is so much that can be done. In fact I was just reviewing one of the best medical articles that summarizes what can be done and what shouldn’t be done. This is a 2016 article in the Lancet which is considered by many to be the most prestigious medical journal in the world. The article was written together with the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University which is considered by many the most prestigious school of public health in the world, and one of the oldest if not the oldest. Together they put together a commission on drug use policy around the world and the impact that has on health. This article is evidence based. It looks at a large amount of evidence and has a large number of authors that are very knowledgeable about the subject from all over the world and they concluded that drug prohibition tends to have a very negative impact on several different aspects of public and individual health.

DEAN BECKER: I have preached that sermon for the last 20 years and that it ensures a deadlier consequence. They want to smuggle in the most potent product in to the country that they can and then it is cut with everything from rat poison to levamisole, the cancer causing wormer that they put in the cocaine to make it so shiny. We just shoot ourselves in the foot by believing in this prohibition, do we not?

DR. RICHARD ANDREWS: Absolutely not. In this case as a candidate there is no getting around being political when you are a candidate, which is the very definition of being a candidate. Political means you want to impact policy. I really try both as a candidate and a physician to be as evidence based as I can. Everyone deserves to have an opinion and often we have very strong opinions. I am really less concerned about what somebodies opinion is – although I want to know that as well – but I want to know if you have a strong opinion about something for example what drug policy should be. Should we be putting people in prison for simple drug use and possession? Can you show what the outcomes of that policy are? If you can show actual data that was gathered and analyzed objectively and you can show the jurisdictions in countries or states that have done that and had better outcomes; then I am interested. By the same token if a careful analysis of these things shows declining Hepatitis C and HIV infection rates with regard to new infections in people using drugs then we have to take a look at what the policy should be. As long as that data is gathered and analyzed objectively then we should take a look at how that should influence policy.

DEAN BECKER: Dr. Andrews, one of our goals will be to educate, encourage, and motivate the district attorney, the sheriff, the police chief, city council, the county commissioners, and the state reps to take another look and reexam this policy and look at it scientifically as you were just eluding to in order to see that there is a better way. I was reading the other day that Chicago is wanting to open some safe sites for drug users and that there is already a makeshift network there. I think we may have a makeshift network here as well. Without going in to too much detail, are you aware of any inclinations in that regard?

DR. RICHARD ANDREWS: I am aware of those networks and I think having an informal network is better than not having a network at all where there are people who happen to be using drugs. We have to remember that it isn’t simply injecting drugs that can sometimes cause Hepatitis C. For example, if somebody is sharing a cocaine straw that can also transmit Hepatitis C. Sometimes people don’t realize that it isn’t simply the sharing of needles that can cause these issues. We don’t want to encourage people to use drugs but for those people who are using drugs they should be in a position to use them safely. These are sometimes people with depression and other mental health disorders that are simply self-medicating and could hurt others. If we have a larger burden of Hepatitis C and HIV in the population, then more people are at risk including younger people and older people, I think it would be better and the evidence shows this, to have formal networks such as a health care system and health care infrastructure in which people have a safe place to go to use their drugs. You eluded to the place I visited in Montreal, Canada in September of 2019. I had read about these safe injection sites before but had never visited one. I had that opportunity in September to visit a Montreal site. Canada now has well over 20 sites, with the first one as you know, in Vancouver. One of the doctors that cofounded that site is also the head of the Provincial CDC – the equivalent of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control there in Canada. They gathered excellent data and were trying to do harm reduction. The first was in Vancouver and it existed on the sly for many years. The police would shut it down and then they would open it back up and eventually as you know, the Canadian Supreme Court unanimously ruled that it should be allowed to stay open. After that you started to get a number of other sites around Canada. The Montreal site that I visited was amazing. It is open roughly 12 – 14 hours per day and paid for by the Montreal City Government. It is a clean, welcoming site with non-judgmental perspectives. If a person comes in off the street with their drug that they acquired on the street and as you point out on your show all of the time, they don’t know what is in that bag. One of the first things that the staff at this site does is test if for fentanyl. So before the person even uses the drug, they know if it has fentanyl in it or not. They are also given clean needles, syringes, and paraphernalia in general with which to use the drug. Again, the person is making their own decision about using or not using the drug. The staff is there to make sure they do it in the safest way possible and they are also given health education. There are two registered nurses there onsite the entire time the facility is open and they know how to recognize opioid and other overdoses. If they see an overdose they can immediately administer naloxone, which is the opioid overdose reversal drug and it is highly effective when used properly. They have occasional overdoses there as you would expect, but they do not have overdose deaths and I think this is a much more reasonable way to approach things than the high rate of overdose deaths that we see in this country.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. Thank you for that, Dr. Andrews. Speaking of Canada and Vancouver there was a recent headline entitled, ‘Vancouver Business Association Calls for Safe Supply of Drugs to Prevent Overdose Deaths’. You were talking about the drugs being tested for fentanyl so people don’t immediately overdose. Under prohibition drugs are suspect across the board for contamination as you indicated or quoted me that you don’t know what is in that bag.

I don’t know if you know Charles Gauthier. He is quoted as saying, “A safe drug supply is what’s needed now to truly make a difference”. That is moral from my perspective and it is human and that is compassion, is it not?

DR. RICHARD ANDREWS: I would say so but at the same time, I am evidence based and because this particular move in the area of drug policy it is a somewhat different yet relevant question in the notion of having safe injection sites. Do we want people using clean needles, or do we want them using dirty needles? Do we want them robbing people’s homes to get the money to buy a scarce commodity? It is certainly a question that should be asked and as a medical, clinical scientist I will be looking for the data on it. I don’t really have an opinion in favor or against it because I want to see what the outcomes are. If the outcomes show that you have markedly improved rates of disease and that people and society overall are healthier, than I think that should be looked at as another possibility. On the other hand, if it shows that it is not so effective or maybe even has adverse consequences then we could consider not doing that policy.

DEAN BECKER: Fair enough. I appreciate your concerns. Dr. Andrews, there is a story coming out of New Haven, Connecticut. The police up there are now going to distribute crack pipes and syringes in the hopes of keeping addicts safe. As you indicated, even the straw can communicate or transmit a disease to the next person using it. I was reading that the Houston Police Department and the sheriff are now giving people who are opioid addicted a drug named Suboxone if I am remembering correctly, to alleviate their cravings and the effects of their addiction while they are in the jail and when they leave they are given a carton or a sample of naloxone so that when they are out there on the street they won’t immediately kill themselves. You are well aware that people who have been in jail for a long period of time think they can do the same dosage or use the same amount that they were using before they were jailed and a lot of times that will kill them. Your thought there, please?

DR. RICHARD ANDREWS: Absolutely. In fact, you are the one who forwarded me some of these articles and I am so excited to see the intersection of the law enforcement community – of course you remember the law enforcement community yourself. The intersection of the law enforcement community and the public health community is a radical way of looking at things and it is so encouraging because it is not only compassion-based; it is outcomes based. We know that when the police view the drug user as somebody that may need assistance – not all drug use leads to health problems. In fact most drug use, according to the data and evidence is non-problematic but where there are people that are using drugs in an unsafe way, or who have Substance Use Disorder then we have to have policies including at the local level and the individual law enforcement officials where they are trying to look at what is most affective. Are we going to keep putting people in prison for this stuff? As you point out, they come out of prison and go back to their old habits because the infrastructure and support people who promote having a healthy lifestyle just aren’t there. I think that is a tremendous change and one that I am very encouraged by.

DEAN BECKER: I am as well. Again, we have been speaking with Dr. Richard Andrews. He is my doctor and he is also running for public office here in Texas. Please tell them about your venture in to politics.

DR. RICHARD ANDREWS: Okay. I realized that your show and the radio station can’t endorse me as an individual so I am not seeking that. I am running for the Texas Senate for District 13, which is in the Houston area including Harris County and Fort Bend. I encourage people to become informed about all of the candidates in the race – not just myself, and may the best person win coming up. The Democratic Primary is on March 3rd, and the General Election is on November 3rd, 2020. I encourage people to find out more about it and see who they want to support.

DEAN BECKER: What is the website where they can find out more?

DR. RICHARD ANDREWS: That is at: www.andrewstexassenate.com.

DEAN BECKER: This week instead of Name That Drug By its Side Effects, we have this very recent production by CBS Houston. The following is courtesy of KHOU-CBS Houston:

MALE VOICE1: It’s called “Gray Death”, it sounds scary and the DEA says it is.

MALE VOICE2: It’s like playing Russian roulette and you put your lives in these drug dealers’ hands.

MALE VOICE1: It’s a new super drug that looks like small chunks of concrete but can be powder-like, too. It’s made of heroin, fentanyl, and other deadly opioids. The mix makes it even more dangerous for users. This drug is being made in clandestine labs by a person with no chemistry background and with no oversight, rhythm, or reason in what they are putting in this drug.

Gray death is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. The DEA warning folks across the country after law enforcement in Louisiana discovered it just last week. Law enforcement in Houston say that it is already here, too.

DEAN BECKER: You would think after a hundred years they would quit trying to escalate the drug laws and realize it’s just not working.

A week ago a seminar was held in the city of Houston to talk about lowering the penalties and taking away the need for so many bail bondsman.

MALE VOICE: My name is C.L. Brad Bradford, I served 24 years as a Houston Police Officer, seven years as Houston Police Chief, and was on Houston City Council for six members as an At-Large Councilmember. I serve as a Special Prosecutor and Law Enforcement Liaison in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

DEAN BECKER: I think you are Kim Ogg’s Number One, if I am not mistaken – certainly up there near the top of her subordinates that she turns to when she needs advise. We are here today to talk about bail bonds and releasing folks on lesser charges with a ticket. Tell us how that is going to work if you would?

C.L. BRADFORD: I think the short answer is that our society has decided that offenders who commit nonviolent offenses where they pose no threat to the community and there is not a flight risk should be allowed to be released to await their time to show up in court in that they haven’t been convicted as a presumption of innocence. At the same time, in the criminal justice reform model you have to measure that with public safety. There are some people that do pose a risk to the community and those people should be held pending the adjudication of their particular trial. Low level offenders who are too poor to pay should not be held in jail awaiting trial simply because they are too poor and even some of them after conviction there are ways to hold people accountable other than locking them up where they lose their jobs, the ability to support their family, they lose their home or apartment. There are ways to hold people accountable other than locking everybody up. We have to keep those violent offenders confined.

DEAN BECKER: One of the more desperate situations that does develop with those jail stays is that the car gets towed and impounded and the fees are sometimes beyond the value of the car which really complicates their life. Am I right, Sir?

C.L. BRADFORD: Yes. We have people who make a mistake and commit a low level offense, get themselves incarcerated and they can’t make the rent or house note, the car note. As you mentioned, the car gets repossessed, the fees stack up and they can’t pay the tow and storage fee and they lose their car. Now they can’t get to work, they can’t pay rent, they can’t pay child support, and they can’t support the family. We don’t want to do that to them. That is not the right way to rehabilitate people.

DEAN BECKER: This falls on the heels of the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, which has provided similar bits of relief from those same circumstances, right?

C.L. BRADFORD: Yes. Someone who is using marijuana, in many cases, need assistance if in fact they have a habit they would like to rid themselves of the diversion program allows them an opportunity to enter a structured program and we help get them back on the right track. The program is designed to help people whether it is counseling, treatment, etc., as opposed to just locking them up. Guess what you are going to find when you get locked up nowadays? The marijuana is in the system that you are locking them up in – it is there, too so let’s be serious about that in that you are not getting them any help at all. Let’s get people counseling, treatment, and help them get their lives back on the right track.

DEAN BECKER: I call you Chief Bradford because that is kind of where we met up and I thank you for your time, Sir.

C.L. BRADFORD: Thank you, I appreciate it. I don’t mind being called Chief, I have whelps on my back from that job and I earned this title.

(LAUGHTER)

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Chief.

FEMALE VOICE: Sandra Guerra Thompson, I am a Professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

DEAN BECKER: We are here at the Talento Balingue de Houston and we are going to be talking about bail reform and lessening the penalties and not locking people up for minor crimes. What are you going to bring to this conversation?

SANDRA GUERRA THOMPSON: I plan to talk a little bit about the pretrial process and how it is that we ended up having a lawsuit in Houston and what the settlement will mean.

DEAN BECKER: Give us a snapshot – what is it going to mean?

SANDRA GUERRA THOMPSON: There are a number of things going on and one is that this lawsuit only had to do with misdemeanors so it has to do with the lower level offenses and under a new rule that the judges implemented, when people are arrested on these low level offenses will be released without having to pay a money bond like they used to have to pay. With a couple of exceptions where people might be detained a little bit longer if it is a second DWI, if there is already a warrant out for them, or if it has to do with family violence.

DEAN BECKER: That makes a lot of sense. Does this mean that they will be brought to the jail and then released from there or will it be a ticket on location?

SANDRA GUERRA THOMPSON: This is not cite and release but they will be released very quickly and my understanding is that most people will not be taken downtown to the jail and that they will be released from other facilities in the area.

DEAN BECKER: Now do you know when this has or will take effect?

SANDRA GUERRA THOMPSON: It is in effect now. I don’t know the exact date that it started but it has been in effect for a while now.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. Are there any closing thoughts that you might want to share with the listeners? It is a bit of progress but there is a long ways to go, is there not?

SANDRA GUERRA THOMPSON: There is and part of what is going on with the settlement is that there is a lot of data that is going to be collected and studied so there can be issues that come up that there may still be room to negotiate to make improvements. This is part of a larger movement, if you will, around the country to try to address a serious problem of people being held unnecessarily and having their lives ruined. All the affects that has from taxpayer cost to increasing criminality because when people are stuck in jail the statistics are very clear that they are more likely to commit crimes in the future.

DEAN BECKER: Yes. Well thank you for your time.

SANDRA GUERRA THOMPSON: Thank you.

I am the Reverend Dean Becker of the Drug Truth Network standing in the river of reform, baptizing drug warriors to the unvarnished truth. www.drugtruth.net.

That is going to wrap it up for this week. This might be our 8,000th program, which you can reach at www.drugtruth.net.

Once again I want to remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what is in that bag. Please be careful.

Drug Truth Network transcripts are stored at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy. More than 7,000 radio programs are at www.drugtruth.net, and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.