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How A Former Heroin Addict Helps Others Avoid Overdosing

Steve Kamenicky, known on the street as “Ponytail Steve,” is fully aware of the harsh truths about the opioid epidemic having been a heroin addict for four decades. Now that he’s kicked the habit, he helps addicts gain access to a drug called naloxone.

For those addicted to heroin or other opiates, naloxone can mean the difference between life and death.

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2017 Chicagoans of the Year: The Overdose Reverser

If you weren’t looking, you’d miss it: a silver van the size of an ice cream truck parked at North and California and emblazoned with the words Chicago Recovery Alliance. Step inside, and you’ll find a whirl of activity: volunteers drawing blood for hepatitis C tests, hazmat bins being filled with used syringes, opiate users stocking up on needles, cookers, alcohol swabs, even bike inner tubes to tie off with. At the center of it all is CRA’s director, Dan Bigg.

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The Magical Silver Truck

Hey, folks. I, Charles Preston, reporting fellow for City Bureau, would like to tell you all about a magical silver truck that you can find throughout Chicago. My reporting team is investigating the impact of the Illinois budget impasse on mental and behavioral health organizations through the lens of the opioid crisis. Our reporting has led us to Chicago Recovery Alliance, an organization that has been servicing heroin users since 2001.

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Preventing Empty Spaces

We are very happy to be releasing the final version of our new training video on the use of injectable naloxone to reverse opioid overdose. Please check it out and share widely. We extend our heartfelt thanks to all of the wonderful people who participated in this project, on camera and behind the scenes.

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Chicagos Former Addicts Help Addicts Recover

It’s nearly 12:30 p.m. when a rushed young man drops by the Chicago Recovery Alliance’s parked silver truck in West Garfield Park. He’s turned away for HIV testing, but told to come back next week, but just a bit earlier. The truck can’t be late for its next stop in Austin. If the staff and volunteers don’t show up, addicts might think the program, like others facing budget shortfalls, is unreliable. And that means next time they need clean syringes, they might not come back to the truck.

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