In the News: SNAP/WIC, Narcan, & Student Homelessness

In the News: SNAP/WIC, Narcan, & Student Homelessness

  1. Agriculture secretary says government shutdown would impact department’s programs: How will the looming government shutdown affect those who receive SNAP and WIC?  (Short answer: It could be catastrophic for families who depend on these programs.)
  2. Maine’s housing crisis contributes to a big increase in student homelessness Can short-term financial assistance through schools help families avoid eviction and homelessness?  (Short answer: Yes! Direct and immediate financial assistance has been proven to keep people housed.)
  3. An overdose drug is finally over-the-counter. Is that enough to stop the death toll?  Narcan is now available over-the-counter — but how accessible is it really to those who need it now?  (Short answer: With prices as high as $72 per box, Narcan is still unattainable from those most at risk of a deadly overdose.)
Remembering those we’ve lost…

Remembering those we’ve lost…

Opioid overdoses are now the leading cause of death for people under 40; and in the US last year, more people died from opioid overdoses than from car accidents. At DESK we’ve lost several people over the years, as recently as this past weekend. Below are a few poems that we selected to honor those we’ve lost during the opioid epidemic. Please feel free to leave a comment in memory of someone you lost. If any of these poems resonate with you, please share your thoughts.


93, 331 by Alicia Cook
In some other timeline
I find you in time,
turn you on your side.
In some other timeline,
I beat the sirens home
and you don’t die alone.
In some other timeline,
you recover⁠— and no one needs to call your mother.


Poem by Peter Jones
Could you walk in our shoes?
Live the lives we do?
No longer here to tell you
The things we have to do.

Everybody judged us
They gave us all a name
When we were out just walking
We’d hang our heads in shame.

So now we’re just a memory
One some choose to forget
But one thing to remember
There will be some more yet.

Not one of us are perfect
May not choose what we do
So please, please remember!
One day this could be you.

So would you like to take a step?
Walk just where we do
If you think it’s easy
Please come and take my shoe.


Fentanyl by Brian Wells Kamloops
Remember, no such thing as safe drugs in the streets.
Dealers cutting product with fentanyl ‘cause it’s cheap.
A hundred times stronger than morphine.
One dose could put you to sleep.
Not talking counting sheep.
Real power, six ODs in an hour.
Being found in weed, pills, and powder.
New fad. Coroner coming to zip you up in a body bag.
Four deaths in a month really sad.
Kids left with no mom or dad, all because the dope they got was bad.
Addiction, an epidemic the black market is glad to have.

Streets not a game, chew you up, spit you out if you’re lucky.
Many people die getting high, just trying to feel normal.
Prison not the answer, a need for more rehab centres.
So, I looked at my own situation I was facing.
Waking every day like I was in the movie Groundhog Day.
Always the same, mentally drained, suffering chronic pain.
Let me be the first to say, I’m an addict.
Understand the hesitation in prescribing narcotics.
So, forced to go see the street doctor. No degree but has what I need.

I plead, Dear God, please don’t be fentanyl in these pills I receive.
No labels or warning, mixed wrong could be fatal.
Talking two extra grains, the size of salt at your kitchen table.
Call of a OD. Coroner records another fatality.
A young girl, age 16, solutions needed.
Funerals continuously being repeated.
Takes one line, one innocent looking line.
Another family left behind, crying a river of pain, drowning in regret.
Death’s never had no respect.


Someone’s Child
Behind every addiction, there is a family that is suffering.
Remembering those who have lost their battle with addiction,
and those who are still suffering.

Congratulations Gianna and Shannon!

Congratulations Gianna and Shannon!

BSW interns at DESK join staff and our volunteer corps in the operations of the weekly Olive Street Pantry program, the Evening Meals program, and the 266 State Street Drop-in & Resource Center. 

Interns undergo numerous iterative trainings, including: de-escalation and crisis management; harm reduction and naloxone administration; area resource and program referrals; child, elderly, and disability-based mandatory abuse reporting; CPR; Connecticut Foodshare civil rights training; as well as many others, depending upon availability and tasks completed. BSW Interns also use weekly supervision time to reflect upon client relations, ethical service provision, therapeutic engagement and intervention, relating theoretical frameworks to real-life situations, and other matters.

We have interns join us from many college programs in Greater New Haven including the Yale Divinity School, Yale School of Public Health, and Southern’s Social Work Program. Here at DESK, we are training the next generation of case managers, social workers, and nonprofit staff, by imparting DESK’s values of client-centered, trauma-informed approaches and a harm reduction philosophy.  We hope to ensure that these best practices are instilled in homelessness services and food assistance for a generation to come. 

Our interns are getting hands-on training on how to employ an empathetic approach with clients in a humanizing, dignifying and respectful manner. They are also getting concrete, task-oriented training in areas such as how to effectively work with a range of partnering agencies to work through a cumbersome network of social services and realize a higher success rate in client outcomes.

Shannon from the SCSU 2023 BSW program describes her experience: “From the minute I stepped into DESK, I knew that I found the right internship. I learned more than I could have ever hoped to learn and was left with the knowledge that many of the other students in my class didn’t get. I left knowing I had made an impact even in the smallest ways. DESK was and will always be an important part of my journey as a social worker, activist, and human rights advocate.”

Interns at DESK are more than students; they are literal lifesavers. As DESK’s Executive Director explained earlier this year, “back in early December, Shannon, and one of our Drop-in Center staff, Aisha, had just gotten off their shift and were heading toward the train station when they discovered a client of ours laid out on the sidewalk in the midst of an apparent opioid overdose. The two of them sprang into action. Just as they had been trained, they assessed the situation, called 911, and grabbed their Narcan kit. For those who don’t know, Narcan, or naloxone, is a powerful antidote that reverses an opioid overdose in process. So that night, long before emergency medical personnel arrived, Shannon administered Narcan in the form of a nasal spray and saved this individual’s life.”  We could not be prouder of our interns and the skills they deploy in such emergency situations.

Interested in interning at DESK? Please have your student advisor contact us at (203) 624-6426 or email, for more information.

NHR: Spike in New Haven overdose deaths prompts expanded harm reduction efforts

NHR: Spike in New Haven overdose deaths prompts expanded harm reduction efforts

The New Haven Register reported yesterday on the recent spike in opioid overdose deaths in New Haven:

Officials earlier this week reported that 12 people had fatally overdosed since Jan. 25 — a threefold increase in the number of weekly overdose deaths, which is typically is two. A mixture of crack cocaine and fentanyl was suspected to be the cause of the overdoses, officials said.

According to New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond, the lethal combination of the two drugs has started circulating more frequently throughout the community, resulting in the increase of fatal overdoses over the same two-week period last year. Bond stressed that city health officials remained committed to responding to the crisis with existing services while identifying new ways to expand their outreach to those in need.  [Read on here.]

DESK has been providing overdose prevention and harm reduction services since 2018, when we began training staff to administer naloxone to reverse overdoses and installed syringe disposal boxes in our bathrooms, both as part of a partnership with New Haven County Outreach and CT Harm Reduction Alliance.  The ongoing trainings, which we’ve also brought to local businesses, have enabled our staff to save nearly a dozen lives in the past few years, both on- and off-site.

Make no mistake, New Haven: We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic and public health crisis that can only be addressed through these sorts of compassionate and progressive approaches that treat people who use drugs as just that: people.  We are proud to partner with the New Haven Health Department, the Community Health Care Van, Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, SWAN, and others to do the critical work on the ground; we’re grateful to have such an incredible community of caring providers in our city!